Technagora

Icon

A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Dumb Idea: Making Cyberbullying a Federal Crime

For those geeks among us that have ever spent any time on internet forums, we know that it’s pretty common to see tempers flare, resulting in mean comments directed towards the n00b asking all the stupid questions. Lightly-moderated boards, in particular, draw a lot of trolls. Teens and adults acting childish? You bet, although I’d guess that most of the profanity-laden cruel language found in these forums is part of the common lingo of such communities. Every member on the site knows that the cranky moderator who uses racial slurs and sexually-loaded insults is really some rotund, greasy, girlfriendless network admin or tech support specialist in real life, and not a grand wizard or a hardcore porn-peddler.

However, it would seem that most people over the age of 40 still don’t understand “teh internets,” including Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA, who incidentally just turned 40 this year). Rep. Sanchez recently introduced the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” which seeks to make it a federal felony to “cause substantial emotional distress to a person” via the internet. From Ars Technica:

However, as with many bills of this nature, the murky language and vague standards leave much open to interpretation, which has caused critics to call it the Censorship Act instead.

. . .

…criticism has been building. The language in the bill is so vague, it could be interpreted to apply to practically any situation, including blog posts critical of public officials.

It’s unlikely that the feds would ever be in the business of policing web forums, and this legislation is obviously intended to punish the repeated real abuse of kids and teens. However, it appears that this bill runs into some serious first amendment issues. Telling a n00b to go get hit by a car could be considered a federal offense. Heck, I’ve had things written on my facebook page that could constitute “emotional distress” (e.g. phallus jokes, toilet humor, sexual insults, references to alcoholism, personal threats, etc. You should see the “bumperstickers” we’ve sent each other-thanks Mark and JaLen!). Even the internet’s lowest common denominator, the /b-tards over at 4chan, could effectively be labeled an entire freaking army of felons* under this kind of legislation.

The guys at PFF have released a white paper that compares the effectiveness of regulation and legislation vs. educational efforts.

*Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the /b community is already populated entirely by felons, deviants, and/or sociopaths.

Advertisements

Filed under: Internet, Politics, , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.
-Mark Twain

@LibbyJ on Twitter

Libby's Delicious Bookmarks

%d bloggers like this: