Louisiana Wants To Put You In Jail If You Embarrass Anyone Under 17 Years Old Online
from the yeah-that'll-work dept
We’ve seen all sorts of crazy attempts to outlaw cyberbullying, but it seems that Louisiana is looking to really put themselves over the top in creating a law that creates a serious chilling effect on speech. As Eugene Volokh notes, the law would effectively ban any online speech designed to embarrass anyone under 17-years-old.
…would make it a misdemeanor to transmit any Internet communication or other computer communication “with the intent to coerce, abuse, torment, intimidate, harass, embarrass, or cause emotional distress to a person under the age of seventeen.” This applies without regard to whether the message is communicated to the person, to some other individuals, or to the public at large. So under the law, all of these would likely be criminals (though, under a recent amendment the adults could be jailed for up to a year, while the minors could be jailed for up to six months):
- A girl who sends her under-17-year-old boyfriend an e-mail telling him what a schmuck he is for having cheated on her, and hoping that he feels ashamed of himself.
- A blogger, or a newspaper columnist, or an online commentator, who publishes something condemning an under-17-year-old criminal, hoping the criminal feels embarrassed and ashamed as a result.
- A public or private school official e-mailing the parents of an under-17-year-old student a message about the student’s misbehavior, hoping that the student will feel embarrassed and change his ways.
- Parents e-mailing their under-17-year-old children telling the children that they should feel ashamed of some misbehavior.
- A professional or amateur music critic or sports reporter writing a harsh review of an under-17-year-old performer’s or athlete’s behavior, hoping that the review will embarrass the performer or athlete into behaving more ethically, professionally, or competently.
I don’t see how this survives a First Amendment challenge, but when you’re grandstanding around something that gets press coverage like “cyberbullying,” it’s unlikely that the politicians supporting this even recognize or care about the unintended consequences.