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-Dangerous ‘Cyberbullying’ Bill Before Congress

by Dr. D ~ May 7th, 2009

Control Board of 500meg HD

(Image by StephenMitchell via Flickr)

A new bill has been introduced in Congress addressing ‘Cyberbullying’- H.R. 1966. The dangerous part is the unforeseen ways the bill may ultimately be used by authorities and interpreted by activist judges in the future.

The ‘Cyberbullying’ bill revolves around using the Internet in particular—email, blogs instant messaging, websites, text messages and even telephones to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person. The penalty is up to 2 years in prison, a fine, and a felony.

It is the “cause substantial emotional distress” part that is wide open to conjecture and a variety of interpretation. Exactly what is ‘substantial emotional distress’?

What if…

-a gay person reads on a Bible study site that no one who practices homosexuality is going to Heaven—he is emotionally distressed by the teaching–would that be substantial enough?

-a Muslim sees the Danish Muhammad cartoon on your blog and claims to be emotionally distressed—would that count?

-a person comments on your blog that since you oppose Obama you’re a racist—you lose a night sleep–can you have them arrested?

-a person reads your blog and sees that you support Prop 8- the Traditional Marriage Amendment and uses your contact info. to send you a filthy email threatening that you and your family are going to be watched? Will the authorities act in your protection?

All of these ‘what if’s’ are not far fetched..believe me they have all happened and I have personally experienced some of these and worse. I believe that this bill could be used to limit free speech in unforeseen ways and might even be used against Christians and traditional Biblical teaching in particular.

Bills like this always start out with the best of intentions. In this case it is dedicated to ‘Megan Meier’, the young teenager who committed suicide when she was dumped on by someone pretending to be a boyfriend in a social network—who later turned out to be the mother of a former girl friend and rival.

The problem is—this bill is far-reaching and way too general. There is no possible way to predict how it will be used and who it will be used against. It really is time to stand up now and let your Representative know how you feel before it’s too late and precious rights are forever lost in the process.

Here’s that actual  wording of the bill:

    (a) In General- Chapter 41 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`Sec. 881. Cyberbullying
    `(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
    `(b) As used in this section–
    `(1) the term `communication’ means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and
    `(2) the term `electronic means’ means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.’.
    (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 41 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

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