Maryland The Latest State To Trample The First Amendment With Quixotic Attempt To Outlaw 'Cyberbullying'
from the this-again?!? dept
So, given all that, Maryland appears to be the next to spit on the First Amendment with its own "anti-cyberbullying legislation," which, like the others, seems to want to outlaw being a jerk online, if that behavior is directed at a child. While the bill the Assembly passed took out some of the worst language, it still has massive problems:
While electronic annoyance of an adult becomes criminal only if it continues after a request to stop, no such triggering provision is included for behavior that may annoy a minor. (And as I read it, there is no requirement that the defendant know that the person being subjected to intentional emotional distress is a minor — engaging in a vigorous “flame war” with a Maryland resident might turn out to be criminal if the username “ParentInLinthicum” turns out to conceal a teenage user.) Exceptions are made for speech that is intended to express political views or convey information, a curious pair of exemptions in that it has long been assumed that our First Amendment protects many types of seriously annoying speech other than those two.In the long run, these kinds of laws only serve to create massive chilling effects on speech, and will, undoubtedly, be used to cause much more trouble for other children. As Walter Olson notes:
We are supposed to support this law — and some lawmakers I admire did support it — to show that we care about children. Once on the books, however, this law will assuredly ruin the lives and futures of other kids who will be the subject of investigations and prosecutions, and not all those kids are monsters whose ruin we should accept with equanimityYes, bullying sucks, but passing a law that ignores the First Amendment is never going to stop kids from saying mean things to one another -- though it might just put them in hellish situations in which they're prosecuted for doing things that kids do.