EDITORIAL: Protection against bullying good for all
Dec 12, 2012 (Hickory Daily Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
We didn't think we'd see the day that teachers would need a law to protect them from students, but the Internet has raised threats that no one imagined just a few decades ago.
Cyberbullying is now a criminal offense in North Carolina. It is intended to protect kids from bullying kids and kids from bullying adults online.
False, misleading and damaging information can be circulated in an instant via digital communication. The state law recognizes this real threat to reputation and personal security. The constitutional dictum that every citizen has a right to be secure applies to the Ethernet.
It's illegal to create a fake profile or website online. Posting private, personal or sexual information is prohibited. Tampering, hacking or signing someone to an unwanted website -- including a porn site -- is a criminal act.
Such activities are not pranks. They're serious breaches of individual rights. The law does not address criticism, lampoon, caricature or opinion. The law is aimed at preventing and punishing attacks on reputation and private information.
The law is not an assault on free speech. Deliberate attempts to cause harm to another person online is not free speech. It's a crime that should not be tolerated.
Sometimes, people blurt out something in a moment of stress or anger they don't really mean or instantly regret because they realize it's not right. You don't blurt on the Internet. Building a false profile or hooking someone else to a seedy website is not an instantaneous reaction.
The cyberbullying law addresses malicious acts that require time to conduct.
We're not talking about stupid speech, although that can be damaging, too. It's about the premeditated inflicting of pain.
That does not come under the silly heading, kids will be kids.
We refuse to let adults get away with hurtful behavior, and our children need to know that being wrong has consequences.
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