John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

The Charge? Assault With a Deadly Web Site.

flamewar_warning_thumbIf it weren’t so laughably unconstitutional, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would truly be cause for concern, criminalizing as it does a broad spectrum of speech protected by the First Amendment. Proposed by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the law would make it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to transmit by electronic means any communication “with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person…to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.”

It’s a well-intentioned bit of legislation and it doesn’t lack for emotional import, given the famous MySpace suicide case from which it takes its name, but c’mon. As worded here, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act essentially makes it a crime to hurt someone’s feelings. Worse, its definition of the speech used to do that is very loose and ripe for abuse. It would seem to cover, for example, an irate reader comment on this post or pointed criticism of a public official. Or flame wars? And that’s just silly, isn’t it? And beyond that, it’s a violation of the First Amendment.

“This cannot possibly be constitutionally permissible, it cannot possibly be a good idea, it cannot possibly be what the drafters intended, and yet that is what they wrote,” UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “If it is passed through Congress, I see it being struck down in courts,” he added.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t even make it that far…