Knee-Jerk Anti-Bullying Legislation

Recently, a teenage girl committed suicide in Suffolk County, New York. Her parents are contemplating prosecuting other students who posted bullying and harassing comments on their daughters Facebook page, even though they do not believe that those comments caused her daughter to commit suicide. They just want the “hurtful” comments, which are still being posted to her Facebook page,  to stop.

Well, none too soon, the government has come to help! Suffolk County is drafting legislation to stop “cyber-bullying,” whatever that is.

No, really. “Cause by looking at the proposed legislation I can’t tell what it really is. Its definition is a tad bit vague:

“CYBER-BULLYING” shall mean

[(a)] engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts of abusive behavior over a period of time

[(b)] by communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, posting statements on the internet or through a computer network.

[(c)] Acts of abusive behavior shall include, but not be limited to, taunting; threatening; intimidating; insulting; tormenting; humiliating; disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs, either actual or modified, of a minor; disseminating the private, personal or sexual information, either factual or false, of a minor; or sending hate mail….

No person shall engage in cyber-bullying against a minor [i.e., someone under the age of 18] in the County of Suffolk….

Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy walks us through this exercise in legislative over-broadness:

1. You post several items on your Web site about how some juvenile criminal is an awful person. You’re guilty of “repeatedly committing acts of abusive behavior” — namely, “insulting” ” — “against a minor” by “posting statements on the internet.”

2. A 17-year-old finds that her 17-year-old boyfriend is cheating on her. She sends him two e-mails calling him a “lying, cheating scum.” She’s guilty of repeatedly “insulting” the other person, and perhaps “sending hate mail.”

3. A 17-year-old e-mails her friend several times about her having had sex with a 17-year-old boy. She is guilty of “disseminating the private … sexual information” (even though “factual”) “of a minor” — the fact that the boy had had sex with her.

Read the rest of Volokh’s comments here.

So what we have is more hype about “bullying” being the cause of everything. It is the primary legacy of the self-esteem cult. The rationale goes that bully lowers self-esteem, which makes people depressed, and so they commit suicide.

People commit suicide because they are suffering from a mental disease: depression. Depression is treated more effectively with changes to diet and activity level than efforts to bolster self-esteem — in fact, I’d be willing that the worthless turds posting demeaning comments to a dead girl’s Facebook page are the result of self-esteem training, not a reason for it. This girl was ill, and while I’m sure that reading those comments didn’t help much, I seriously doubt they drove her to suicide. Her illness did.

So now we have a governmental authority that is passing legislation that won’t fix the problem, won’t bring the girl back to life, and won’t stop bullying. What it will do is cause numerous unintended problems and complications for the residents of Suffolk county, who would be subject to vague standards that would turn very mundane and potentially harmless actions into crimes.

And people wonder why I don’t want the government to save me.

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