Hard cases make bad law. That phrase is an apt description for why HB 1261 is this week’s bad bill of the week. HB 1261 sponsored by Rep. Nick Mackey(D-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth) criminalizes cyber-bullying and makes it punishable as a misdemeanor. While HB 1261 may have good intentions, that’s the only thing that is good about it. For starters, the legislation is ill-defined, near impossible to enforce and unnecessarily expands the powers of government.
No, I’m not in favor of cyber bullying. But let’s put things in perspective. Most of the calls to outlaw cyber-bullying link back to the tragic case of 13 year-old Megan Meier who struck up an online friendship with “Josh” and later committed suicide. As it turns out, “Josh” wasn’t really a boy, but 50 year-old woman, Lori Drew, who lived a few houses down the street from Meier. Drew’s involvement was driven by a desire to seek revenge against Meier, whom she believed was bullying her own son.
Experts say cyber-bullying happens, but mostly because “bullying” or aggressive behavior is part of teenage behavior. The Meier case is tragic, but uncommon. Drew’s actions, although worthy of condemnation, sensationalize the problem and doesn’t represent normal behavior between teenagers.
Sadly, Meier’s case ended in suicide. If you look closely at other similar cases of suicide, there are usually more significant contributing factors (e.g., depression, problems at home, self-esteem issues) than just cyber-bullying. It’s fallacious to assume cyber-bullying was the main cause of Meier’s death.
Among other things, HB 1261 criminalizes the use of a computer or computer network “with the intent to intimidate or torment a minor.” The law also criminalizes statements, whether true or false, that would “tend to provoke or that actually provoke any third party to stalk or harass a minor.” These are broad, far reaching statements. How do we prove intent? How do we define intimidate, torment or harass? Unfortunately, HB 1261 fails to speak to any of these issues. HB 1261’s expansive scope will in reality work to limit basic freedoms of speech and give government more control over everyday life.
Supporters of HB 1261 say the legislation is necessary to prohibit cyber bullying. This is not true. The fact is, when individuals sign up to be a member of chat rooms or social networking sites, the web sites terms and conditions already prohibit individuals from misrepresenting themselves or engaging in inappropriate or criminal activity. Shouldn’t we enforce existing provisions before creating new legislation?
While Meier’s case is a tragedy, HB 1261 only offers a “solution” that is worse than the problem. HB 1261 limits our freedoms at a time when there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that cyber-bullying is a growing, prevalent and serious problem among teenagers. That said, one wonders: who’s doing the bullying?
We have all been brainwashed over generations to refrain from calling a spade a spade and thus, we speak in vague or overly broad terms about issues that concern us. this is not by accident, it has been deliberately forced upon us by evil secular humanist teachers, professors, and manufacturers of school books. we must overcome the threat of censure and name-calling and say what we think, exactly the way we think it. for instance; my view of this bill is that it is another small slash in the 100 year-old scheme of freedom hating, godless, liberal, mostly democrats to kill our constitution by a thousand cuts. North Carolina has been controlled by secular democrats for as long as i can remember, resulting in the highest gas taxes in the nation, the 2nd lowest incomes, and a corrupt government that rivals illinois. We must stand up, stop worrying about being labled by the smarmy liberals, and talk plainly, honestly, and let the chips fall where they may, or we will be totally ruled by these examples of Romans ch.1
Mary Daily says
I discovered these posts while doing research for a presentation on Cyber Bullying. Thank God the legislature had more collective sense than the above uninformed individuals. I will not waste my time quoting research findings into the ill effects of cyberbullying on our youth. I find that it is impossible to reason with narrow minded, pompous, ill willed conservatives.
Hiro cruz says
the internet is the internet. Chill out, it’s a computer and a keyboard. Why do people overreact, if you dont like someone on the internet, block it/them Geez, kids these days are so weak