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 @ 12:31pm

    people need to grow a pair

    Let me preface this with my background.

    I grew up a pudgy, red haired geek, I got "bullied" and teased constantly, Did I cry to my parents every time it happened( or ever)....nope, because the fact was, even the popular kids got teased....everybody gets shit from somebody in school.

    I really feel that learning to deal with assholes/jerks when I was a kid better prepared me for adult life, Among other things I learned to laugh off people insulting me and tying to goad me into a fight.

    I learned to not care what others thought of me, and to give as good as I got, again everybody gets shit in school and sorry I have to point this out but in adult life you still have to deal with those kind of people.

    once you learn to not care what others think of you, you find its quite freeing you nolonger get worked up over little things.

    My advice to parents of kids being teased/bullied at school, teach your kids to grow thicker skin, to give as good as they get, it will better prepare them for life then if you try and shelter them so when they enter the real world they are shocked at how mean people are and endup coming home and crying over how somebody at work was mean to them.....

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