Cyberbullying Law Deemed Unconstitutional by Top New York Court

The growth of social media sites isn’t limited by demographics or age groups. Pretty much everyone has at least one social media account these days — and this includes teenagers. In fact, an astonishing 93% of teenagers (age 12 to 17) use the Internet regularly, and 73% of this age group have profiles on social networking websites.

However, as the number of kids going on social media sites increases, so does the risk of these kids falling victim to the major dangers and pitfalls that social media can carry.

Cyberbullying has become a major source of concern among teens, parents — even legislators.

One such legislative measure to prevent cyberbullying, the 2011 law passed in Albany County, New York, was shot down by the New York Court of Appeals Tuesday, July 1, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ruling, which deemed the law unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment, sets an important precedent — as no other U.S. court has yet weighed in on the constitutionality of any cyberbullying law.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Court of Appeals ruled that the law prohibited a significant amount of speech “far beyond the cyberbullying of children.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Albany law prohibited electronic communications of “private, personal, false, or sexual information,” meant to “harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person” for no legitimate reason.

“Any information posted online today becomes real, whether we believe it or not. We hope the courts will find a happy medium between our First Amendment Rights and how to curb the rise of cyberbullying and online harassment. Future laws regarding what information can and cannot be posted about an individual will be impacted by today’s ruling”, states Paul Adkison, founder of ZABRA.

Despite the Court of Appeals’ ruling to shoot down the law, Judge Graffeo said the intentions of the lawmakers were admirable, and that laws that prevent the cyberbullying of children without limiting constitutional rights are needed in today’s Internet landscape.

The First Amendment “permits the prohibition of cyberbullying directed at children, depending on how that activity is defined,” Judge Graffeo said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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