There have been many tragic stories in the press in regards to cyberstalking, bullying and intimidation. Many of these stories have very sad endings and there seems to be a response (of sorts) to cyberbullying type behaviour with this piece of proposed US legislation.
Before we look at that, consider this: I keep an eye on certain Microsoft shills, I challenge their FUD and highlight their past behaviour to other readers. What does that make me? A cyberstalker? (I believe Andre Da Costa claimed that once) a Cyberbully? (well if adults cant stand up for the words they type then they have my pity) but consider if this type of legislation was accepted, the amount of interpretation it could be open to could infact destroy any free speech on the net. Something which Im sure the Microsoft faithful would be all for.
So without further ado lets have a look at this document. You can read it in its entirety over on: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.1966:
`Sec. 881. Cyberbullying
- `(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
- `(b) As used in this section–
- `(1) the term `communication’ means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and
- `(2) the term `electronic means’ means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.’.
So now lets consider the two examples below and see if the legislation is as clear cut:
Example Case 1
X posts on a forum stating “you need a compiler to install your software in Ubuntu” Y reads this post and challenges it. Y then discovers that X has been posting this FUD on many different forums and tracks them all down posting his counter and challenging X everytime. X doesnt like being challenged and tells Y to leave him alone.
Example Case 2
X posts under a handle after his favorite football team, Y does the same. Y’s team beats X’s team in a match and subsequently Y goes on to celebrate on a public forum reminding X of the loss everytime X makes a post.
These are just two simple examples of how (IMO) the legislation as it stands is unworkable (and thats forgetting the barriers posed by the fact the parties concerned could be in different countries). The legislation could be applied to online gaming (where banter is commonplace) as well as every forum, newsgroup, email.
Just as in “reallife” bullying and stalking are very distressing, but then in real life we cant just hit the power button (unlike in the computing world) If you are an adult and find any of the above happening, then Id suggest either making an anon handle or simply not using your computer.
In the case of children that is different, but then I wouldnt let mine on ANY computer unless they were fully supervised at all times.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org