Don't Roll Your Eyes At This Post, Or You Might Violate An Anti-Bullying Law

from the getting-out-of-hand dept

We’ve been covering the moral panic going around concerning “online bullying” for sometime. Despite lots of fear mongering, there is little to no evidence that online bullying is really a huge thing. Does it happen? Sure. There’s no way to stop bullying. The problem is that in these moral panics, you get absolutely ridiculous legal proposals, like the one from some state Senators in NY who flat out admitted that perhaps we’ve got too much free speech. Among the things they considered to be bullying? Online trolling and flaming. Yeah, perhaps we should outlaw our comment section. Oh yeah, they also said excluding someone from a group was bullying.

Oh, and don’t roll your eyes at that. As a few folks have sent in, proponents of anti-bullying laws define eye-rolling as bullying. No, we’re not joking. So, you know, if the big kid in school demands your money, and you roll your eyes back at him… I guess everyone’s on equal footing, huh?

The link above notes various attempts to create more anti-bullying laws and regulations, many of which raise significant free speech questions. It also points out that the Justice Department’s own data has noted that bullying and violence in schools continues to drop. Combined with the studies we’ve seen about the limited amount of online bullying… it suggests this is not a widespread issue. Again, none of this is to deny that bullying does exist, and that it can be horrifying for the victims. But that doesn’t mean we should rush out and shut down the First Amendment with overreactions. Deal with the extreme cases — that makes sense. In most cases, the really extreme cases can already be dealt with under existing law. But when you get to the point that you’re defining bullying as “eye rolling” or “excluding,” you’re actually doing the opposite. You’re diluting the problem so much in an attempt to make it seem bigger than it really is, that you make it impossible for people to focus on the real problem cases.

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Comments on “Don't Roll Your Eyes At This Post, Or You Might Violate An Anti-Bullying Law”

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MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

Except he’s a cop. When they make these laws, they have super secret parts they don’t publish to the public that say that cops are exempt, as well as politicians and wealthy campaign contributors.

I was actually thinking these laws could be used by cops on protesters. “They rolled their eyes when I told them to disperse. They were bullying me and that’s like assaulting an officer, so I tazed them all!”

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

For some reason I am seeing visions of a crowd of protesters in NYC rolling their eyes in a coordinated manner, designed by a choreographer (imagine the practice sessions). Look, they are spelling out ‘BULLY’ in a wave fashion, that keeps rolling across the crowd of rolling eyes.

Then, a month later a different group of protesters in Washington uses the same gimmick at a group of congress critters. Much bullying ensues from both sides. This of course makes the six o’clock news and the choreographer in NYC has a conniption. She sues the protest group in DC for stealing her IP and every TV station that repeated the story, for spreading her IP widely without payment.

Oh, and I need to ask the doctor about a better class of meds.

Analmouse Coward says:

Scum, the lotta you


Why are you defending the freeloading bullies? typical eh!

In this age of stark hatred i would think that it would be obvious that they are stealing entertainment from the hard working reject families. cant you see that all they care about is getting their free kicks while stealing all of our smiles and happiness.

you can’t not agree that something (anything) must be done to keep these bullies away from our children. or else we’re all going die horrible dishonorable deaths.

Personally i’ve never been bullied but feel i should stand up as how else am i gonne get paid.

To reiterate, all you guys are dirty stinking scumbags.

Analmouse Coward says:

Re: Re: Scum, the lotta you

The impossible point by point rebuttal
(This comment is not really here, please move along gracefully)

“agree that something (anything)” – broad brush

“defending the freeloading bullies” – apologist

“keep these bullies away from our children” – for the children

fogbugzd (profile) says:

But sometimes bullying is very effective

Lawyers bully people all the time. It’s part of their job. I have a part time job as a high-class bouncer at public events. Most of the rules I am enforcing are really unenforceable. I bluff and bully people constantly. It works.

Of course, we are doing our bullying in real life. This is another case where doing something on the big, evil Internet suddenly makes it illegal.

Heck, we have been relentlessly bullying our trolls here for the last few months. I think it has been effective. We still have our dissenters, but they have raised the level of their posts from the level of “pirate mikey” to the point where they sometimes actually make a good point in their comments. That is a win for both the dissenters and the TechDirt community.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: But sometimes bullying is very effective

> I have a part time job as a high-class bouncer at public
> events. Most of the rules I am enforcing are really
> unenforceable. I bluff and bully people constantly. It works.

Yeah, I got a taste of that when I was walking along the beach in Malibu recently. Some high-end muckety-muck (probably a Hollywood producer or somesuch) was having a beach party for all his wealthy friends and he had a bunch of hired goons patrolling the shoreline to keep the unwashed masses (i.e., people like me) from intruding on what he considered to be his private beach.

So when this 300-lb. mountain of muscle stepped in front of me and told me the beach was closed for a private event and I had to turn around, I explained to him that under California state law, the beaches are all public property, from one end of the state to the other. No one owns them and no one can keep anyone else from using them.

That only seemed to piss the ‘roid-monster off and he was about to put hands on me when I pulled my shirt up and showed him my badge and gun and asked if he might want to rethink his next move. You could almost see the steam coming out of the tiny space between his ears, but he stepped away like I was radioactive and got on his radio to report me to his boss as I casually meandered into the throng of guests along the shoreline.

Seemed like a nice party. I even saw a couple of celebrities. Bet they all hate it when someone who knows the law and has the authority to back it up intrudes upon their sheltered enclaves like that.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: sheep

“This guy days being bullied made him stronger. Maybe they want to make us weaker?”

That guy was self harming and suicidal. I guess that’s something everyone should go through to ‘build character’, or however people want to label surviving an ordeal as proof the ordeal wasn’t an issue worth preventing. I guess the families and friends of all the gay kids who did kill themselves can take solace in knowing their loss was part of a greater plan for the betterment of others.

Kat says:

As a victim...

Mike I love your blog and read every day, but As a 34 y/o victim of a hostile bullying work environment, I can say that snickering, eye rolling, tittering laughter, and exclusive behavior (on a WIDE scale) On a daily basis for years and years can utterly destroy a human being. We are herd and social animals. That being said, I’m all for critically thought through applications of existing rules and laws before creating massive and unmanageable new laws. I never post, Mike, but I can say that bullying is not well managed in our society. The suicides say it all. Thankfully not mine.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: As a victim...

Thanks for speaking up.

The backlash this sort of thing tends to get by denying the existence of a problem, or saying that “there’s no way to stop” it, is in some ways as worrying as the encroachment on freedom of speech. Bullying is a real issue. Bullying can be as subtle as eye-rolling. Focusing on the fact that eye-rolling can form part of bullying to attack bad law on the basis that eye-rolling is on its own a harmless gesture seems to highlight a worrying bias. There is nothing in the law to suggest that eye-rolling would be punished on its own. It may as well be argued that harassment laws will be used to punish door to door salesmen, wait, bad example.

I don’t support the proposed laws. I do support admitting that bullying is a real thing that can be dealt with better if more people recognised it as a real thing and in the cases of school teachers and employers, did their jobs in challenging it. The solution to bullying can be as subtle and unobtrusive to society as a whole as bullying itself tends to be.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: As a victim...

“snickering, eye rolling, tittering laughter, and exclusive behavior (on a WIDE scale) On a daily basis for years and years “[empahsis added]

What you ahve just described is not bullying but harrassment , with the exclusive (I’m assuming you mean exclusion) behaviour coming under discrimination if it is for racial, religious, or sexual orientation reasons. Both harrassment and Discrimination are already classified as unlawful behaviour in most 1st world countries and are way above what most reasonable persons would distinguish as bullying.

Growing up bullying occurs to everyone in fact with the wide definitions out their at moment EVERYONE has been bullied AND has bullied once (most likely lots more) in their life. In fact if it hasn’t occurred in your younger years you have no ability to know how to manage the behaviour as an adult, and know when you are actually doing it to others either.

If you are being harassed in your workplace, or anywhere for that matter, it is your duty to speak up about it, not just to empower yourself but to make those with the duty of doing something about it fully aware of the allegations, and therefore liable for not investigating fully. If their is a backlash because of any complaints, or the fear of such, then this is an indication of an even bigger culture of incompetence and ineptitude in management and there are nowadays a huge amount of venues for the victim to turn too.

Please be aware that though the correlation of harassment and suicide does exist, bullying is NOT the cause of suicides. Other underlying issues such as neurological, psychological, and societal have more to do with suicides , though blaming bullying is an easy way out for health and government agencies.

G Thompson (profile) says:

I stick my middle finger up at all the eye rollers that don’t believe it is bullying.

Of course it is a form of bullying, it is bullying the muscles in your eye socket to perform an action that is unnecessary and fraught with emotional danger and could vicariously cause the tear ducts to spontaneously erupt with salty fluids thereby initiating an action that suggests that the person who eye-rolled is actually a cry baby.

How much more proof do you need. Eye-rolling can make you cry like a little baby.

toyotabedzrock (profile) says:


I really love this blog, but your literal reading of the nobully site is deceptive. I agree the online bully laws are misguided and broad, but you need to help correct these flaws in the laws instead of just shouting from the stands.

You know these behaviors are meant to be taken as a whole. And exclusion is very damaging to youths.

Jacob Rogers, Tennessee Teen, Commits Suicide After Years Of Anti-Gay Bullying (VIDEO):

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