Virginia delegate aims to stop cyber bullying in its tracks
It’s no secret that computer harassment has become one of the biggest problems of our generation. A recent study from the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that nearly half (42%) of LGBT youth reported being harassed or bullied online.
But cyber bullying could soon have heavy consequences here in Virginia with a new bill proposal attempting to make its way through the General Assembly.
Delegate Scott Taylor (R- 85) has a new proposed bill, HB344, which would make computer harassment by impersonating another a class 6 felony. The bill was first patroned last year and Taylor said this is a developing problem that needs to be taken care of.
“”When I was growing up, cyberbullying didn’t exist,” said Taylor. “However, today it’s very much a problem. My actions are committed to uphold the First Amendment and free speech, while protecting Virginians and creating an enforcement mechanism for this crime.”
Delegate Taylor also said that the bill has received a fair amount of interest from supporters around the state.
“I have had many people reach out in support of this bill,” said Taylor. “Many have been victims or have had loved ones impacted by the new trend of cyberbullying. It is critical that our laws keep up with technology to protect Virginians from cyber crimes.”
Laws regarding this kind of online harassment started appearing after the 2006 suicide of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri girl who had entered an online relationship with a boy on MySpace.
The boy ended up being abusive to her through instant messaging, telling Meier to kill herself. However, the boy’s identity turned out to only be a fake account created by another teenage girl and her mother.
Several states have now entered the process of making computer harassment and impersonating another online endure heavy charges.
In New York and California, online impersonation is a misdemeanor punishable by thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year in jail. In Texas, the crime is a third-degree felony that could land perpetrators up to ten years in prison.
And now, potentially in Virginia, this crime could mean prison time for up to five years.
The Richmond American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is devoted to defending the rights and liberties of U.S. citizens, gave a statement over email supporting the passage of the bill. For a group which usually opposes any kind of restriction on the freedom of speech, they hoped this legislation could do some good for LGBTQ kids in the future.
“With chance of this bill being implemented, comes the hopefully possibility of this kind of cyber-bullying to diminish from this generation,” read the statement.
VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A 16-year-old Michigan teen has become the target of bullies because he is gay, and now his home has been targeted as well. Melanie Peabody says bullies spray-painted an anti-gay slur on the exterior of their home with an arrow pointing to her son Levi’s bedroom, reports WEYI-TV. She and her husband tried to wipe away [...]May 2, 2014
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