Tuesday, January 04, 2011

California Law Targets Cyberbullying

Happy New Year to All!

'Tis the season for all things new --resolutions, calendars, and laws! In California, there is a new law on the books that makes it illegal to create a fake social networking profile "to harm others." Violation of the law can result in a year jail time and/or up to a $1000 fine.

Will be interesting to see if something like this makes a difference -- probably not until it is tested in courts and people become more aware of it.

CA schools could possibly take advantage of this by connecting it to safe school policies to strengthen those. It's difficult to enforce a bullying policy if the actual bullying takes place either off campus and/or through the use of personal devices such as computers or cell phones. But, perhaps, with this impersonation law, schools can demonstrate that the bullying of students is still against school regulations even if it happens after the bell rings. I'm no lawyer (though I do love me some SVU!), but perhaps this logic will help build a case against a serious offender?


Anonymous said...

Not to get off topic, but do you think this law would differ from slander or defamation laws already on the books? I mean, what should it matter where the crime takes place if the lies are made public.

Dr. Kris said...

My understanding is that it adds to the law by making it an extra offense to create a "fake profile" from which the slander comes. But I am no expert here!

Matthew Walthers said...

This law has a huge loophole exploited by Topix, a news aggregator in Palo Alto. You see Topix doesn't even require you to set up a profile at all, which means that you don't have to be fake, you can just be anonymous. People slander, cyber bully and attack people on this site and the CA law does not apply.

Furthermore, Topix is rolling in money off this, at the expense of its victims. It has a report abuse button that seems to be ignored in the case of hundreds of plaintiffs.

Dr. Kris said...

Since this law is really designed to address cyberbullying, I wonder if this application will be relevant. Will be interesting to see, though, as I am sure someone will test it!