Sma' Talk Wi' T

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Cyber Bullies Beware – The Law Is Coming After You

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Invisible, cowardly, puerile individuals hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. With their vulgar and wretched meanness emboldened by the mask of AOL chatrooms, MySpace, and My Facebook, the cyber bullies mistakenly fear no one. That’s all changing for the better. Cyber bullies ARE responsible for their own behavior.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill Monday outlawing cyberbullying, just miles from where a 13-year-old girl committed suicide nearly two years ago after being harassed on the Internet.

The bill updates state laws against harassment by removing the requirement that the communication be written or over the telephone. Supporters say the bill now covers harassment from computers, text messages and other electronic devices.

“Social networking sites and technology have opened a new door for criminals and bullies to prey on their victims, especially children,” Blunt said. “This new law will ensure that we have the protections and penalties needed to safeguard Missourians from Internet harassment.”

Megan Meier killed herself in October 2006, shortly after receiving mean-spirited messages over the Internet. Her suicide prompted the bill.

The teenager’s mother, wearing a picture of her daughter in a pin on her dress, stood over the governor’s shoulder as he signed the bill at a St. Charles County library.

Meier said she was grateful, but said much more needs to be done to make sure children are kept safe.

“This is certainly not the end,” she said. “Bullying and cyberbullying is something that takes place every day. This is not just one case with Megan.”

The news of the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death surfaced after a local newspaper ran an article last fall. Since then, several Missouri towns have adopted new ordinances aimed at stopping cyberharassment. U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., has introduced a bill that would impose federal penalties for cyberbullying.

The Missouri measure also requires school officials to tell police about harassment and stalking on school grounds and expands state laws against stalking to cover “credible threats” not only against the victim, but also family and household members and animals. It also creates stronger penalties for stalking.

Megan had long suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder. In 2006, she began corresponding with “Josh” through MySpace pages. At first, the messages were positive.

But after several weeks, they turned mean. One told Megan “Josh” no longer wanted to be friends.

Shortly thereafter, Megan hanged herself in her bedroom. She died the next day.

There was no boy named Josh. Authorities said a neighbor, Lori Drew, her teenage daughter and an 18-year-old employee of Drew created a fake profile of an attractive teenage boy to see what Megan was saying about the daughter online.

Drew, 49, has pleaded not guilty in California, where MySpace is headquartered, to conspiracy and accessing computers without authorization.

This new law could make it potentially easier to sue Internet companies with chatrooms and public websites who don’t take action to stop this criminal activity. I’ve seen and TOS’d behaviour which includes cloning, gay and sexual harrassment, verbal and vulgar assault, and character assassination. But AOL allows it to continue without enforcing their own Terms of Service conditions, giving a gentle swat on the keyboard to the harrassers to stop.

Let’s see AOL is located in what state?

770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-652-6400

Adult CyberBullying In AOL Chatrooms

How to Prevent CyberBullying

Man Sues For Libel Over Facebook

Tips for dealing with cyber bullying :
Because cyber bullying can range from rude comments to lies, impersonations, and threats, your responses may depend on the nature and severity of the cyber bullying. Here are some actions that you may want to take after-the-fact.

  • Strongly encourage the person not to respond to the cyber bullying.
  • Do not erase the messages or pictures. Save these as evidence.
  • Try to identify the individual doing the cyber bullying. Even if the cyberbully is anonymous (e.g., is using a fake name or someone else’s identity) there may be a way to track them through your Internet Service Provider. If the cyber bullying is criminal (or if you suspect that it may be), contact the police and ask them to do the tracking.
  • Sending inappropriate language may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of e-mail services, Internet Service Providers, web sites, and cell phone companies. Consider contacting these providers and filing a complaint. (AOL, you’re on notice to stop the harrassment in your chatrooms. Take complaints seriously! )
  • If the cyber bullying is coming through e-mail or a cell phone, it may be possible to block future contact from the cyberbully. Of course, the cyberbully may assume a different identity and continue the bullying.
  • Consider contacting an attorney in cases of serious cyber bullying. In some circumstances, civil law permits victims to sue a bully in order to recover damages.
  • Contact the police if cyber bullying involves acts such as:
  • Threats of violence
  • Extortion
  • Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
  • Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
  • Child pornography

If you are uncertain if cyber bullying violates your jurisdiction’s criminal laws, contact your local police, who will advise you.


Written by smalltalkwitht

June 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks for posting this information. Let’s all take our part in preventing online predators from harming our kids by putting parental control browser to our computers at home.


    October 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

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