Commentary

New Legal Measures Against Social Media Bullying

Parents and prosecutors are taking a more aggressive stance towards cyber-bullying, with new legal measures to uncover the identities of online bullies and punish them -- and perhaps their parents -- for the harm they cause to their victims.

Earlier this week two girls in Lakeland, FL, ages 12 and 14, were arrested and charged as juveniles with third-degree aggravated stalking following the death of another girl, 14-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who committed suicide on September 9 after they bullied her online and in person. The older girl had admitted on Facebook: “Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF [I don’t give a fuck].” The sheriff who ordered their arrest said he was also considering charging the parents, explaining: “I'm aggravated that the parents aren't doing what parents should do. Responsible parents take disciplinary action.” The parents could potentially be charged for contributing to the delinquency of a minor for failing to supervise their children.

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Elsewhere Rose Martorana-Lollino, a mother in Elmwood Park, IL, has filed a discovery petition against Twitter in the Cook County Circuit Court, demanding that Twitter reveal the identities of the person or people behind two social media accounts used to bully her daughter. She alleges the accounts, @dreadfulFATchic and @dreadfullyLARGE, were used to impersonate and harass her daughter with personal attacks and slanderous statements, as well as violating her privacy by posting her phone number and address online. Martorana-Lollino also alleges Twitter committed copyright infringement by allowing the anonymous tormentors to use her daughter’s photograph without her permission. The petition demands Twitter uncover the identities of the individuals behind the bullying because they are a physical threat to Martorana-Lollino’s daughter.

North of the border, Canadian prosecutors are asking a court in Nova Scotia to ban a 15-year-old from social media after she assaulted an autistic girl in her school; the assailant asked a friend to make a video of the attack and post it on Facebook. In addition to a probationary sentence lasting up to 18 months, the prosecutor is asking the court to require the assailant to delete all her social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and not use social media for the duration of the probationary period.

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