Cyber Censorship Law Passes House


Legislation seeking to outlaw “cyberbullying” was quickly approved Wednesday evening by the Louisiana House.
House Bill 1259 would criminalize the transmission of electronic textual, visual, written or oral communication that is intended to “coerce, abuse, torment, intimidate, harass, embarrass or cause emotional distress” to anyone under the age of 17.

It’s local rep Roy Burrell’s bill and it passed 77-16. I’ve already said I oppose it, mostly because of overbreadth. But also because the criminal act is just words.

I wish legislators could truly understand the implications of making something a crime. It’s one thing to shout “there oughta be a law” when you see a terrible story in the news. It’s another to say you want to ruin the otherwise promising lives of countless young people to avoid another terrible story. In this situation, yes, it’s horrible that one young lady killed herself in response to bullying. But that was one student. This isn’t an epidemic. Whereas if this law passes, many, many, many students could find themselves with a criminal record for nothing more than name calling.

This morning, I’m going to have a conversation with two girls about the way they’ve been treating a third girl. They’ve been bullying her, the way girls do, by mocking her appearance, clothes, etc. It’s cruel. The thing is, though, both of these two are really great students. What they’re doing is out of character. My goal – one I think I will achieve – is to get them to see that and to at least agree to quit, if not to apologize. In Burrell’s world, though, I guess I’d just call the cops.

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3 Comments on “Cyber Censorship Law Passes House”

  1. draftsonyou Says:

    “…or cause emotional distress”

    Isn’t this what we’re trying to rid the world of… the kind of mean spiritedness that creates emotional distress and causes us to chew our fingernails? Son of a bitch! When will these friggin bureaucrats learn how to act.

    As an undergrad, I won an appeal of hazing charges brought at the hands of an anal retentive dean and some crap ass language he’d crafted in the student handbook. It was almost identical. My whole argument (to a committee of profs) was that the rule wouldn’t stand as law because of it’s vagueness, and that their ruling was subject to the laws of the state. seems like common sense, but they were astounded. apparently no one had ever won an appeal. the dean lost his job shortly thereafter for sexually harrassing his secretary. go figure!

  2. MsTopher Says:

    I know the girl whose situation inspired this bill and her mother. What is not mention in much of the media reports, is that this child has been repeatedly harassed, pushed, hit and been made the subject of a horrible ‘We Hate XXXXX’ myspace page. The school administration has done nothing. The police have done nothing at all, mainly because one of the antagonizers’ parents works for the state police.

    The child has spent the past six months becoming physically ill and crying every morning before going to school. (To the point that she is now on anxiety medicine). This entire situation has created such a rift in the community, in the school– with a detrimental effect on students GPAs and the general functioning of the school day. So, yeah, for me, it’s far more than ‘just words.’

    This is not the society you and I grew up in. This isn’t as simple as ‘turning the other cheek’ or ignoring hurtful ‘words.’

    If this situation happened to one of my children, I’m afraid I’d be unable to handle it with the class and determination that Brandy has shown. So, no, it isn’t just about ‘words,’ it’s about protecting our children against others dead set to destroy what is meant to be one of the happiest times of a youngster’s life.

  3. wheeler Says:

    “dead set to destroy what is meant to be one of the happiest times of a youngster’s life.”

    using nothing but words to do it.

    sorry. but your example is extreme and rare. the ridiculous prosecutions that would follow this law would be normal and ruinous.

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