Cyberbullying, Cyberlibel

A pastor friend told me one of his parishioners was saying bad — untrue, destructive, reputation-destroying — things about him online, that he had checked with the police, and they told him there were really no laws hindering free speech on the internet. The police said they’d like to do something but had no grounds for doing something. But…  Those days are changing.

Police also said their hands were tied as well because there was no Georgia cyberbullying law they could apply to the situation.

In Georgia, schools can punish students if they bully others at school, but the law governing this does not extend to text messages and social media sites. Georgia does not have a law that covers off-campus harassment, though seven other states do have laws that cover this.

Police in Georgia advised Boston and her parents to file a complaint with Facebook, requesting that the fake account be taken down.

But after several requests to Facebook failed, Boston and her family decided to sue the teens allegedly responsible for the account. Facebook only deleted the account about a week ago after the lawsuit was filed and a story about it aired over the weekend on CNN, Woodward said.

Woodward said there had been no dispute between the teens prior to the bullying.

“She just considers herself a normal, average seventh-grader,” Woodward said. “She had never been targeted or had something like this happen before.”

The alleged teen offenders told school officials that they just didn’t like Boston, according to Woodward. “They said ‘she followed us around school too much.’ There was no real explanation, as is so often the case with these activities. Why kids do things to other kids is a mystery, and is for sure in this case.”

Cyberbullying garnered worldwide attention in 2007 after an adult named Lori Drew was accused of creating a fake Myspace account with her teen daughter and another girl that was used to bully another teenage girl who later committed suicide. Prosecutors later charged Drew under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for violating Myspace’s terms of service in creating the fake account. Drew was later convicted by a jury on misdemeanor charges, but the conviction was overturned by a judge.

The case prompted new cyberbullying laws to be passed in states across the nation. In 2009, in the wake of the Drew case, a Missouri ninth-grader was arrested for creating a website that disparaged another teen.


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