From Lori Drew To Dharun Ravi, Punishing People Based On Others' Suicides Is A Mistake

from the giving-the-wrong-message dept

A few years back, we covered the Lori Drew case, involving charges brought against a woman who stupidly set up a fake user account on MySpace to try to find out what was going on with a girl the woman’s daughter had some issues with. The “fake account” was of a boy who the real 13-year-old girl became very friendly with. At some point, the “boy” turned on the girl, said some nasty things to her — including “the world would be better off without” her — and cut off communications. The girl committed suicide soon after. Lots and lots of people wanted Lori Drew brought up on charges for the girl’s death. While we found Drew’s actions to be incredibly immature and ridiculous, we were much more concerned with efforts to pin the suicide on her. Of course, the law wouldn’t allow such a thing, so prosecutors trumped up some charges, involving a claim that she committed a felony by not following MySpace’s terms of service. She was found guilty of a misdemeanor (not felony) charge — which was then dropped by the judge, who wasn’t comfortable with the ruling.

Of course, this did lead to a flurry of attempts to pass “cyberbullying” laws — which try to make it a crime of some sort to be a jerk online. This is problematic for a variety of reasons, especially since it raises significant First Amendment issues, in part because “being a jerk” is extremely subjective. But the worst part is that much of what is considered to be “jerky” behavior is determined after the other party commits suicide. This is extremely problematic — because whether or not your actions are seen as criminal depends almost entirely on how someone else reacts to them. If they shake off your actions, then you’re fine. If they commit suicide, you get punished. Thus, the incentive then is actually for kids to seriously hurt themselves, if someone acts in a mean way towards them, as that increases the likelihood of the bully getting punished. That doesn’t sound like a good incentive system.

I’m thinking about all of this after hearing about the guilty verdict against Dharun Ravi — the Rutgers student who surreptitiously filmed his roommate engaged in a sexual encounter with another male. That roommate, Tyler Clementi, later killed himself, once he found out about it being filmed. Like the Lori Drew case, much of the prosecution focused on the dead teenager — and you can understand why. It’s a horrible (and horrifying) story. But, again, the reaction is much more based on the end results, rather than the initial action. No doubt, what Ravi did was despicable, but is it really criminal? Law professor Paul Butler has an excellent opinion piece explaining why this is an overreaction. He notes that Ravi was clearly immature and did an obnoxious thing in invading his roommate’s privacy, but the desire to see him locked up (and apparently there’s a good chance he’ll be deported to India, despite not having lived there since he was 2 years old) is almost entirely because of Clementi’s tragic death:

Let’s be honest. A lot of people want a pound of flesh from Ravi because they blame him for Clementi’s death. Tyler’s reaction was tragic, and it was idiosyncratic…. No judge in the country would have allowed a homicide prosecution, because, legally speaking, Ravi did not cause the death, nor was it reasonably foreseeable. Of the millions of people who are bullied or who suffer invasions of privacy, few kill themselves.


For his stupidity, Ravi should be shamed by his fellow students and kicked out of his dorm, but he should not be sent to prison for years and then banished from the United States.

As Butler notes, the rush to the criminal justice system, and the focus on blaming Ravi, takes us away from a more reasonable place in thinking about how to deal with these things:

The problem with broad laws like New Jersey’s is that they come too close to punishing people for what they think. Bigotry, including homophobia, is morally condemnable, but in a free country, it should not be a punishable offense….


Ravi did not invent homophobia, but he is being scapegoated for it. Bias against gay people is, sadly, embedded in American culture. Until last year people were being kicked out of the military because they were homosexuals. None of the four leading presidential candidates — President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich — thinks that gay people should be allowed to get married. A better way to honor the life of Clementi would be for everyone to get off their high horse about a 20-year-old kid and instead think about how we can promote civil rights in our own lives.

Though a national conversation about civility and respect would have been better, as usual for social problems, we looked to the criminal justice system. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world. We are an extraordinarily punitive people.

Indeed, as tragic as Clementi’s death is, it did inspire thousands of people to act in a positive manner against homophobia by launching the It Gets Better project — a very powerful way that tons of people have gathered to try to pass along the message to bullied teens (mainly from the LGBT community) that things do, in fact, get better. That response is a way of trying to deal with the actual problems. Going after Ravi with these charges just seems like a punitive action based on what Clementi did after Ravi’s clearly childish and obnoxious actions. It certainly can be difficult to separate out what Ravi did from what Clementi did later, but in a society based on law, that’s what we’re supposed to do. Being a jerk should get you shunned, but not put in prison.

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Comments on “From Lori Drew To Dharun Ravi, Punishing People Based On Others' Suicides Is A Mistake”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Criminal, but not homicide

Obviously, filming someone having sex (filming without their knowledge or consent), streaming the video online, and distributing it for the world to see, is a criminal activity. It’s an extreme invasion of privacy and damages the reputation of the person being filmed.

However, that doesn’t mean that Dharun Ravi should be brought up for murder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Criminal, but not homicide

Obviously, filming someone having sex (filming without their knowledge or consent), streaming the video online, and distributing it for the world to see, is a criminal activity.

Cite the applicable criminal statute(s) and demonstrate their applicability to this case. If it’s “obvious”, as you say, you should have no problem doing so.

p.s. Be sure to cite relevant case law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Criminal, but not homicide

You could start with USC 18 section 2257, requirement to have a proof of age model release for the video. You could go further and hit use of likeness and a whole bunch of other things. Basically, you cannot stream porn legally without it.

You also get into negligent behavior, where the person should have known that their actions (filming illegal and then streaming) might lead to what happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Criminal, but not homicide

USC 18 Section 2257 deals with sexually explicit conduct (a kiss does not fall under this category) AND needs to be for the purpose of commerce.

None of those apply to this video.

As for having to predict exact behavior of another human being for every single one of your actions is impossible. If you have figured this out, please let me know.

(a) Whoever produces any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, digital image, digitally- or computer-manipulated image of an actual human being, picture, or other matter which?
(1) contains one or more visual depictions made after November 1, 1990 of actual sexually explicit conduct; and
(2) is produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce;

Torg (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Criminal, but not homicide

Saying that you hate someone might lead to what happened. Filming without consent is, I’m pretty sure, illegal, but there simply aren’t enough suicides relative to the number of people humiliated annually for this to qualify as negligent. Get him on the things that are actually crimes, and only those things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Criminal, but not homicide

You could start with […]

Why, yes…yes you could. But what I asked for was someone to finish, to actually make the case, not to indulge in vague hand-waving and nebulous suggestions. We have at least one poster who says it’s “obvious” — I expect that poster to write a rigorous, detailed explanation of sufficient depth to justify that assertion.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Criminal, but not homicide

This seems to be the relevant New Jersey law for one of the convictions. I don’t happen to have any of the evidence from the case on hand.

However, if he did tape his room-mate engaging in sex, then it is a clear breach of the law cited. I will say that it is not necessarily “obvious” per say, but you are harping on a single word, instead of the intent of the post.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Criminal, but not homicide

I’ve just read the statute…and while I agree that section 1 (b) (1) and 1 (c) (1) would appear to apply, there’s no way this should withstand serious challenge: it’s overbroad and possibly inapplicable in this case. Consider the wording of that clause:

An actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he photographs, films, videotapes, records, or otherwise reproduces in any manner by any means, including but not limited to, a camera of any type, a camcorder, video camera, camera or picture cellular phone, digital imaging device or any other photographic or imaging technology, the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.

First: would a “reasonable person” expect not to be observed in a shared dorm room?

Second: define “consent”. A signed waiver form? Verbal assent? What?

Third — and this is the overbroad part: “or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact“. “Sexual contact”? Really? So that includes, what, EXACTLY? If it includes kissing, which is certainly a form of sexual contact, than someone who takes a photo of a couple smooching in the woods (when they didn’t think anyone was around) has just violated this law.

The problem is that “sexual contact” covers an awful lot of ground — too much ground, in fact. (Ever lock eyes with someone across a crowded room and seduce each other?) The authors of this bill should have enumerated the list.

I don’t think any of this is “obvious”: I think that are numerous subtle issues here to be argued out, and it will be interesting to see how they’re resolved.

ToFit says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Cause and effect

Maybe yelling something like “banana” at him would also have caused him to commit suicide? If this was the case in the end- someone’s fragile state should not shut down First Amedment Rights of others. Negligence has to include the element of knowing there should be a negative outcome.

I have not followed this case closely, but this portion of reasonableness seems open to some debate. Additionally this poor kid was made an example. If the president weighed in on your case even if completely innocent, I’m sure the outcome wouldn’t be swayed….

Overall the cause must pertain to a predictable reaction as well. I’m not sure that it is clear that a bit of joking around with a webcam would cause a predictable reaction to be suicide. As a reasonable conclusion to many- it seems that the cause did not have a predictable effect. Also, this ruling is a bit concerning for businesses that are based in webcam connections.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Cause and effect

You have to remember that suicide is only one of the potential outcomes that could be forseen here. He might have gone postal, he might have killed the guy filming the video, or who knows what? Clearly, outing a closet gay in the middle of his peer group is going to cause some issues. You would have to be a truly ignorant person to think that there wouldn’t be some comeback.

Heck, if he had to quit school because it became unbearable for him to deal with the stares and the comments, it would be a pretty good basis for a lawsuit.

The guy who filmed and then chose to share the video should have realized that his act wouldn’t happen without some consequences.

ceanf says:

Re: Re: Re: Criminal, but not homicide

what porn? there was no nudity. for something to be porn it requires that and a sexual act. neither was involved here.

and what is ‘negligent behavior’? that is not a crime. negligent manslaughter, negligent homicide etc. but the law does not generally define whatever crime you think ‘negligent behavior’ is.

without the ;hate crime’ statutes, the worst this kid did was invasion of privacy, which is a misdemeanor in NJ. and his scapegoating by this ‘justice’ system and the media is blatant. people get less time in jail for rape. justify that in your tiny brain.

you should actually understand the law before you comment on it coward.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re: Criminal, but not homicide

Obviously, filming someone having sex (filming without their knowledge or consent), streaming the video online, and distributing it for the world to see, is a criminal activity.

No, it’s not. If the dorm rooms were just shared sleeping quarters, according to the privacy laws, it would be difficult to prove that Clementi had any reasonable expectation of privacy (Ravi could have walked in on them at any time).

I do agree that it was wrong and an invasion of Clementi’s personal space, but it is not invasion of privacy.

MJLawe (profile) says:

No sex, just a kiss!!!!

Please, please get the facts right. All that Dharun Ravi and about 4 or 5 other kids saw was a kiss. No nudity. No sex. A kiss. Nothing was on the net. Nothing was broadcast. Nothing was taped.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that someone can go to prison for 10 years and be deported for a kiss means this country has just crossed a very scary line.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: No sex, just a kiss!!!!

The webcam was watched over the net.
The 2nd time it was turned on they were shirtless.
There was an invitation made to others to watch the 2nd date.
That viewing party was stopped when Tyler say it was setup to record him again and turned it off.

Some people go to prison for a longer time for drug convictions.

The deportation is not something the court decided, it comes from him not being a citizen. He came and broke the law, and the law says if you do that you can be deported.

He tried to get witnesses to change their statements and “destroyed” evidence in an attempt to cover up what he had done.

This was not just all charges for being a jerk, this is about a calculated attempt to cover up his involvement in a situation that went well out of his control. But he put it into motion, and was found guilty of that.

MJLawe (profile) says:

Re: Re: No sex, just a kiss!!!!

It was not watched over the net. It was watched on one computer.

I stand by what I said. A 2-second kiss watched by 4 or 5 kids.

This trial was about getting a pound of flesh. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a judge this weekend. She didn’t know much about the case, but she told me — twice — this would never have been prosecuted had Tyler Clementi not killed himself.

People have done far worse and not faced this type of sentence. In fact, had Ravi committed manslaughter, the sentence would be less.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m don’t entirely disagree with the main premise of your argument but I think this quote:

“Being a jerk should get you shunned, but not put in prison.”

is a ridiculous oversimplification. He isn’t going to jail for being a jerk, he is going to jail for invasion of privacy and intimidation (the “hate” crime part is what I have a problem with). In this era of cheap web-cams, cheap bandwidth, and cheap storage I think we need to see more laws against secretly recording other peoples actions and broadcasting them over the internet.

If you found out that someone was recording you at home (in your bedroom) and streaming it to your neighbors would you honestly not see a problem with that? Say what you will about “thought crimes”, but streaming live video of someone in their bedroom is an action not a thought.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“””He isn’t going to jail for being a jerk, he is going to jail for invasion of privacy and intimidation (the “hate” crime part is what I have a problem with).”””

The hate crime part is also something I have a problem with. Increasing penalties due to an arbitrary judgement of someone’s state of mind rather than just the act itself is hugely problematic. “Hate crime” should not even be a thing. Crime is crime and should be punished as such. Mindset has no place in this, other than proving intent, which can increase the severity of the penalty in many crimes. But just because someone hates [choose race/gender/religion] shouldn’t increase their penalty for a crime against said group. It just doesn’t make sense.

“””Say what you will about “thought crimes”, but streaming live video of someone in their bedroom is an action not a thought.”””

On this we are agreed, an action was performed, but by no stretch do I agree that it could be called a hate crime even by today’s rather broad standards. The guy was stupid and immature, but he wasn’t a mafia boss trying to intimidate his roommate. It was a prank in extremely poor taste that wound up going very much awry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Why the media does it all the time and if it’s on a popular “tv show” it’s perfectly fine. The fact that he is racist is not relevant. They should go after ET first and lock up all of them since they’ve been doing it for years.

Oh yea I forgot it’s bad for business to go after millionaires.

If someone wants to be racist well good for them. Sure being racist is stupid but it’s part of free speech. I don’t know why the guy would kill himself for being gay. I mean who cares about that shit anymore. The majority is like bah whatever you’re gay well good for you. Sure there are some small groups that spew hate speeches but they’re ignored for the most part. We all laugh at them for their ignorance. Look at the WBBC they protest at soldiers funerals a pretty messed up thing to do. It’s sick to even think about doing something like that let alone doing it. They’re all free and we all think they’re fucking morons.

If you don’t like it just go protest where they are with a Satan Loves WBBC sign. I’m sure there are plenty of atheist like me that have no problem with doing that. Or if you’re not atheist you can always Rick Roll them lmao. That sound pretty fair to me someone needs to go Rick Roll Ravi for his super crimes against us all O_O

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree. For him to have killed himself he obviously already had a fragile mental state. It wasn’t this action alone that led to him killing himself. I also think this behavior isn’t that uncommon for a young college age student. It’s sad but speaks more to our society’s lack of acceptance of other life styles that would invoke a suicide as a reaction then this one kids action.

Klepto says: the commission of a criminal act


How is it that if a bystander gets shot and dies in the commission of a bank robbery, the bank robbers are guilty of murder, even if they didn’t mean for the person to get shot?

Simple. If you have reason to suspect that your actions are:

1) Illegal and,
2) Potentially harmful to others,

Then our system says that anything that happens as a result of your actions is, wait for it…

Your fault.

Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say this stupid Indian-American is guilty of murder, but we do have a system that says he should be held very responsible. He was an adult after all, and just because his parents are pathetically poor at raising a boy to manhood, doesn’t mean that he should be free to just walk the streets when his actions resulted in the denial of a fellow American’s privacy.

This was at best a civil rights violation, and at worst, an attack on a minority individual for their sexual orientation, which had the (admittedly unintended) consequence of a suicide.

Maybe if the children of immigrants, who are born in other countries want to keep their privilege as American residents, they should heed carefully the message here, and do their best to not deny other Americans their civil rights.

Or get deported.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

The media spins, and Mike bought in?

The guilty verdict had to do with invasion of privacy. Ravi was never charged in connection to Clementi’s death. The problem here is that the media has sensationalized the case by harping on the suicide, contributing to the debate about the proper response to bullying. Unfortunately it appears that Mike has bought the media story to some degree, missing the fact that, at least in New Jersey, the taping itself was criminal*.

While whether it should be might be a point Mike could raise in a debate, it has no bearing on the fact that Ravi was sentenced for something other than the fact Clementi died.

*If we are to accept that evidence supports CNN’s statement that the taping was of Clementi having sex, which it stated in the second article that Mike linked to.

For the record, I agree with Mike’s assertion that the law shouldn’t take into account the reactions of other people to the degree that was attempted in the first case mentioned.

Steven says:

There is so much misinformation being spread here. I recommend reading this special in the new yorker It’s long, but gives a much more nuanced account of everything that happened. The truth is that there was nothing taped/saved/filmed. Ravi watched Tyler and his older parnter briefly on the webcam and then shut his webcam off. Only he and one other female friend watched. This was confirmed by Clementi via a chat transcript he had with a friend. He saw the webcam light on Ravi’s laptop go on briefly and then go off.

If you read Clementi’s chat transcripts within a day of his suicide you will also see that he is unsure whether he thinks it was that big of a deal. Here’s a reasonable speculation: he was in a very weak mental state from general insecurity. The stress of reporting Ravi to the university is one of many things that pushed him over the edge.

What is frustrating is that although Ravi’s actions are detestable, everyone seems to detest his actions because Clementi was gay. Everyone I know has done something within scale to the cruelty of Ravi’s actions. You have said something inexcusable to a family member, friend, or roommate. You have cruelly gossiped about a coworker or classmate. You have done something in the realm of what Ravi did wrong. Yet, since your actions were not directed at someone because of the color of their skin or their sexuality, most people will turn a blind eye.

Ravi’s actions were wrong because he showed a lack of consideration for the feelings and privacy of his roommate.

Clementi’s action was wrong because he showed a lack of respect for himself and his own value. I’ve known people who have had much rougher lives than Clementi, who contemplated suicide but persevered through the shit that life threw at them. I’ll show empathy for Clementi, but I’ll also deplore suicide.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The New Yorker story, published weeks before the trial, was really helpful. It painted Ravi for what he was… an obnoxious jackass, not in the least homophobic, but aghast at his antisocial roommate bringing total strangers into their shared dorm room for sex. His juvenile response was illegal under existing Peeping Tom laws, and he should have been issued a summons for that misdemeanor. One Harvard professor I heard quoted said that the hate speech law used against Ravi originated in response to mass neo-Nazi rallies, and was never intended to be used against badly-behaved, immature individuals… plenty of existing laws for that. The story also illustrated how nearly-impossible it is to determine if a suicide is on the horizon; the Clementi family, and others interviewed, painted a picture of a boy who appeared perfectly functional, yet shared no closeness any other human on earth… there were no warning signs. I’ll never defend gay-bashing; but throwing an 18-year-old in jail for ten years for behaving like a loudmouth idiot — well, I just think that an awful lot of us could have been sent up on that charge.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Ravi watched Tyler and his older parnter briefly on the webcam and then shut his webcam off. Only he and one other female friend watched.”

Please explain Molly Wei’s sworn testimony that it was activated a second time and shown to more people in her room?

I mean a paper is cool and all, but to put that above the testimony of someone in the room who did the act….

Dave Dolnick (profile) says:


First, let’s set get certain facts correct. Ravi was not prosecuted for murder. He was indicted on 15 counts, dealing with invasion of privacy (4 counts of invasion of privacy or attempted invasion of privacy) bias intimidation or attempted bias intimidation (also 4 counts) along with 3 counts of hindering arrest or prosecution, one (1) count of witness tampering, 3 counts of tampering with physical evidence. The indictment can be viewed at and the verdict form can be found at

Ravi did not commit murder, he was neither prosecuted for nor convicted of murder. He has also stated publicly that he will appeal the verdict.

Ravi is not being prosecuted for what he thought of Tyler Clementi, he has been convicted (pending appeal) for invading Mr. Clementi’s privacy, publishing that on the internet, and then trying to cover up his tracks and tamper with both physical evidence and witnesses. The article attacks a straw man, and misses its mark

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Ravi

“””Ravi did not commit murder, he was neither prosecuted for nor convicted of murder.”””

Mmmm, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, maybe you’re not just another troll.

The article did not state that Ravi was being tried nor was prosecuted for murder. However, allow me to point out that if Ravi’s roommate had not committed suicide, there would have been precisely 0 (zero) convictions, although possibly a smudge on Ravi’s academic record. The suicide is prompting the use of other laws to create a liability commensurate with a murder verdict. In today’s politically correct climate, this is a fairly typical kneejerk reaction, and don’t be surprised if there aren’t a few laws being crafted to address this issue more precisely in the future.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ravi

No actually he should have been facing charges for the invasion of privacy. Tyler filed a complaint with the RA about it, which means the university would have needed to file a real report about it.

While the “piling on” of some of the charges is a bit much, he still needed to answer for breaking the law, and then trying to hide that evidence.

ferridder (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ravi

The suicide is prompting the use of other laws to create a liability commensurate with a murder verdict.

No, the suicide prompted a thorough investigation, where Ravi’s obstruction of justice came to light.

Ravi shot himself in the foot a second time, by turning down the plea bargain offer. A murderer would not have been offered a plea bargain for community service.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

What Ravi did was despicable.
If it violated laws, then he should be punished accordingly.
Trying to turn it into something more is the bad thing.
This case is very emotional and sensationalized.

For those who think it was only Ravi and Molly who saw it, please read her testimony. While Ravi went and showered she was showing it to more people.

All we have to go by is what people typed online, we have no idea what – if anything – was actually said/done in meatspace.

Ravi tried to hide evidence, influence witnesses, and make himself look innocent. This shows an awareness that those actions were not the best thing to do, and to try and hide his orchestration of them.

I don’t think there needed to be the “hate crime” extras thrown in, what he did would have sucked no matter who the target was.

Inviting people, even “jokingly”, to join in a viewing of his roommate on a date shows he didn’t care about this roommates privacy.

We may never know what drove Tyler to jump, but Ravi broke several laws (even without the whole hate crime spin) and he needs to answer for those.

Let the punishment fit the crime, not the suspicion.
I think Ravi is a horrible human being, but I am not unbiased. While his actions might have contributed to the sad outcome, I can’t say it was 100% his fault.

toyotabedzrock (profile) says:

Facts Are Off

He was offered a deal to avoid jail.

What type of punishment would there be if someone placed a camera in a women’s restroom?

Further he did advertise it on Twitter by trying to get others to watch.

I am gay BTW, and it seems the prosecutor pressured the witnesses into pushing the bias intimidation part of it.

And I think the charges are overblown, typical of NJ and especially that county.

Unfortunately I have zero power to push back on this.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Crime and Punishment

While punishing a person for the effects of their crimes is unreasonable, it is reasonable to take into account the pain created by a person’s actions online.

Yes, some people do take abuse and invasion of privacy better than others do, but that shouldn’t be the basis of letting people get away with being jerks online. They ought to be held accountable for their attitudes and actions without being able to hide behind free speech laws, otherwise only obnoxious people have the right to free speech while their victims get pushed offline, as Christos and Lesli Catsouras have been to get away from the horrific images of their dead daughter that were forever being sent to them by email.

That said, I believe that their campaign to remove the offensive images of their daughter from the internet is ultimately self-defeating because it’s gone viral and the more you try to ban something the more people want it.

The answer is a robust moderation policy on all websites in which the administrators are legally obliged to enforce a TOS that includes provisions that prohibit offensive or intimidating behaviour. As it is, not enough of them do, and freedom of speech is restricted to those who are either obnoxious or not in the trolls’ crosshairs.

I would also add (for cases like Drew) that parents need to police their kids’ use of the internet to the point of cutting it off if they insist on going to dodgy websites.

Would it be a bad idea to ask that students sign a legally binding code of online conduct in which they agree not to post intimidating or abusive comments online? Being made to think twice about his actions may have prevented Ravi from posting comments on Twitter inviting people to view that video. Internet safety advice is available here:

If more people took advantage of these resources, I believe the rates of self-harm and suicide over cyberbullying would go right down.

Michael says:

This whole story has been blown way out of proportion by the media. If it had been a heterosexual who committed suicide, the media would’ve reported the story once and that would’ve been the end of it.

This whole anti-bullying campaign smacks of an attempt to force acceptance through intimidation of being branded a bigot. The bullying campaign is a form of social engineering. It’s impossible to be a bigot by not agreeing with some ‘aternative lifestyle’ simply because they’re not their own race of people.

Nobody deserves to be bullied nor treated in a humiliating way, but the reality is that this isn’t a perfect world and we’re far from perfection ourselves. There will always be bullying, hate crimes, racism, war, and all the rest. You can conjure up any manipulative thought crime scheme and it still isn’t going to work. Do you believe that the KKK and the Black Panthers are going to suddenly cease hating each other and sing Kumbaya together simply because the media or government told them to?

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

Criminal intent

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a concept in the criminal law that “intent follows the bullet”? So just because Dharun Ravi didn’t intend to cause harm to Tyler Clementi, he did commit a criminal act that ended up causing harm. So in the eyes of the law shouldn’t this be considered an intentional act rather than an immature one?

Joe Publius (profile) says:

Re: Re: Criminal intent

I will say that it’s one thing to know it, and another thing to not consider it in the act.

There was interesting article about it in National Geographic a few months ago. Young adults are wired to wieght actions and consequences in a different way then when one is older. Looking before leaping is essentially a part of being young.

jsf (profile) says:

No doubt, what Ravi did was despicable, but is it really criminal?

It was absolutely criminal. Filming someone in the nude alone, without their permission is a crime. Filming someone having sex without their permission even more so.

Should he be charged with a crime directly related to the death? I am not sure. Having been the target of bullying from the time I was a child until my mid-twenties, due to being a skinny geek with glasses, I don’t know if I can have an unbiased opinion. But I will say unless you have been bullied day after day for many years you just cannot understand the impact it has on your life and psyche.

Should Ravi serve 10 years? Probably not. Should he serve some time and get deported? Absolutely! He is an adult, not some 10 year old, and should know this kind of bahavior is just plain wrong.

Jon Alessi (profile) says:


So much misinformation here as to what actually happened as revealed by the trial. Ravi did not film them and broadcast it on the internet. What did happen was the following: Ravi had a webcam setup in his room on top of his computer. According to Ravi, he was worried about his property when he saw the friend Clemente brought to his room (Ravi stated he was much older, dressed shabbily etc). So Ravi was in his friends dorm room at her computer and remotely activated his webcam and viewed his room from his friends computer for all of about 10-15 seconds. All that he and his friend saw was Clemente and his friend kissing. Ravi shut down the webcam. Later Ravi attempted to view his webcam again with some more friends, but the webcam was turned off and he was unable to do so.

So please stop saying that he recorded them and posted the video to the web because that did not happen at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Misinformation

There is hard evidence (text messages from Ravi to his friends and twitter posts) saying “watch this” and giving people directions on how to watch it. He had a live iChat set up. You clearly believe Ravi’s lies. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice for giving false information to the investigators and police. You sir have the misinformation.

Mairead says:

It's the *act* that's being punished, not the ideas

People are free to think what they they like, no matter how obnoxious or even psychopathic their thoughts are. The very idea of a thought-crime is repellent.

But they are not free to act on their fears, hatreds, fantasies, or psychopathy. If they act, and harm results to some innocent person, they should carry the can for it.

Nobody wants their privacy invaded. Most people would react very strongly to having their *intimate* privacy invaded, but then to have the results of the invasion publicised? No, that goes FAR beyond the bounds of anything anyone might consider a harmless prank. That was an act INTENDED to cause harm.

And the perp should be made to pay for it, if for no other reason than to discourage others from doing the same thing.

Anonymous Coward says:


For those of you defending Ravi, I want to ask yourself this:

Say you?re 18 year old daughter split with her current boyfriend to go with some other guy. As a result, the ex-boyfriend decides to seek revenge by posting revealing pics of her online.

Do you people honestly me expect me to believe that you would agree with the no harm, no foul method of punishment for the ex-boyfriend that you are advocating for Ravi?

Puhleeezz!! I don?t think those of you defending Ravi even believe your own argument.

Jon Alessi (profile) says:

Re: Puhleeez!!!

Ummm, I think it has been stated numerous times that Ravi did not post pictures or video’s online. He viewed his own webcam feed that no one else had access to for all of about 20 seconds and all that was shone was a kiss. No nudity or sex. So that is not the same at all as your hypothetical ex boyfriend posting nude pics on the internet. And besides, ex boyfriends have been doing this for a while now, yet I haven’t seen a single example of them being taken to court and thrown in jail for 10 years. Sure I think that is wrong and they should get in legal trouble for it, but it just doesn’t seem like that actually happens.

Zach Longstaff says:

Mike Masnick

Mike Masnick, you sir, are comparing apples and oranges by comparing Lori Drew v The United States to Ravi’s case. There is a reason she was acquitted and there is a reason Ravi was convicted of almost all 15 major counts. You say, “No doubt, what Ravi did was despicable, but is it really criminal?” ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME BRO. You really think installing auto accepting software on a webcam and then using it to spy on people is NOT CRIMINAL. Not even mentioning the other things Ravi did which were all VERY criminal. You are either ignorant or retarded.

sane person says:

captain obvious alert

Dude, Clementi killed himself after they put that video on the internet.

Even if you somehow wrangle non-illegal out of perving on your room mate and using survelliance equipment without a warrant and the general sexual harrassmant issues associated with just making the recording without the participants consent…


That is one cruel mother-fucker!!!!!

This isn’t just a harmless tease/haze between roomies mate, this was massively cruel BS and I hope the parties responsible are suitably punished. Hopefully that will deter other sados from hurting people like that…..including the stereotypical ‘wall of shame’ frat boy culture we hear about in the movies…with no suicides required for it to be known around the world anyway….

And you know, maybe because this Ravi person is copping the flack they deserve it may make people in Clementi’s position think twice about killing themselves. Because they now know the shame belongs on the perpetrator and not them and the whole world supports the Clementi figure in the story, not the Ravi who did the mean thing!

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