Maryland passes new cyberbullying law!
Last week, Maryland’s legislature passed a bill prohibiting cyberbullying against minors.
Known as “Grace’s Law,” in memory of the 15-year-old victim of cyberbullying who committed suicide in Maryland last year after repeated cyberbullying attacks, the legislation carries with it a punishment of up to one year in jail and/or $500 in fine. Intentional acts that amount to a pattern of deliberate cyberbullying (delivered online through electronic means) directed against minors and intended to annoy, injure or harass any underage youth, will now for the first time in out state, be considered a crime.
Passed by both the Maryland House and the Senate, the legislation awaits Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature, but has come under harsh criticism from policy analysts. Certain commentators have already condemned the law which, for the first time in Maryland, criminalizes cyberbullying aimed at teens. Claiming the legislation is overly broad and infringes upon First Amendment free-speech rights, these same critics predicted an early court challenge to the law.
Whether Grace’s law survives such a challenge or is found to ultimately require further refinement so it does not inadvertently trample constitutional guarantees, Maryland’s legislature should be applauded for finally passing legislation that seeks to prevent further unnecessary death and heartache.
As a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I for one believe that this law — or some other version — is long overdue. Finally, relief is in sight to the families and children of Maryland, many of whom have for too long been subject to the most pernicious and evil forms of cyberbullying one can imagine.