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 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Psychopaths And Sociopaths

    not really, many are just kids trying to fit in, they do what they do because they are stupid, they want to fit in with their peer group, they think its cool(many even feel bad about it after they do it..)

    very few people are true sociopaths or psychopaths, some are, and some carry that bully attidue into adulthood, where most loose it as they get older.

    a couple good examples are people I went to HS with.

    one was a guy who use to harass me endlessly and relentlessly, it didnt bother me, and i gave as good as i got, but he saw me one day in the parking lot at safeway(grocery store) and called my name and came over and apologized he was quite sincere and even took me out for lunch and we talked, had some laughs...hes turned into a good guy.

    on the other hand there was this guy who use to do little dirty underhanded things to try and get people in trouble and who liked to bully people, He now works for his uncle at a local hardware/building supply store, he STILL tries to bully and intimidate people, the reason he works for uncle is that nobody else will hire him, hes been fired from every job hes had, he also has been in jail multi times for his actions....

    his uncle and family are good people, hes just truely a sociopath(he knows what hes doing is wrong, just dosnt care that its wrong)

    that said, i doubt these kids are really either, most likely they are just doing this to get attention, if that went away they would stop because it wouldnt be fun anymore...

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