Cyberbullying Law Reform

New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein aims to modernize the state’s laws with respect to ‘cyberbullying.’ The relatively new term is defined as “causing fear of harm or emotional distress using electronic communications to a person under 21.”

The legislation seeks to include its definition of cyberbullying in the state’s category of third-degree stalking. Furthermore, ‘bullycide’ defined as, “when a person engages in cyberbullying and intentionally causes the victim of such offense to commit suicide,” would be categorized as second-degree manslaughter. Such a conviction could hold up to a 15-year prison sentence, and many would say, rightly so. This piece of legislation reform was presented in a news conference earlier this week, sadly it finds itself on the heels of tragic suicide by Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year old boy from Buffalo who took his life due to years of emotional suffering caused by cyberbullying.

Law reform is a necessity in our growing and evolving society. Bullying has taken on some ugly forms where perpetrators hide themselves behind the safety of a computer, utilizing new popular Internet forums such as Facebook, and Twitter. According to CNN Politics, Klein emphasized this during Monday’s news conference noting that, “no longer is bullying only confined to the schoolyard, it is now piped in an instant through victim’s computers and onto the devices they carry in their pockets. This legislation will help provide protections to those who need it, as well as send a strong message about the seriousness of this destructive behavior.”

At least 30 states already have laws set in place to deal with online harassment and 5 have reformed their laws to explicitly include cyberbullying. Although cyberbullying was addressed at the federal level in 2008, it has been left up to the individual states to address the problem. This bill seeks to elevate New York to the level of modernization so many others have already reached.

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