Friday, June 17, 2011

Bully pulpit

free speech

A Cohoes teenager is the first to be charged under a new law enacted in Albany County to fight so-called cyber-bullying.

The teen, who allegedly admitted to police he created a Facebook page in December where he posted photos and derogatory comments about fellow students, is being charged with 10 counts of harassment, a violation, and 10 counts of cyber-bullying, a misdemeanor under the new law, which was enacted in November of 2010.

After complaints about the site, the page was removed by Facebook and police tracked down the 16-year-old suspect from his IP address.

I've often taken the stance that we should not criminalize speech that is unpopular or hurtful, especially when it's hard to separate emotion from what should be blind justice. I just can't help but think laws like these are so much more counterproductive than they appear.

I can't help but think of this kid as just a kid -- like your kid ... and my kid ... and the kids of all the politicians in the universe who have ever tried to garner favor with voters by enacting impossible laws designed to protect them -- who, for whatever misguided reason, was a troll to a few dozen people, some of whom thought of him as a friend.

In my way of thinking, this is a kid who did something immature and mean, and being found as the author should be the biggest price he pays. Police investigations, court costs and being branded a criminal (that might one day soon include having his DNA collected and archived for when he presumably graduates from gossip columnist to murderer) seems excessive.

Even the police chief, according to that report, thinks the effort to investigate the incident was too burdensome for a small department and that federal help is needed.

Federal help. To arrest a kid who is being mean?

We can't arrest everyone who says mean things.

Can we?

1 comment:

Carl said...

Criminalizing bullying is the furthest thing from dealing with it. Bullies are always victims of something . . . there is SOMETHING going on in that child's life that causes a lashing out, and that should be investigated and the child should be helped. Confront the bully, yes. Jail her? No.

Besides, you know, freedom of speech?