The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

Cyber bullying should be a criminal offense

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/2/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,210 times Debate No: 61187
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)




Resolved: Cyber bullying should be a criminal offense. On balance, I stand in opposition to this resolution. Cyberbullying is defined by as the act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously. As for a criminal offense it is defined as an act punishable by law; usually considered an evil act.” Now for my first contention: today we continue to push for matters such as cyberbullying to be handled by an already under resourced police department rather than by programs such as the Dignity Act for All Students. This Act was implemented in July 1st of 2010. My first sub point is that the Dignity Act requires school districts to report problems with bullying to the State Educational department and furthermore, this program mandates that schools adopt programs to educate people and counteract the problem with bullying. Secondly, Justin Patchin, co-director of the national cyberbullying research center for the past 10 years, and professor at the University of Wisconsin says “There are better alternatives than criminalizing cyberbullies.” Patchin says that schools and families should become more involved with the lives of students. Patchin also says “We know from decades of research that teens are not deterred by threats of formal punishment. They are more likely to be deterred by relationships they care about within the school, and what their friends think.” In other words, Finally, if schools really strive to teach that bullying is wrong and if students learn that bullying will be punished with in the schools, then the need to make cyberbullying a crime will be deterred by the programs being taught in the school.

Now for my second contention, in the process of being bullied one must learn to understand that bullies are often victims in other contexts. Sub point A: according to the Berkman center for Society and Internet at Harvard University Danah Boyd and John Palfrey say “Bullies aren’t the source of the problem, they are often a symptom.” Many times bullies have had some form of power taken away from them and therefore lash out in situations where they have control. Boyd and Palfrey also say that “We must have empathy for those who hurt and for those who are being hurt. Recognizing this is crucial to stopping the cycle of bullying.” This leads us to our next sub point. Yes, cyber bullying is awful and it can create problems in an individual, however we have to understand and help those who bully. Each individual responds to difficulties in a different way, and just because someone is being hurt doesn’t mean we ignore the person who is hurting; therefore we should help both of the people. This can be done by enforcing more group focused activities, support groups, and counseling in the school this can help to end the cycle of bullying.

Now for my third contention. It is the fact that feelings are inconsistent and vary from individual to individual. First, how can the government measure something that is inconsistent and then deliver a sentence based on the varying emotions of a hormonal teenager. Hanni Flakhoury, staff lawyer at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, says “If you hurt a 15 year olds feelings really bad, do you go to jail for that?” That is a valid question to ask. In the process of cyberbullying no one is physically hurt, their feelings just are. Grant it, there are cases in which an individual commits suicide. However, can cyberbullying be the only cause for the suicide victim of online harassment? Maybe, most likely not. For example, in the Clementi’s case Tyler Clementi committed suicide because his sexual orientations were displayed online by his roommate Dharun Ravi. However, can we really say that Ravi was responsible for the death of Clementi? In this specific case, along with many others, one comes to the specific problem of morality. Grant it, what Ravi did was not correct, however what about the morality of Clementi? Our final sub points are: Why would he commit suicide if what he was doing was morally correct? Why would he commit suicide if he wasn’t ashamed of what he was doing? All these points lead to this: that though Ravi acted in an EXTREMELY unjust way we must understand that Ravi was perhaps not the only reason for Clementi’s suicide.

Cyberbullying should not be a criminal offense firstly because the United States of America already has enough criminal offenses and is already under resourced, secondly because we often forget to sympathize with the bully, and thirdly because feelings are inconsistent and immeasurable.

Works Cited:

Cali, Jeanine . "Frequent Reference Question: How Many Federal Laws Are There?." Library of Congress. N.p., 12 Mar 2013. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

Week Staff, . " Tyler Clementi case: Is Dharun Ravi's jail sentence too lenient?." THE WEEK. FELIX DENNIS., 21 May 2012. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

NIGAM, HEMANSHU (HEMU) . "Cyberbullying: What It Is and What to Do About It." Abc News. 7 Oct 2011: n. page. Print. <>.

Chu, Elbert. "Should Cyberbullying Be a Crime?." School Book. WNYC, 27 Apr 2012. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

Bartlett, Tom. "Sympathy for the Bully." Percolator. N.p., 19 Mar 2012. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

Boyd, Danah, and John Palfrey. "What You Must Know to Help Combat Youth Bullying, Meanness, and Cruelty." the Born This Way Foundation & the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. (2012): all. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

Butler, Paul. "Not Every Tragedy Should Lead to Prison."Room For Debate. New York Times, 3 Dec 2011. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.

United States, Texas. Hotline. Abuse in America. Austin, Texas: Center for Disease Control , 2010. Print. <>.


Billitteri, Thomas. "Should bullying resulting in suicide be a criminal offense?." The CQ Researcher blog. Blogger, 10 Dec 2012. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.

Chapman, Diana. "LAPD: Cyberbullying NOT a Crime."City Watch. N.p., 4 January 2013. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <>.



Hello! Sorry for the delay in my argument. Seeing as my opponent has deftly jumped into his argument from the first round, I will do my best to follow him in procedure. This should be a challenging debate. Let's begin, shall we?

I. Introduction
For my side of the argument, I logically and emotionally maintain the fact that cyberbullying should be taken seriously and, at serious degrees, be a criminal offense, and subject to fines at minimum, and imprisonment at the maximum. Pro has brought up a decent amount of excellent points, with which I mostly agree with. However, I will provide contradictions, cases, and reasoning to negate his/her argument.

II. What Exactly is Cyberbullying?
My opponent has already stated the dictionary definition: "The act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously." However, US Legal Definitions goes further, saying "Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the Internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them."[1] In many cases, cyberbullying applies to the first, official definition, and can easily be resolved in school environments. However, there are many situations of cyberbullying, such as these[2][3][4], when the victim goes far as to committing suicide.

Now, I will bring up the definition of third-degree murder. According to the same website, US Legal Definitions, "Third degree murder can be defined as homicide committed with the intention of causing bodily harm, but not necessarily death. It can be a killing that results from indifference or negligence or recklessness. Statutes defining third degree murder vary considerably from state to state."[5] The connection is implied: cyberbullying that causes suicide could possibly be considered as third-degree murder. Now, third degree murder is usually considered as physical homicide, and bodily harm usually accounts for physical wounds. However, the harasser usually knows that what they're doing will humiliate and embarrass the victim, but do not intend to provoke him/her into committing suicide. There are multiple fines and short-term arrests because of third degree murder. If the victim commits suicide, then the bully was technically something of a third degree murderer. This is somewhat farfetched, but even if they don't count as a third degree murderer, they should be accounted as a criminal that falls short of that crime.

II. Incapability of the School System and Law Enforcement
My opponent has stated before that since 2010, when the Dignity Act was ratified, schools have been taking more action into preventing cyberbullying. However, this information is grossly obsolete for such a current debate. There have been thousands of cases of cyberbullying since this act nonetheless, including hundreds when the victim attempted (sometimes successfully) suicide due to this.

Statistics in an article created in 2012 (2 years after the Dignity Act) by CyberBullyHotline show that 42% of teens in 2012 were cyberbullied, 20% of them thought about suicide, and 10% of them attempted suicide, resulting in 4,500 successful suicidal situations total. [6] This could be 4,500 cases of possible aggravated harassment, third degree stalking, and third degree murder (although the murder is still an assumption). Schools have not significantly decreased the amount of cyberbullying, nor the suicide attempts. In fact, since 2010, the percentage of victims of cyberbullying has increased by 4%. [7] Any laws or regulations since 2010 has proved to be ineffective, and I dare to go further and even say they're technically futile and meaningless in terms of results. Statistics show that further law enforcement is needed in order to effectively decrease the amount of cyberbullied victims.

III. Why Criminal Offense?
My opponent has defined criminal offense as "an act punishable by law; usually considered an evil act." Many cases of cyberbullying, even ones that don't end with the victim's suicide, break several laws, each differing in degrees of severity.[8] Con's sources were all cases when the bully was arrested, but just because you commit a crime doesn't mean you go to jail. You can either pay fines, be on probation, or do community service. Minor criminals such as cyberbullies hardly deserve to be arrested, unless they resemble cases I have stated above.

This is where I present my counter-plan. Cyberbullies are evidently unable to be repressed by school discipline, so we should give them varying levels or punishment, depending on the severity of their crimes. Here is the plan I propose in a numerical list:

1. Level 1 Cyberbullying. This applies when the bully posts malicious comments and messages open to the general public. Punishments are rare, often able to be settled with a school warning, or a school board warning.

2. Level 2 Cyberbullying. This applies when the bully shares personal information about the victim to intend harm, such as a photo, location, phone number, or email address to the general public. The bully could be sued for Publication of Private Facts, and given a suspension in the highest case. If this information is used by a third party to harm the victim, this immediately escalates to a Level 3.

3. Level 3 Cyberbullying. This applies when the bully intentionally provokes the victim using obscene and sex-related comments, and encourages the public to do the same. If the bully or his/her accomplices commit an unlawful act to intentionally harm the victim, then it escalates to a Level 4 or he/she will be given a fine or community service along with school suspension. The bully could be charged for Abuse of Freedom of Speech, according to 18 U.S. Code Chapter 71.[9]

4. Level 4 Cyberbullying. The bully directly indulges in breaking the law by severely harassing the victim, using inappropriate content such as nude pictures, threats to cause physical harm, and severely discriminative and obscene comments. If one or more of these acts apply to the bully, he or she could be given a short term of prison and immediately put on probation, along with community service and fines. Immediate school expulsion along with school board intervention is mandatory. The bully will be charged with material related to child pornography(18 U.S.C. § 2252A- certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography)[10] and Threats of Violence Against Individuals,[11].

5. Level 5 Cyberbullying. The bully distributes underage pornography of the victim, the victim physically gets severely injured by the bully or his/her accomplices, and provokes the victim to commit suicide. If any one of these acts are applied, the bully will be put in a prolonged term of prison, a heavy fine, and other punishments approved by the court. The bully will be charged with child pornography (18 U.S.C. § 2251- Sexual Exploitation of Children), maiming and mutilation(10 U.S. Code § 924),[12] and involuntary manslaughter at extreme cases (Model Penal Code § 210.3)[13].

IV. Conclusion
After hours of extensive research, I maintain the belief that more severe cases of cyberbullying should be treated as a criminal offense. All of these laws regarding crime report that the offender must have "intended to harm the victim", and the bullies do mean to harm the victim mentally and emotionally to the point that they are physically and psychologically hurt from the bullying as well. Bullies almost always intend to hurt the victim. Logically, the bully knows what they are doing and know what their actions are, although they are blind to the consequences, which is not a valid defense for their wrongdoings. Therefore, cyberbullying is a criminal offense. I have laws, cases, and statistics to support my argument, instead of personal and mildly logical sources from my opponent. This debate's outcome has not been determined yet. I wish good luck to Con, and will await his second argument!

V. Sources
Note: I did not post a bibliography, as my sources are still valid, and the additional information is unnecessary and excessive for this debate.

Debate Round No. 1


JustAnotherThinker forfeited this round.


I can only assume that Con has given up on this debate. Overall, his argument had depth, but was too messy. Regardless, take that conduct point off, voters.
Debate Round No. 2


JustAnotherThinker forfeited this round.


Vote Pro. Enough said.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by RevL8ion 2 years ago
Wow. Just WOW. 180 days to vote? That's just BS.
Posted by RevL8ion 2 years ago
Forfeited already?
Posted by RevL8ion 2 years ago
Sorry for the delay. Well, here it is!
Posted by blackkid 2 years ago
Why do you people have legal debates and use as a reference for the definition?

I just don't get it. It's dumb.
Posted by Shadow-Dragon 2 years ago
Rather than jail kids for bullying, a practice that is natural and will be done regardless of laws, teach kids how to stand up for themselves.
Posted by Ragnar 2 years ago
A trick to this, is often when committing one moral offense, someone has inevitably broken laws already in existence. Such as at a school where a girl killed herself due to cyber bullying, those doing the cyber bullying spread around nude pictures of her, which is distribution of child pornography.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture