A proposal put forth by four members of the New York State (NYS) Senate have surely caused the Founding Fathers of the US to roll over in their graves. Hinged upon the stated goal of protecting children against “cyberbullying,” NYS Senators Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange), and David Valesky (D-Oneida) have proposed the passage of a ridiculous new bill that will essentially criminalize free speech.
Contained in their paper entitled Cyberbullying: A Report on Bullying in a Digital Age, the four Senators explain in lengthy detail their concerns about children being bullied by their peers, as well as why they believe legislation is needed to deal with the problem.
But some of the behavior described in the report as cyberbullying is already considered a crime, including stalking a person online and stealing his or her identity. And many of the other examples are so vague and arbitrary that practically everyone could be accused of cyberbullying for simply sharing their thoughts and opinions online.
A few examples include “leaving improper messages on online message boards” and posting “intimidating messages.” Who will be deciding what is considered improper or intimidating? Such activity, if declared to be illegal, will make every New Yorker who participates in online conversations a potential criminal.
At the conclusion of the report, the quartet actually asserts that the government must actively restrict free speech as a solution to cyberbullying. In the section addressing freedom of speech issues, the Senators had this to say in defense of their bill: “Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated.”