Thursday, July 11, 2013

Maryland cyberbullying law may face problems with vagueness of "emotional distress" provision

Maryland has passed an anti-cyberbullying bill, called Grace’s Law, named after Grace McComas.
But the ACLU said that the portion that makes it a crime to inflict emotional distress online may not pass constitutional muster, because (compared to the idea of making a threat) it seems too vague for criminal law.  But it could be the grounds for civil litigation, as emotional distress is a factor in tort law.
The Baltimore Sun article by Arthur Hirsch was reproduced by the Huffington Post in April here

NBC Washington reported on the passage of the bill May 3, and briefly discussed it today July 11, story here.

The text of HB 396 is here. This appears to be what passed. It takes place Oct. 1, 2013.  It is not clear if the law applies to communications coming from outside Maryland or going outside.  
The Westminster Patch also reported the signing of the final law on May 2, here. 

Most of the media coverage seems to be relatively unaware of the possible constitutional problems. 
Penalties can include a $500 fine or jail time. 
I still think, personally,  that the best way for teens to be popular is to be good at something in the real world first.  Let it be music, chess, sports, drama, a lot of things.   And don’t give into the pressure to have as large a count of “friends” as possible.  Think about quality. 

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