Sunday, December 28, 2008
Missouri, Illinois pass cyberbullying laws; several prosecutions already occur in MO, emphasize text messages
New cyherbullying laws have been passed in Missouri, and one in Illinois that takes effect Jan. 1, 2009. The Illinois law might apply to “third party” postings in a webstie and could conceivably raise Section 230 questions.
In Missouri, the law prohibits communications (including text messages, phone calls and web postings) that cause emotional distress, and has been criticized already as too vague. Already there have been a number of prosecutions. The term "emotional distress" can be subject to interpretation (like reputation, it's in the eye of the beholder) so users need to be careful.
There is a story by Joel Currier in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “New cyber-bullying law being used in the St. Louis area,” here.
According to Wired Magazine's blog, seven people have already been charged in Missouri. The story by Kim Zetter is here. Most of the prosecutions involved text messages rather than profiles and blogs.
The laws were, of course, motivated by the case against Lori Drew, who was convicted of federal misdemeanors but not prosecuted under Missouri law.