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The Internet Government News

Politicians and the Cyber-Bully Pulpit 392

Regular Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton has cyber-bullying on his mind; that and the laws proposed to deal with it. His article begins: "The authors of most of the recently proposed anti-cyberbullying laws have been invoking the tragic case of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2006 after being harassed online by an adult neighbor posing as a cute 16-year-old boy. Unlike the bluster of politicians grandstanding to outlaw swearing on the Internet, the outrage and frustration of lawmakers in this case is at least understandable, especially after the FBI announced that the family that created the phony profile and caused Megan's suicide could not be charged with any crime. But the focus on Megan's case raises two questions: (a) whether it is fair to invoke Megan in the name of passing the laws, and (b) whether the laws are a good idea in general." Read more below.

For once, the invoking of the teenage victim of online stalking is probably not completely cynical. Sometimes, it is. In 2002, after 13-year-old cheerleader Christina Long was apparently killed by someone she met online, politicians purported to honor her memory by passing the "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act" to create the .kids.us domain space exclusively for content aimed at children 12 and under. Nobody with an ounce of sense could have truly believed that the existence a .kids.us domain would have prevented Christina Long's death (and certainly not the people who knew the facts of her case, since the police found that she had been actively looking for older sex partners online). In Megan Meier's case, at least the proposed laws are on-topic, and the authors probably really believe they will help. But will they?

Consider two laws proposed by state senators in Megan's home state of Missouri. Senate Bill 762, introduced by Sen. Yvonne Wilson, would require schools to adopt anti-cyberbullying policies. Sen. Scott Rupp has introduced Senate Bill 818, which would prohibit "cyber harassment" defined as conduct which "serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person", with increased penalties if committed by an adult over 21 against a minor under 17. Obviously the Wilson bill would not have applied in the Meier case, since the harassment was not committed by a real school student, but the bill could have still been inspired by an attempt to prevent future incidents caused by real students. The Rupp bill could apply to any teen-on-teen or even adult-on-adult harassment. So what actual effect would they have?

The Wilson bill punts the question by simply requiring school districts to set up anti-cyberbullying policies, but not specifying what would be prohibited or what the consequences would be. This is not to say that the state legislature should have micro-managed what school districts should prohibit, but there's no way to find fault with a bill that leaves the decisions up to someone else. However, any policy that attempts to regulate off-campus conduct would run into constitutional problems, as most cyber-bullying occurs outside of school (since Facebook and MySpace remain blocked to most students).

That leaves the Rupp bill, which is far more detailed, but still less than specific as far as people being able to read it and know in advance what kind of conduct is prohibited. Would it really criminalize any messages sent between teenagers that led to hurt feelings? The bill says that it does not apply to "constitutionally protected activity", falling into the general category of bills that say "This bill prohibits XYZ except that anything protected by the First Amendment isn't prohibited", supposedly so that people can't say the bill violates the First Amendment, but which really means that nobody knows what's allowed. The bill helpfully explains that "such constitutionally protected activity includes picketing or other organized protests", but since most cyberbullying does not take the form of tormentors sending their targets pictures of picket signs reading "ERIC IS GAY", this still doesn't help to determine what is permitted.

But there's something much more worrisome here. The conduct prohibited in the bill doesn't depend entirely on the message itself; it is restricted to content "that actually causes substantial emotional distress". Presumably this seemed like a good way to target the kinds of messages that caused Megan Meier to kill herself, without also outlawing all the other thousands of "You suck and I don't want to be your friend any more" sent between teenagers every day. But consider from the point of view of a message's recipient: At some point in the future, a victim of cyberbullying might know that other cases of cyberbullying have been prosecuted, but only in cases where they caused the victim "substantial emotional distress". So the law says to the victim: You can strike back against your tormentors, you can ruin their lives and let the world know what they did to you, but only if you harm yourself to prove they really hurt you.

And that's the basic Catch-22 of cyberbullying legislation: You can't prohibit meanness that causes someone to harm themselves, without also prohibiting the basic meanness that many teenagers put up with every day — unless you make the crime contingent on the victim actually harming themselves, in which case you've created hugely perverse incentives for them to do so.

I admit I don't have an easy answer either. The National Crime Prevention Center lists tips for teens to deal with cyberbulling: "(1) Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages; (2) Tell friends to stop cyberbullying; (3) Block communication with cyberbullies; (4) Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult." Sorry, I'm sure they don't mean well, but if you're a teen and your problem is people saying hurtful things about you online to your friends, this is so unhelpful as to probably leave the victim feeling worse. 1 through 3 don't even address the problem, and "report it to an adult"? Most cyberbullying is not illegal.

So I would take the efforts that schools put into preventing cyberbullying — which may not deter the worst bullies, and which could be unconstitutional as applied to off-campus activity anyway — and reinvest them into teaching kids to deal with it: the self-esteem building programs which are much derided as political correctness run amok, but which can be judged a success if they help build resistance to bullying. Above all, put as much emphasis on tracking the results of esteem building programs, as on tracking the results of regular academic programs, so that statistics can be used to determine after the fact what kinds of programs are working best, rather than going in with preconceived notions. Learning how to deal with catty bitches ought to be treated as at least as important as learning the date when the Treaty of Ghent was signed. Out in the real world, there are still catty bitches, but nobody ever asks you about the Treaty of Ghent.
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Politicians and the Cyber-Bully Pulpit

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  • by electrictroy ( 912290 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:33PM (#22506432)
    I feel sorry for the girl, but ultimately it was HER DECISION to commit suicide. You can't blame somebody else for your own actions.... there are a lot of assholes & bullies out there, and learning to deal with them is a part of life.

    If the girl has been wiser, she could have
    (a) mark the hate mail as "spam" so they'd go straight to trash
    (b) ask her parents for help, if she didn't know how to do that

    • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:42PM (#22506562) Journal
      I am pretty sure, that the current standing is that we (as a society) do not allow minors to make all decisions about their lives and do subscribe to the idea that they deserve a higher degree of protection than adults do. Perhaps a more approriate measure would be not to punish adults acting as adults on the Internet, but holding parents responsible for their children's Internet habits. Surely we would hold a parent who gets cocaine for their child to be more than just a drug dealer. Why should we not adopt the position that (at least monitoring) what children view on the Internet is their parents responsibility? Why shouldn't we say that letting children use Internet unsupervised is plain reckless?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Nyall ( 646782 )
        Watching your children 100% of the time is not feasible. Not that I have any, but If an adult harasses a child of mine yeah I'm going to try to sick whatever law I can on them.
        • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @05:58PM (#22508446)

          Watching your children 100% of the time is not feasible.
          But you can engender in them the belief that they're being watched 100% of the time. That may be enough.

          And it will prepare them for the real world where they will be.
      • by HappySmileMan ( 1088123 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:23PM (#22507230)

        I am pretty sure, that the current standing is that we (as a society) do not allow minors to make all decisions about their lives and do subscribe to the idea that they deserve a higher degree of protection than adults do. Perhaps a more approriate measure would be not to punish adults acting as adults on the Internet, but holding parents responsible for their children's Internet habits. Surely we would hold a parent who gets cocaine for their child to be more than just a drug dealer. Why should we not adopt the position that (at least monitoring) what children view on the Internet is their parents responsibility? Why shouldn't we say that letting children use Internet unsupervised is plain reckless?
        Most childrens parents have jobs, many of which are full time, so there will be times when the children are at home alone with a computer. And even if the parents were at home, it'd be impossible for them to stand looking over their kids shoulder at what the kid is doing.

        Webfilters to block websites don't block them all, are usually easily circumvented and kids will pretty much always know more than their parents about this kind of stuff (most parents don't sit reading slashdot and keeping up to date with this stuff). Keep in mind that by "kids" and "children" these article usually mean teenagers, who are generally more aware of how the computers work than the parents.

        It's impossible to constantly monitor or limit people's access to the internet these days, at least without limitting access to helpful websites as well as the dangerous ones, and most parents wouldn't know how to do it anyway. Blaming parents for what their children do online is just an easy way out of accepting that there is a hard to solve problem. And blaming parents for their childrens actions when the child is the VICTIM is just spiteful, do you blame parents if the child gets mugged or abused in real life, because the children(teenagers) were allowed outside of the house? Or if they weren't allowed out but left anyway without permission, teenagers aren't going to follow rules they don't agree with, and they refuse to follow ones that they do agree with if it's less fun. There have been several times when I've gone wandering around with friends at 3 in the morning, or even spent the night on some friends couch while I was supposedly sound asleep in my bed, I knew that the rules were there for a reason, but I just didn't follow them because it was less fun.

        I know the last comparison was a bit over the top, but teenagers won't just accept a webfilter, they'll find a way around it and try (and usually succeed) not to get caught, just as they would in real life when faced with any form of restrictions, no matter how sensible they are.

        Whoa long post, sorry for the excessive reading
        • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:47PM (#22507510) Journal

          No, filters are not perfect. As a matter of fact, I would say they are dangerous in themselves. They provide a false sense of safety while, at the same time, often limiting for very dubious reasons (thereby, acting as sensors of often important information). But logs are (for all intents and purposes) perfect. They do give parents a perfect ability to see what websites their children visited. More sophisticated logs would allow parents to even see the full content of all Internet interactions that children engaged in. No, it's not an "invasion" of privacy. Children don't have an expectation of privacy -- they are under full control of the parents. You can't take away a privacy which doesn't exist.

          Letting children "do their thing" and then expecting that the government would restrict what type of interactions adults engaged in (towards other adults) just so that your children can be protected when they act recklessly is not only reckless in itself, it is just plain obnoxious. It victimizes ALL adults by taking away their rights for the purpose of allowing you to be less engaged in the process of raising your own children. How much more obnoxious a standard can you establish? Cyber bullying must be addressed by parents in much the same way as all other bullying -- by talking to their kids about it.

          As for you examples of wondering the streets at 3am, if we extend the analogy from the Internet to the real life, then you are proposing that adults should not be legally allowed to walk drunk on the streets at night because there might be children who sneaked out walking down the same streets and they might get cursed out by such adults. You may be tempted to say, "good, I like the idea of not having drunk people wandering at nights", but this is not a position a government of a free country may adopt. The government can take measures ensuring that the proverbial fist stops at a proverbial nose. It may not go further and say that anyone who as much as raises their proverbial fist above shoulder level will be deemed a criminal.

          And lastly, the reason parents don't watch their children is because they are not held responsible for their behavior. You are confusing cause and effect. If parents were legally responsible for what their children do, all employers wouldn't have a choice but to be accomodating of that fact because that's what the market pressure (the labor market in this case) would pressure them to do.

        • by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @05:00PM (#22507662)

          You shouldn't need a filter.

          If your child is old enough to use the internet, you should have the sex^H^H^H internet talk with them about what's good and bad, and you expect of their computer use, and what you can do to help.

          If you can't trust your, no internet. If they're old enough, you have to be able to trust them to tell you if someone's sending them hate mail.

          Filters do nothing but say "I don't trust you, and you are incapable of handling yourself." If that's true, fine; just don't let the munchkins on the computer. If not, why have it?

    • Except the problem is:

      1. Thirteen year old girls are usually emotional basket cases.
      2. Social standing is EVERYTHING and teenage girls can be the most evil little bitches around because of how they treat each other. An adult playing this game is inexcusable (even if it doesn't result in a suicide).
      3. Teenagers rarely ask their parents for help with "real" problems (as opposed to non-problems like needing a ride to the mall).
      4. Teenagers are in the process of learning how to deal with problems. Normally you (as a parent) let them make mistakes so they'll learn. Occasionally you must intervene if the problem gets too big. That assumes you even know about the problem. Teenagers are pretty damn good at hiding things from their parents. The bigger the problem, the more effort they'll put into hiding it.

      Since there is no crime that the bitch of a woman can be charged with, the logical response is social shunning. The entire community refuses to have anything to do with her - including businesses! Imagine her going to the grocery store and the manager telling her they don't want her business. Imagine her going to some school function and every parent and every teacher turns their back on her. It won't bring back the dead girl, but it would get rid of the woman since she'd have to move. It would also send a strong message to everyone else in their community that some things are just not acceptable.
      • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs.ajs@com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:15PM (#22507090) Homepage Journal

        Since there is no crime that the bitch of a woman can be charged with
        Here's what I don't get. Let me quote ABC News here:

        Megan Meier's parents say she committed suicide after a hoax by a couple who lived down the street posed online as a "cute boy." When "cute boy" apparently turned on Megan, saying he heard she was "cruel" to her friends, she hanged herself.
        So, someone pulled a prank. I'm sure pranks like this happen thousands of times a day all across the country. One statistical outlier killed herself as a result of someone saying they didn't like her. Let's take the prank out of this. She met a boy online who essentially dumped her online. Ignore that it wasn't real because she didn't know that it wasn't. Her response to being dumped was to KILL HERSELF. I assure you that the boy was not to blame. She behaved in a seriously illogical manner to what is going to be a typical situation for just about everyone at some point in their lives (a messy breakup). Now, given that it was a hoax, I can see saying that the people perpetrating it should certainly feel badly. After all, they didn't have to put her in that situation. However, there's no way for them to have known that putting her in a situation that's all too common would have resulted in this tragic outcome. There's no intent to cause harm. There's no felony murder (the crime of an accidental death occurring as a result of the commission of a felony). There's no crime, and frankly I don't see why there should be.

        You call these people some pretty harsh names here on Slashdot. If they killed themselves as a result, what do you think we should do to you...?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke ( 6130 )
          Let's take the prank out of this. She met a boy online who essentially dumped her online. Ignore that it wasn't real because she didn't know that it wasn't. Her response to being dumped was to KILL HERSELF. I assure you that the boy was not to blame.

          I didn't know how I felt about this whole thing, but I'd never thought about it in this way and it really clears things up for me.

          Teen suicide is a serious problem. While teen crime rates have been going down for decades, suicide rates have gone up (I don't kno
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
        "1. Thirteen year old girls are usually emotional basket cases.

        2. Social standing is EVERYTHING and teenage girls can be the most evil little bitches around because of how they treat each other. An adult playing this game is inexcusable (even if it doesn't result in a suicide)."

        In other words....nothing is new under the sun...teems are teens, and they are in a learning phase, and awkward and worried about social standing.

        Also, people, especially teens, can be mean and cruel to each other, and have been

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by thebdj ( 768618 )
        Yeah, here are some reasons this law won't work:
        1. This theory [penny-arcade.com] holds quite true. The fact of the matter is the internet is full of idiots and assholes (as is the rest of the world).
        2. There was this old saying we knew as kids, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." (Or some variation thereof.) The fact is that she reacted to words. To a person she didn't really know and never interacted with outside of myspace.
        3. Someone please show me a case where someone using words or
      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @05:17PM (#22507884) Journal
        1. Thirteen year old girls are usually emotional basket cases.

        As opposed to all those emotionally stable adult females...
    • I am all for personal responsibility, but this case, and cases like it, I feel, deserve a little bit of slack given the extenuating circumstances.

      1.) She was 13. I know now it's easy for adults, and extremely cynical teenagers, to say "Well, why didn't she just ignore it?" Well, in the case, the 'boy' spent months talking to her, gaining trust and personal information, before beginning to slam her and threaten her, and when you're 13 years old, the internets ARE serious business. You can't seriously be expected to just be able to brush off someone threatening to spread horrible lies about you in the school setting, where you will spend the next several years sandwiched between social layers.

      2.) The parents did this because of a spat their daughter was having with Megan. Screw protecting kids online from bullying, how about we find a way to weed sociopaths like this out of the genetic pool, and certainly prevent them from having kids. What the hell is the other girl going to be like when she grows up? "I had an argument with a friend when I was 13, so my parents arranged for her to die. They didn't go to jail for that, so I guess it's ok!"

      I know how much crap I ended up in in high school when I spread a TRUE story about someone online (I wasn't spreading it maliciously, it was just conversational) and in 'retaliation', the people involved started spreading some very creative lies about me. Maybe instead of passing laws to protect children from the horrors of assholes, we should be educating them at a PARENTAL LEVEL about the internet, "serious business", and the ability of "Ignore" features on most messaging software.

      But that's just me.
    • If the girl has been wiser,
      I sincerely hope you never have a child with a mental illness.
    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:59PM (#22506824)
      The girl in question was 13 years old, not a full grown woman. At that age, girls tend to be particularly vulnerable to harassment, and the neighbor made a concerted effort to harass the girl. There is simply no escaping this: it was wrong. Ultimately, the problem lied with the neighbor, who harassed a teenager until she committed suicide.
      • The girl in question was 13 years old, not a full grown woman.

        When I was 13, I was not fully grown. However, I was also not a complete infant. I was also by that time responsible for my own actions, and held responsible when the occasion arose!

        What ever happened to the old Bar Mitzvah type view, where people became responsible for their own "sins", i.e. actions once they reached 13? Was there something terribly wrong with that? 13 is pushing on, and you'd better be pushing on with it, because the world is not going to treat you like an infant forever. I'm not unsympathetic to someone with a mental illness like depression, but their decisions are their own, even decisions as grave as suicide.

        By the way, past the age of 13, I don't tend to lay the blame on the parents anymore. People have to be held responsible for their own actions. There may be mitigating circumstances, but there are rarely any real excuses.

        I keep hearing stories of uncles and granduncles who left home at the ages of 15 and 16 to work abroad! Aunts and grandaunts one often found, may not have been abroad, but were certainly working much of the time. Is it more beneficial for their wellbeing to treat 16 and 17 year olds as incapable infants? Many people certainly seem to think so. I don't advocate people dropping out of school, but I don't think it's right to keep people of that age there against their will.

        There's a balance to be achieved in everything of course. However, I think our modern view of teenagers, their capability and culpability, is skewed too far towards an infant perspective.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Do the findings of modern neuroscience have any bearing on your opinion that 13 year olds are adult enough to be held responsible for all their actions, and that their parents or the other adults in their lives have no culpability in what the child does? For the record, the conclusion of neuroscience researcher is that the brain does not finishing maturing until age 25, and that the brain of a 13 year old is still very immature. Do we baby a teenager along? Of course not. But teenagers do require guidan
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nasor ( 690345 )

        Ultimately, the problem lied with the neighbor, who harassed a teenager until she committed suicide.

        Although the behavior of the neighbors was despicable, I can't believe that any 13 year-old girl would commit suicide because of something as trivial as internet harassment unless she already had very severe emotional and psychological problems. "The problem" was the girl's underlying psychological dysfunction, not the internet harassmanet. This situation is almost exactly analogous to accidentally causing a heartattack by shouting "Boo!" at someone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evanbd ( 210358 )

      It wasn't just hate mail; it was far more perverse than that. They created a fake persona (of a cute boy) who pretended to be interested in her. They then cultivated an emotionally intimate relationship, before having the "boy" turn around and proceed to actively attack her sense of self worth. Would you really send to the spam box mail from someone who was your significant other yesterday, or would you read it even if they had started calling you names for no reason in the last email? I agree it was he

    • by malkavian ( 9512 )
      Bullying leads to depression.. When you're really (clinically) depressed, however wise you may have been at the start, getting off the big merry go round seems like a very inviting choice.
      Really, I think the abusers in this case should certainly be hit by the child abuse laws at the very minimum, plus stalking laws..

      A new law though? I'm not so sure it would be necessary.. Just use the existing ones out there. New laws won't actually fix anything though. You'll just end up with more criminals. The onl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:33PM (#22506438)
    The inability/unwillingness to stand up for yourself does not necessitate a new law.
  • Just think of this scenario:

    You begin a conversation with someone, and all of a sudden you start talking politics. The other person completely disagrees with you and decides to completely slam you, saying you are ignorant, and that you should kill yourself.

    BOOM, you have a case! You take that person to court and clean up because they say you are a worthless human being. And guess what, they'd probably right!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by KublaiKhan ( 522918 )
      Hrm. You'd be outlawing trolling?

      As if that would ever work.
      • Hrm. You'd be outlawing trolling?

        As if that would ever work.

        It would and quite easily. The degree of control that website operators and ISP have over who uses the connection and what they can do with it is actually much greater than that of phone companies. It just so happens that most website operators and ISP don't bother to excercise the full potential of their control because they don't see the need for it. But requiring them to do so by law (while it would have chilling effects on free speech) would make it almost immediately so. The wild west was only wil

  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:35PM (#22506458)
    I'm thinking about opening up a service that takes electronic messages, prints them out, and hand delivers them to a reciplient's address. Fortunately paper is still protected by the 1st Amendment and as long as everything printed within is true, it's generally not unlawful (minus death threats, etc.). How about this slogan:

    Want to hurt someone's feelings? Do it on Paper(tm)!
    • Only if the paper self destructs after reading the message
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      And have on the title of the paper in big bold letters.

      "IT IS MY OPINION..."

      Unlike the libel laws, opinions are NOT libel.

      I could say "It's my opinion you are a slanderous, murderous, paedophilic, homosexual who thought-raped my daughter last night in bed."

      Perfectly legal. Heh.

      Bad shit is like: "You are an arsonist." Arson is a crime. Are they guilty of said crime in a jury? If not, that's libel/slander. Dont do that.
  • Fine line. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Major League Gamer ( 1222016 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:35PM (#22506470)
    On one hand we want to create a way to prevent things such as this suicide from happening. On the other we shouldn't take away any freedoms in the process. I don't however see how making a law of any kind pertaining to what is said/typed/exclaimed over the internet will be able to do both of these things.

    My money would be on better education and awareness.
    • Re:Fine line. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jared @ g m a i l.com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:52PM (#22506738)
      A girl committing suicide because of something she thinks a "cute boy" boy says to her is not a symptom of communication on the internet being harmful, it's the symptom of a girl that needed help. You can ban all the speech you want, but that's not the real problem. People unable to cope with the insensitivity and general rudeness of others is a problem. We should be moving toward a society were free speech is just the natural order because people are able to deal with trolls and jerks.

      I don't say all this to demean or mock the girl in question, I personally know little about her. The loss of human life is always tragic, and thus is natural fodder for bleeding heart politicians. The thing they miss though is the simple definition of the problem. The problem is not that people are generally rude and insensitive. It is that people are growing up in a sanitized world where they lack the opportunity to gain real maturity.
      • Re:Fine line. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:16PM (#22507100) Journal
        The story mentions the fact that the girl suffered from clinical depression and was on medication. I agree, this is not a case where any kind of new law is needed. All that really needs to be done in this case is to out the cold hearted bitch that did this in front of her family, community, church, and anyone else who might care. The fact that the poor girl killed herself is almost immaterial. What everyone should know is that this woman spent a month of her life just to hurt a vulnerable and mentally ill girl. That alone would make any right minded person want to shun any contact with her.
    • "On one hand we want to create a way to prevent things such as this suicide from happening."

      Impossible goal. You can't stop people from doing stupid stuff. People doing stupid stuff shouldn't be illegal. While tragic suicides of little girls supposedly from "online bullying" is rare, there shouldn't be a law against "cyber bullying".

      Seriously, I blame the parents (term used loosely) for not monitoring their little girl's online activity, nor teaching proper self esteem (gad, I hate that term). I blame the p
      • I also blame society that has laws for everything so that the dad of little can't walk over to the asshat's house and kicking the shit out of them.

        Well, you've just introduced the concept of penalizing the perpetrators, with the twist that the penalization can only occur if the victim's father happens to be physically dominant over the perpetrator. The reason we have things like laws and such is so that people can get justice even if they aren't physically strong.
    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress
      How does a court decide whether or not a reasonable person would suffer distress? Or whether that distress would be substantial enough to prosecute?

      This sounds an awful lot like the moronic pornography law. "We'll know it when we see it."
  • Did you just throw that in there at the end to see if people read your wall o' text "articles"? Regardless, you're kind of all over the place on this one. I'm not even certain what point you're trying to make.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Spudtrooper ( 1073512 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:35PM (#22506474)

    Sen. Scott Rupp has introduced Senate Bill 818, which would prohibit "cyber harassment" defined as conduct which "serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person",

    Uh, isn't that the whole point of the internet?
  • I think... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apdyck ( 1010443 ) <aaron.p.dyck@gmail . c om> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:38PM (#22506506) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, the only way to prevent this sort of thing from happening is for parents to take responsibility for their children's actions and time online. When I was growing up, my parents were very controlling of what I was able to do online (not the the Internet was widespread - it was more limited to BBSs), and they continued this trend with the rest of my siblings (all younger). The end result was that we all had no issues with cyber-bullying, or any other online-related issues. Sure, we all got in trouble for trying to do things we weren't supposed to, but the end result was that we were better people because our parents took an interest in what we were doing and tried to make our time as constructive (read: not wasteful) as possible. So when I read something like this, all I can think is "What is a 13-year-old girl doing on the Internet?" When I was 13, if I were allowed to connect to an online service (I did use Compuserve at one point), I was under direct supervision. I was not allowed to keep my actions secret, and I am grateful for it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan ( 522918 )
      You mean parents should actually -parent-? What a concept!

      I agree entirely. To allow young children online without even half an eye on the monitor is stupid, not to mention neglectful and irresponsible.
    • "What is a 13-year-old girl doing on the Internet?"

      You might as well say, why regulate broadcast TV for content? What is a 13-year-old girl doing watching TV?

      For most kids today, the WWW sits right along side of TV, the telephone, and other electronic media. Yes, parents need to be parents, and pass that responsibility onto law enforcement. I wouldn't say a 13-yr old should be online without supervision, but that's like saying a 13-yr old shouldn't use the telephone without supervision.

      You should

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      You should read the Megan Meier events. Her mom (according to her account) did monitor what was going on at first. The problem was that a couple of other adults kept up a ruse for a while ( can't remember exactly how long). The events on the day of the harassment pretty much occurred in a very short period of time when monitoring wasn't going on (she wasn't supposed to be on). I agree with some of the other posters, though, education about dealing with issues and maybe even some education about empathy tow
    • Re:I think... (Score:5, Informative)

      by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <samwyse AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:13PM (#22507058) Homepage Journal
      Is this the sort of close parental supervision you're thinking of?

      Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are. Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan's access. [...] As Megan's 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented. She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn't always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan's page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password.
      http://stcharlesjournal.stltoday.com/articles/2007/11/10/news/sj2tn20071110-1111stc_pokin_1.ii1.txt [stltoday.com]

      What would you have done differently? Not allowed Megan back on-line? That's an easy idea in retrospect, but growing up did you ever bug your parents over and over about something until they decided to let you do it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jd ( 1658 )
        Supervision won't help - too easy to work round due to ignorance of technology and online slanguage, parents don't 100% pay attention, etc. Educating children might help, but it is a biological imperative that teens not only push the boundaries but be actively encouraged to do so within broader, well-defined limits. (Rebellion in teens should be used by the family to get the teen to question, to investigate, to pro-actively learn, to think.)

        This is a problem, but I think that there is no solution. At leas

  • Questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:39PM (#22506524)
    If it were a man posing as a 16 year old boy and having conversation on line with this girl, would the case already be covered under existing laws?

    If so, should it matter that the adult who was seducing this young lady online was a woman as opposed to a man?

    • No one said anything about "seducing". Essentially the person was just being a dick. Sort of trolling with a more personal touch. In this case however the person be targeted obviously wasn't prepared to deal with people and must have had some other issues as well. Really this is more a case of a disturbed individual who needed help, more than it's a case of "OMG! Cyber-bully killed someone!".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brkello ( 642429 )
      Despite some of your other comments, I think you have one hell of a point. We have laws against sexual predators. Unfortunately this is a different type of predator and she gets off the hook. The message is kind of: "it isn't ok to try to have sex with a minor, but to try to get them to kill themselves is fine". Really, we all know this is horrible wrong, but we can't really do anything about it. I would hope this woman's name and picture along with what she did is published everywhere she moves for th
  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:40PM (#22506530) Homepage
    It seems that by committing suicide these days, you can influence the law making process.

    I just can't bear another Viagra spam. If I get just one more I'll take a Viagra overdose, and become a spam martyr.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 )

      I just can't bear another Viagra spam. If I get just one more I'll take a Viagra overdose, and become a spam martyr.

      Or, possibly, a satyr. :-P

  • More laws? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:40PM (#22506532) Homepage Journal
    More legislation is not the answer--it will just make things convoluted.

    "Bullying" is not really prosecutable unless it has some actual effect on the person being bullied, e.g. simple assault, petty larceny, slander, etc.

    At present, yes, it appears that "inciting someone to commit suicide" is not specifically a charge, but a minor alteration to an existing law--e.g. putting something of that sort under "manslaughter"--would more than suffice to prevent that particular effect in the future. Thus, it would also cover situations where someone convinced someone else to commit suicide in person, rather than passing some new unneeded law.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      How exactly would that fit into any law without being completely stupid and arbitrary? If I'm walking down the street and come upon a scene where someone is threatening to jump off of a building, and I yell "Jump!", and he does, does that make me a murderer? As much as people hate to hear it suicide is not murder and hurting peoples feelings isn't and should never be illegal. P.S. Anyone who thinks otherwise should kill themselves.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vux984 ( 928602 )
        If I'm walking down the street and come upon a scene where someone is threatening to jump off of a building, and I yell "Jump!" and he does, does that make me a murderer?


        But remember you've been pretending to be that persons friend for the last several months, and then back stabbed her, threatened her, and then told her to jump off a bridge. -And- your an adult and that person is a minor... well yeah, I'd say you are guilty of something. If not murder, then something else, because that was a pretty sick
  • Not New (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kidcharles ( 908072 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:43PM (#22506584)
    One of the consequences of the rapid rise of the internet is the clumsiness of the responses to the problems that have arisen as a result. It also has resulted in responses that imagine new phenomenon in "cyberspace" that aren't fundamentally new. Bullying has been around forever. Bullying on the internet is new only because it is on the internet, there is nothing fundamentally different about it that would warrant coining a new term "cyber bullying," but yet here we are talking about it. Are there laws against bullying or harassment? If so, apply them to these cases, it's the message not the medium. The concept of "cyber bullying" among other fad terms will be looked at as quaint even 10 years from now, much like the panic over rock and roll music in the 50's.
  • Don't we already have laws against false impersonation? My understanding was that the police chose not to prosecute the mother pretending to be the "cute boy", not that they couldn't prosecute her.

    We don't need new laws, we just need to enforce the ones we already have.

    • I think that there has to be a reasonable expectation of the other person providing an accurate identity before any law of that sort can apply. Remember that it is very common for people to create new personas for themselves on the Internet, and prior to that, in social clubs or in writing (by using a pen name and narrating in the first person). There is no reasonable expectation of people providing accurate information about themselves on the Internet (or do you honestly think that you could try suing me
  • Politicians is worth a warm bucket of spit. http://www.firedupmissouri.com/ [firedupmissouri.com]

    Matt Blunt, the Gov. has been described as the worst governor in the US. The state's general assembly is dominated by right-wingnuts opposed to evolution, education and healthcare. The state is in a freefall economically and Roy Blunt (the Gov's father) was bragging about his opposition to the SCHIP bill at CPAC - when that act would have made a massive difference in the medical care available to the children in his district in Sou
    • The state's general assembly is dominated by right-wingnuts opposed to evolution, education and healthcare.
      On behalf of the right-wing nuts that support evolution: don't lump me in with those idiots.
  • by Ohio Calvinist ( 895750 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @03:50PM (#22506716)
    If congress is so concerned about bullying, why not crack down upon it in the workplace [asu.edu] where researchers estimate 90% (Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 471-501) of individuals experience Employee Emotional Abuse at some point of their employment, often leading to lost productivity and increased healthcare costs, where the vast majority of the time, the abuser continues this behavior after the victim leaves the organization to someone else. (e.g. the project leader who takes it upon himself to become everyone in the group's ad-hoc supervisor and foams at the mouth when he doesn't get his way or his arbitrary, non-enforcable preferences aren't met or is in direct violation of the union contract.) If "sexual harassment" is so illegal an unethical, why not any kind of workplace intimidation of a non-sexual (or non protected-class) nature not illegal in any way?

    However, in private civil matters between ordinary citizens, Congress is only doing this (I hope) to win the "please think of the children" vote. I'm truly hoping that they don't honestly believe they are going to actually be able to stop it. This is the 21st century version of "Jamie is a whore" written on a bathroom stall.

    Does it suck? Yes. Is the guilty party an asshole? Probably (if it was unprovoked). Does it need big government to save us from the mean kids? No. Period.
  • The real problem isn't bullying. Bullying has been around in some form or another since the dawn of time. The real problem is a twofold difficulty in psychological care for tweens and adolescents. One being that professional care is VERY expensive in the United States; the other that there is a very negative stigma here about talking your problems out. The stigma problem isn't something that will go away any time soon, but the other problem can be blamed mostly on insurance companies. I've suffered from a
  • Now you no longer get modded down, now you go to jail.
  • by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:01PM (#22506872) Homepage
    Boo-hoo, somebody who I don't know, have never met, and will never meet, called me a fatty online! Time to become an hero!

    Please. When I was a kid I was fat and nerdy, back when being nerdy wasn't cool AT ALL. I was physically assaulted on a nearly daily basis, and if I had access to a gun, I'd have been the prototype for Columbine. So I have zero sympathy for somebody TYPING something mean. If you're that mentally unstable, the gene-pool is well served by your removal.

    Don't mod me down, I may hurt myself.
    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:23PM (#22507204)
      Suppose that, somehow, I come to learn the name of one of your former lovers who you happened to be particularly attached to, and who broke your heart. It would take literally no effort on my part to impersonate that person in an email, unless you have a very strict policy about digital signing. If I wanted to mess with you, or if I had some malicious reason to cause you emotional harm, that would be an ideal way to do so, especially if I know that you are already under particular stress.

      Now, for an adult, this may seem far-fetched -- most adults without preëxisting emotional problems would just shrug off emails from a former lover, without too many emotional issues. For teenagers, the situation is very different. The girl in this case was 13, but suppose that a slightly older girl (16?) who had just broken up with her boyfriend (considering the rate of sexual activity among high school students, such a break up could be difficult for our poor hypothetical girl) were to be harassed in the manner I outlined above. That could cause her serious emotional harm, and possibly drive her into a depression or into doing something really stupid.

      It is hard enough to convince a full grown adult not to trust email and IM, even if it appears to be from someone they know. Teenagers will even more readily accept forged emails and IMs, and while that usually just means that botnet operators have easy targets, it also puts those teenagers at risk for cyber-bulling and manipulation. The neighbor in Megan's case took advantage of this fact to harass Megan, and the result was a tragic suicide. Instead of scoffing at the idea that anyone of any age would be foolish enough to trust messages sent over the Internet, you and everyone else making comments like this should be stopping to consider how you can explain the issues to a teenager (or someone who just doesn't have a clue).

  • Lets be honest. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hellad ( 691810 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:02PM (#22506886)
    Blame the parents is the mantra around here, and I agree in many cases. BUT, I don't think it is appropriate in cases where a child kills herself. That said, I think the issue here is about the cyber bullying. We can argue all day over whether the bullying caused her death, but this is not really the point. The question is whether we should allow this sort of behavior? I mean, a grown woman disguising herself as a 16 year old boy and then bullying her? Regardless of the outcome that is screwed up.
  • I don't like it. There's too much room for abuse by various groups who seek to control the behavior of others.

    Sure, kids are more easily harmed by bullying than adults. That's why parents: (1) have a responsibility to monitor their child's interaction with peers and (more important) adults until they are mature enough to fend for themselves, and (2) see to it that they gain this maturity and independence as rapidly as possible.

    Unfortunately, (1) doesn't work when parents are unmotivated to spend the ti

  • First amendment.

    Any law that attempts to regulate speech will be shot down. Or at least, SHOULD BE shot down (but with the esteemed members of the US Supreme Court [uncyclopedia.org] these days, who knows what could happen? After all, they ruled that "limited" means whatever Congress says it means.

    I wish I could have my country back. This isn't the same place I grew up in.
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:10PM (#22507014) Homepage
    While what those people who pushed her to the edge enough that she commited suicide did was not criminal it was definetely something that can and should be tried in civil court under tort law. Inflicting "Severe emotional distress" and "negligence" are at least two torts that apply here and the family of the girl should push forward on those grounds. I am not a lawer, I just took Business Law.
    • by Dolohov ( 114209 )
      The family ought to sue for wrongful death. I can't imagine any jury seeing what these assholes wrote and then ruling that they had no part in it.
  • Here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:17PM (#22507116) Journal
    The Internet, now matter how you slice it, is not a common space to be policed by this judge, or that cop, or those senators. It is a world stage. Any teen can run into mean comments (we used to call it flaming) from ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE WORLD while they are on the Internet.

    Enacting legislation against bullying and even cyberbullying is a criminal act in and of itself. The crime? Stupidity.

    Sure, the Internet played a part in that teens death. The same way that electricity did!! It was a medium for the messaging.

    The crime in this case, if there was one, is that human compassion and common sense did not show through on anyone's part. There is no law against being mean. If there was half our legislators would be in jail, lets not even talk about judges and bureaucrats OR clergy.

    You cannot legislate morality. ever. period. Don't give me the killing is immoral and there laws against that. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are in the Constitution. Freedom from mean people is not.

    It's all about education people. Educate the children, don't protect them like fragile little dolls that can't take a joke, or they will become that. Explain to them that the Internet is full of mean people, and the (I know you won't believe this next part) WORLD is full of mean people. If your children, friends, or neighbors are unable to deal with life in general, enacting mean-people-suck laws will NOT save them.

    In a lot of ways, we have to look at this like the human species is part of the animal kingdom. That old saying 'survival of the fittest' has more meanings than one, and it is the truth whether you think it fair or not. When diseases hit a population, weak and feeble die first. In fact, during any time of stress it is the weak and feeble that die first. There is only one person that is responsible for her death - she is. Sure, others could have helped prevent it, but lets face it, we might as well blame this on all the young boys that didn't want to be her boyfriend, and this did not prevent her subsequent actions.

    I am so tired of this kind of political/legislative rhetoric. If you are seriously thinking about this, why don't we all sit down and work out how to stop corporations from being mean too? Life is not fair, get over it. One case does not create a need for law. Now, if you wanted to have the schools start a group counseling session for people who felt victimized by bullies, go ahead. That is a positive step toward helping, not a negative one toward limiting other people's rights.

  • If a person harasses a person or child to the point of suicide, does it really matter whether or not it was through the mail, over the phone, across the street, or over the internet.

    The problem is the harassing behavior, not the medium through which the action occurred. Now, as the parent of a young girl, I am all for laws protecting minors from harassing adults. And one can really make the case that an adult posing as a 16 year old boy to taunt a 13 year old girl is a form of assault.

    A teen age human being
  • online harassment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rageon ( 522706 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @04:22PM (#22507188)
    I'm a law clerk in the state court system, and have been for a little over two years. When I first started, I never saw much of anything that dealt with online content. Now, I'd say that maybe 5-10% of the protective orders ("Harassment Restraining Orders" in my state) deal with students (mostly high school and college) interacting via My Space or Facebook. So I do believe that "cyber bullying" is happening, at least to some extent. Some of it is BS, like parents not approving of their underage daughter's racy pictures of herself and the much-too-old boyfriend, or an angry match.com breakup, or whatever.

    Additionally, I don't believe we need any new laws to deal with this. At least I haven't personally seen a need yet. Generally, the existing harassment laws do just fine. They are already written broadly enough to cover "communications" via a number of methods. If someone communicates with you after you've told them you find their contact harassing, the law covers it, whether it's by phone, mail, in-person, or email. Special laws to cover the internet will only make it more difficult to do my job, and more importantly the job of the judges who ultimately make the decisions. And believe me, they are not well equipped to understand online material. Boiling it all down to "communications" is just easier. Court personal and prosecutors are already overworked in many areas, and complicating matters further will basically just mean that either other cases involving more traditional speech will have to be given a lower priority, or that none of it gets the attention it needs.

    The one situation that's hard to handle is postings to other people's blogs that are unconnected to the recipient. Trying to analogize a blog posting is a bit difficult -- it's not like we've ever had much of a problem of people speaking bad of each other via physical billboards. But really, that's protected free speech, until it rises to the level of a treat. So essentially, the one situation a politician could conceivably attempt to control is basically impossible control due to that pesky constitution of ours (I know, politicians hate it).

    Bottom line, leave the law alone. Stop grandstanding. And throw enough money at the judicial system to be able to spend enough time of each case, and give prosecutors the money to have enough people to pursue the cases that need the most attention. But I suppose it's a lot easier to "JUST THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!" by coming up with crazy laws, rather than simply funding courts.

  • sticks and stones? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @05:12PM (#22507816)
    It seems that people have forgotten about sticks and about stones. Ooooh, they called me a name and insulted me on the Internet. Oooh I care so much.

    People seem to want to think that insults hurt, are dangerous, and are destructive. They really are no such thing. Please stop equating insults with bodily harm.

    Incidentally, people seem to want to believe that this only exists in children. I run a business, and there are two kinds of clients that I don't get. The first are the ones that hear my pitch, hate my guts, scream and yell at me, tell me where to shove it, and I leave with nothing. The second are the ones that tell me they'll think about it, are very polite, return my folow-up calls with "we're still thinking about it", and never call me ever again.

    I love the former group. The latter, the polite group, have me wasting time with follow-ups. The first group end things in seconds that the second group require months to go through saying goodbye. That's the adult business version of offensive speech. I hate it. But damn it's not illegal and never should it be illegal. Can you say nanny state?

    You know, I don't like the idea that two people died as a result. But two is not enough to warrant anything but pity. Has anyone checked to see how many lives have been saved by cyber-bullying? How many teenagers have been satisfied by cyber bullying and as a result have stopped short of actual bullying? I doubt it.

    Parents are responsible -- they should be teaching their children to not care about verbal insults. "I'll give you something to cry about."
  • by moorley ( 69393 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @05:37PM (#22508196)
    We can debate all sorts of remedies but it comes down to your world view. Your view of right and wrong. My view of right is that you take responsibility for what you do. If you harm someone or create a problem you should become part of the solution.

    A bully is not part of the solution. What defines them is passing their own psychological garbage on others rather than finding a way to take care of it themselves. It's cowardly to put it on someone else when you can't deal with it yourself. Psychological strength is a good trait to practice as well.

    Making kids "bolster their self esteem" is like telling a rape victim if only she wasn't wearing that provocative outfit. It's not fair but this is yet another "new world". How much grief can you get in for "joking" at a airport security counter? or mouthing off to an officer for having a bad day? But yet we shouldn't focus on the bullies so much as strengthening the victims.

    Sorry. Your view point is flawed.

    Having, as an adult, to wrestle with cyber bullying of my wife from her messed up ex of 5 years ago (5 #@%&! years ago). Not only her ex but for some reason his wife as well as is quite annoying. It's taken a good year to get balance on these issues of people who spend several hours out of their day trying to weave chaos in our lives from afar. Realizing you have no resources you can call on until they happen to do what they have been threatening to do for years. It's not easy stuff to take. I wasn't looking forward to "living in highschool" now that I'm in my 30's but having to deal with it is very real.

    A 5 minute montage or even a call to the cops offers no solution or even support. This is a very real issue. But it lies with the maladjusted not with "the weaklings" who should just grow a pair. Hopefully this poster will gain some perspective of the issue with which they speak.

    Any legislation that concentrates on the flaw of the bullies will go much farther than trying to "bolster" the victim. I don't need any more rights, I need more options in how to deal with those who will not take care of their own problems.

    The world is achanging and folks who can't see the big picture and how to deal with their own problems will become yet another part of our burgeoning prison population. It's not fair, just tis.

    If you really doubt how serious the consequences of this behavior is then feel free to send your own hateful mail to the president or vice president and see who quickly your world turns. If it's good for the leader of the free world, who in theory is simply a citizen, then why it is not good for the rest of our citizenry?
  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @06:02PM (#22508482) Homepage
    According to the summary above, the Rupp bill says..."...with increased penalties if committed by an adult over 21 against a minor under 17."

    Okay, /.'ers -- how old am I? If you say something mean to me on /. that "causes severe emotional distress" to me, do you know if you are flaming someone under 17? For the record, I'm not, but determining that is not always an easy task.

    Furthermore, people respond very differently to comments other people make. Something that might make me roll my eyes in irritation might be enough to send someone else over the edge. For example, I once worked as an abuse administrator at an ISP. One night, we received a call from a parent who was threatening everything short of bodily harm against everybody they could think of because their teenage daughter had flipped out while reading her e-mail. Apparently, she had opened a porn e-mail without realizing what the message contained. That might make some of us annoyed, or even somewhat angry, but in this case it made the girl borderline suicidal. As a young child, this girl had been raped and the e-mail had essentially triggered a flashback.

    Point being that it's essentially impossible to know for certain what stimuli might trigger any given person, particularly when conversing with strangers without the benefit of the feedback we get from body language. The tone of an e-mail or post can be mistaken. Cultural differences can cause someone to take offense at what was intended to be innocent. We can do our best not to offend others, but in an electronic world that does not know national borders, there's no way to be certain that we aren't going to seriously upset our on-line neighbors.
  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) * on Thursday February 21, 2008 @07:18PM (#22509252) Homepage Journal


    You're a geek. You've got above average intelligence and a deep desire to make things, everything, better. You've done some great things so far. You've got more ideas that you're pretty sure will help. You want to share these ideas with the world. Trust me, we all know how you feel. However, the rest of us have little ego blogs and post our ideas there. That way, if they're bad ideas, as they frequently are when one dabbles in fields one only has a shallow knowledge of, they can be quietly ignored. If they're good ideas, someone else can submit it to Slashdot where it will be reported. There are two levels filtering the good from the bad: readers who do submissions and the Slashdot editors. It's imperfect, but seems to work.

    You, however, are buddy-buddy with Slashdot's editors, so you skip those important filters. Random Slashdot readers aren't acting as a filter. Furthermore, at last some of the editors are chummy with you, eliminating them as reliable filters. The result: you get an artificial level of visibility and respect that you simply haven't earned.

    Please, go post your ideas on a blog like the rest of us. If your ideas are really all that, they'll be back on the Slashdot's front page in no time. If not, you'll just have to learn to live with only being famous for your security and freedom of speech work.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle