Monday, June 23, 2014

CNN legal analyst points out that anti-bullying legislation (especially for the Internet) could bring out prosecutorial overreack

Danny Cevallos, a young CNN legal analyst, has written an op-ed today outlining what he sees as wrong with a lot of proposed anti-bullying legislation.  In short, vagueness.  The link for the piece is here. He says he is “anti anti-bullying legislation”.

The Supreme Court has ruled that schools have more leeway in regulating student speech (even from home computers on social media) than government would normally have with adult speech.  Still, verbal online bullying is a little bit like obscenity.  It’s hard to define prospectively, but you know it when you see it.
It would seem that Cevallos’s piece should be contemplated in relation to another case before the Supreme Court for the next fall term, when hyperbole or parody on the Internet morphs into making a threat illegally.  

It’s also true that there is a risk of prosecutorial overreach (a concept known form the Aaron Swartz tragedy – “The Internet’s Own Boy”), as with trying to make major felonies out of behavior that is normally handled administratively (like terms of service violations, which was made the basis of prosecution in a 2006 case where Myspace bullying resulted in a suicide in Missouri).

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