Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Online / Cyber Bullying - Is it time for new law?

Kate Pendley Question of the Day: Why is it that the new online bullying laws only apply to children and teens under 18?

Kate Pendley Answer of the Day: Because of that pesky thing called the First Amendment.

I once contact Blogger.com about having a slanderous post about myself removed. See, ever-so-lucky, little ol' me kate pendley managed to go and get herself a mentally ill stalker who has tremendous skills with the internet. The posts were inappropriate, skewed and just a tad bit scary. Basically, I felt threatened.

So, out of curiosity, I contacted Blogger.com and attempted to appeal to their rational side by providing proof of the LIFE TIME restraining order that had been issued by this guy (these aren't easy to get, by the way, and usually signify that the stalker poses a serious threat). The restratining order demands that he never had an electronic communication with me. Blogs count, right?

Apparently not. Since I am not a minor and do not have an additional gag order by a judge, they basically said that his first amendment rights (last time I checked, the 1st amendment doesn't cover slander or liable.....right?!?!?) were more important than my safety.

We there you have it folks. Welcome to the 21st century. Where a man can virtually harass and intimidate a woman, have a criminal record, have an arrest record for battery, have a certified mental illness and STILL be allowed to harass people online.

But, then along came a poor little girl in Missouri (read more here).

And then the world woke up. Well, for all of us adults and unprotected victims of cyber bullying out there, I would like to say: Come on!

Why are they pushing for laws ONLY for minors? Every type of person deserves to be protected from this crime. It is not only children and teens who are the victims of cyber or online bullying and it DOES lead to frustration and fear in adults. Sure, maybe we are better able to blow it off. But, I will tell you this. The things that were written about me (and perhaps others) by this guy are not only false, they truly speak to the level of how disturbed he really is.

Meaning: This guy is dangerous. People in town know it. The police know it. The mostly- broken-mental-health system knows it. So why, may I ask, after being presented with a legitimate case of harassment and cyber bullying, would Blogger.com not even considering reviewing the case to have his blog removed?

While I am not a fan of blaming or passing judgment on the networks and websites that simply provide the gateway to content (MySpace, Blogger, etc.) I am slowly starting to understand and accept that there is culpability in being the provider.

People will be people. Yes, I get that. This is America and we protect free speech. Yes, I get that as well. But, there are limits. Free speech is not and cannot be limitless. But, it appears that Blogger and some of the others are more afraid of being sued over free speech than for doing the right thing.

A couple times a month, I am reminded that (1) the mental health system in America is TRULY broken, (2) the rights of attackers are often more protected than the victims and (3) we have a long way to go in the country.

We need to tighten the laws on Cyber bullying and bullying in general. They need to cover adults, men, women, children.....Everyone!

(this blog belongs to kate pendley and is the sole property of kate pendley. if you feel like it, you can contact kate pendley at katependley@hotmail.com).

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