Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
bullying, libel

Does It Makes Sense To Charge Kids & Their Parents With Libel For Online Bullying?

from the extreme-response dept

There's been lots of talk about what to do about online bullying -- even if the amount and impact of online bullying is often massively exaggerated. There have even been some attempts to outlaw online bullying or "cyberbullying" that seem to try to make it illegal to be a jerk online. These laws are of dubious legitimacy under the First Amendment.

However, it appears that one family has taken a different path to go after some online bullies. After discovering that some classmates in school set up a fake Facebook profile for a girl, they sued the kids who set up the page and their parents for libel. The student had apparently asked both the school and the police to do something about the fake page -- and in both cases they were (correctly) told that they couldn't do anything. The school couldn't get involved with off-campus speech (correct) and the police noted that no criminal laws appeared to have been broken (also correct). They also asked Facebook to take down the page, which didn't happen. That's the one that surprises me a bit. Considering Facebook's insistence on "real names" and such, you would think the company would respond relatively quickly to accusations of a fake page.

That said, is libel really the most reasonable response? It does appear that some of the statements made on the page were pretty obnoxious, and could potentially meet the bar for libel, but it's difficult to see how such a lawsuit helps anything. It did get Facebook to delete the page, so perhaps that accomplished the goal. But I can't imagine that filing lawsuits against other students helps make one more accepted in school. The fact is that kids can be obnoxious brats -- and it sounds like the kids who set up this fake Facebook page fit that description. But does that really need to be settled in court? Furthermore, suing the parents of the bullies because they paid for the internet access the kids used seems like a particularly ridiculous claim. Bullying sucks, but taking kids and their parents to court over a stupid fake Facebook profile seems like overkill in response.

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  1. icon
    AzureSky (profile), 1 May 2012 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Sure the school could have done something!

    all i can guess is the kids knew not to update that facebook accts info/make posts from it at school, I do think the school should have brought them all into a room and had a talk and they very well may have, but thats not gonna stop jerk kids from being jerk kids or crybaby kids from crying to mommy and daddy about people being mean to them.

    the fact is, theres no fix for the problems caused by people interacting with each other outside not letting them interact with anybody.

    In cases like this, social justice is the best fix, the girl, if she had handled this correctly herself could have made to so that this wasnt fun for the kids doing it, she could have made it so that rather then her being the object of ridicule the ones making the posts where the subject of ridicule.

    once you learn to not give a crap about other peoples opinion of you and their attempts to upset you, you gain a freedom and centering that can and will serve you well threw out out life.

    once you learn to think logically about such things you can find ways to deal with idiots like the ones making fun of her that dont involve legal action or physical violance, but instead involve making them the object of scorn and ridicule.

    when I was in school myspace was big(the facebook of its day) as where yahoo chat and some others where lots of people at the school hung out, back then if people harassed you online, you just delt with it, you didnt go running to the teacher or mommy/daddy, very few kids resorted to that when i was in HS, and those that did for the most part ended up with their parents telling them to grow thicker skin...only once did i ever see a parent threaten legal action, and it was over a LIE her own daughter was telling about being sexually harassed, when the full story came out, the girl(Who was trying to cause problems for a teacher and a slew of students) ended up being ostracized, she had no friends to speak of, nobody would even look at her or talk to her....even teachers ignored her...

    social justice at work....

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