Sec. 881. Cyberbullying – Unworkable?

IMO the cyberbullying paper has not been thought out properly, its unworkable and wholly unsuitable for the internet.  The answers simple, unlike in real life you have the ability to switch off the thing that is causing the distress.
IMO the cyberbullying paper has not been thought out properly, its unworkable and wholly unsuitable for the internet. The answers simple, unlike in real life you have the ability to switch off the thing that is causing the distress.

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.

CONCLUSION

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 – bytes4free@googlemail.com

2 Comments Add yours

  1. eksith says:

    Generally speaking, cyberbullies do tend to target those in the same country. Of course, there are exceptions, but as in the MySpace suicide incident of Megan Meier, the bully turned out to be someone in the same community. And, in fact, lived just a few houses away.

    Of course critics may reside in any country.

    Exposure of questionable behaviour resulting in embarrassment doesn’t constitute “bullying” of any sort either on the Internet or on print media. This is especially true of those for us who have blogs or other social networking outlets.

    When we publish to the outside world and gain some measure of readership and exposure, we’re no longer private citizens under the same protection as those who wish to remain obscure.

    What applies to online gaming, applies in the real world as well. If a driver were to cut me off or give give me the bird or otherwise verbally harrass me, I would still have a very difficult time persuing the matter through the courts. But if the driver were to threaten my safety, then I’ve got the high ground.

    If I were to write something ridiculous and be exposed by someone else on the Internet, that doesn’t really fall under bullying either. But if that person were to try and find out every intimate detail about me (I.E. where I work, where I live etc…) in an effort to do me personal harm, that’s a different story.

    Pseudonyms or aliases are don’t apply in my case, as I’ve chosen to voice my opinion under my real name. But if I had an alias and someone does try to find out who I am and other personal information, it’s possible that the law may apply.

    Your work so far has fallen well within resonable limits on this. If anything, you’re at a greater risk of being bullied. The law may turn out to be a good thing.

    …with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person…

    This is the pivotal point of this legislation.
    Proving intent to cause any of this is substantially more difficult, but no less a key prerequisite, than those with thin skins would want.😉

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