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5 Points
The Contender
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6 Points

Resolved: Cyber bullying should be a criminal offense.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/30/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 26,740 times Debate No: 13848
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (9)
Votes (3)




First, I would like to start off by defining the debate. Then, I will move on to my contentions and will close with reasons to vote for Affirmative.

Cyber bullying is widely considered, and for the purpose of this debate, is considered the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others. Criminal offence is defined as an act punishable by law.

My first contention, or my first point is: criminalizing cyber bullying would act as a deterrent. If we criminalize cyber bullying, it would decrease the number of people who do it, because they know that there is the possibility of getting in trouble for it. For example: before the laws about using cell phones while driving, pretty much everyone at one point or another used their cell phone, even though they knew it probably wasn't the best idea. However, after the cell phone laws, less and less people talk or text on their cell phones while they're driving, because they know there's a consequence. The same idea applies here. If you know that there's a chance you could get in trouble for cyber bullying someone, then you're going to be a lot less tempted to do so. The risk of getting in trouble is enough for some people to just say "no."

My second point is that cyber bullying is a widespread problem. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a startlingly 43 percent of teenagers report being victims of bullying by phone or Internet. And as technology improves, so do the opportunities for bullies to strike. By creating a law against cyber bullying, we would be essentially extending harassment charges into the "cyber realm". We have laws against harassment, so why wouldn't we have laws against harassment over the Internet? Just because it's online, doesn't make it right. 43 percent of teens have admitted to being cyber bullied: this problem needs to be treated, and be treated seriously, because it is so widespread.

My third contention: criminalization would give victims a method to stop the bullying. By allowing bullies to continue bullying without a legal consequence we are choosing to cover ourselves with the veil of ignorance. We see the issue but we don't acknowledge it as a problem deserving of consequence. However by choosing to criminalize cyber bullying we will be providing victims with a way to stop the bullies from harassing them. This is important, because cyber bullying is hurtful to the victims, and sometimes may even lead to the victim committing suicide, as I will talk about in my next contention.

My fourth contention is that criminalization of cyber bullying could save lives. Both state and federal laws were prompted by the suicide of Missouri 13-year-old Megan Meier, who was the victim of repeated harassment on An adult neighbor was indicted in the case last month by a grand jury in Los Angeles on charges of unauthorized access of a computer system with intent to harm another person. (Citation: Olsen, Stephanie. "A Rallying Cry Against Cyber bullying." cnet News. 7 Jun. 2008. Web. 27 Nov. 2010.) Megan Meier, who was only 13 years old, committed suicide because she was being cyber bullied. If, however there had been a law against cyber bullying, this incident may never have occurred, or it may have been stopped before it became such a huge problem. This is exactly why we need laws against cyber bullying: to save the lives of other people just like Megan Meier.

Because of all these reasons, you must vote Affirmative. We need to treat this problem as serious, because it is. So many people are affected by this every single day. Every person has certain inalienable rights, and one of those rights is the right to feel safe and happy. Because of this, we need to take action. We need to do something about this problem. This is why I urge you to vote Affirmative.

Thank you.


I'm very excited to take this topic as my first debate since I just completed an English final that was over the same topic. In order to keep things (relatively) organized I will respond to each point in numbered paragraphs starting out by rebutting the third paragraph, "My first contention...".

1) While creating laws to deter acts that we deem bad is usually considered good it is seldom easy to work out into real legislation, and it is doubly difficult when dealing with a subject like speech. Legislating forms of speech are like very delicate dances of balance, balancing power (that the government has with enforcing the law), and not crossing too far and infringing on a person's right to freedom of expression. One example of just such tricky wording lies in the legislation you mention at the end of your argument. From the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act - "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." Essentially the proposed law is saying that the you can be imprisoned for up to two years if what you said online is deemed "harassment" by a court. The term harassment is defined by as "to disturb persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; bother continually; pester; persecute". Judging from the forums on this very site I would say that roughly half of the users would be behind bars under this law.

2) The difference between live harassment and online harassment is that you can turn off a computer but you can't turn off a person which is why harassment is punishable in the real world and not online. If a person is being teased on a computer they have the option of turning the computer off or all together ignoring it, something they can't do if the bully is right there with them.

3) As I stated earlier the easiest method of dealing with cyberbullies is by not listening to them, whether that's done by turning off the electronic device or simply ignoring them. Above all though, the main lesson to be learned is, people will be rude and insulting in any way and any place they can. The only reason cyberbullying is such a new occurence is because the online community is a new occurence. The best thing to do is learn how to ignore such people and move on, a skill that will help immensely later in life.

4) The death of people as young as Megan Meier is always tragic, however when such tragedies strike people always want someone to point a finger at. Even though the adult woman was cruel to the girl and absolutely irresponsible in post rude remarks about someone less than half her age, she did not kill Megan Meier, Megan Meier killed Megan Meier. It may sound cruel to blame the 13 year old for her own death but that's because when I say death it makes it sound like it wasn't her fault. Just because someone was treated exceptionally poorly doesn't mean that blame should be transfered to the bully. This should be more an indicator that we need more education on how to deal with bullies ourselves than that we need to try and make the bullies go away.

I look forward to the rest of the debate and good luck to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1


I will respond to my opponent's responses in the same order as well, just to keep things organized.

1) My opponent says that legislating forms of speech is a very delicate balance act. I agree with this: yes, it is difficult to know where to draw the line on who can say what. However, we already have laws against harassment and stalking in the real world: why not the cyber world? My opponent pointed out the flaws in the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, however they failed to refute my claim: That criminalizing cyber bullying would be a deterrent to many. Yes, it may be difficult at first to regulate the policy, but does that mean we shouldn't do it? No. It doesn't. Just because something is not easy, doesn't mean it's not the right thing. The philosopher Kant says, when judging whether something is right or wrong: "take what you're going to do, apply it to everyone, and then judge it." The most basic example: throwing a piece of trash on the ground. It's just one piece of trash right? But imagine if everyone in the world threw just one piece of trash on the ground. Is it good or right now? It's just one little girl who committed suicide. It's just one bully. But imagine if everyone did that. Imagine if you were cyber bullied. Then what would you think? We need to act on this, because this is an important problem in our society today.

2) My opponent says that you can turn off a computer, but you can't turn off a bully. However, cyber bullying is usually a continuation of bullying that starts in the real world. Now, not only do you have to put up with the bullies at school, or wherever it may be, but they can essentially bully you whenever and wherever you are. And for the person who is actually being bullied, it may not be as easy as ignoring it, or just turning off the computer. Also, why should the victim have to ignore it? Shouldn't the bully be punished, not the victim? Everyone has a right to be on the Internet, and everyone has a right to feel secure while they are on the Internet. The victims shouldn't have to deal with it on their own. Telling the victims to just ignore it and turn of their computers (and, may I add, their cell phones and all other electronic devices as well) is taking the easy way out. We need to deal with this problem. We need to let it be known that bullying others is not okay, whether you are online or in person.

3) Yes, I agree that a victim of cyber bullying will benefit by learning to ignore hurtful comments and to focus on their real friends and to move on. However, by criminalizing cyber bullying, we will not only be helping the victim to learn an important life lesson, but we will be teaching the bully an important life lesson too. Whether we criminalize cyber bullying or not, the victim will have to learn to move on, because either way the victim will have been affected by the words. However, by criminalizing cyber bullying, we will be teaching the bully that, no, it is NOT okay to bully people, even when you are on the Internet. This is why it is so important that we criminalize cyber bullying: because we will be teaching important life lessons to not only the victim, but the bully as well.

4) My opponent states that the adult woman who cyber bullied Megan Meier did not kill Megan Meier: Megan Meier killed Megan Meier. My opponent also states that we need more education on how to deal with bullies, instead of trying to make them go away. Yes, we do need more education as far as dealing with cyber bullies. However, if this is the case, then what harm would we be doing by creating a law criminalizing cyber bullying? We would be getting the message out that it's not okay, and we would also be showing that there are consequences for those who do cyber bully. It's like when you're little and your mom tells you not to draw on the walls, but you draw on the walls anyway. What does your mom do? She puts you in time out, she makes you clean it up, etc. There is a consequence. If your mom didn't, then you would think it was okay to go ahead and do it again. However, if you get stuck in time out for a while, or if you are forced to clean up the mess, then you think "wow, maybe I shouldn't do that next time." We can educate people on how to deal with bullies, but we also need to show the bullies that what they are doing isn't cool, and that we are not going to stand by and let it happen.

For all these reasons, I strongly urge you to vote Affirmative: because cyber bullying is a problem, and because we will be helping the greatest amount of people by criminalizing it.

Thank you, and good luck to my opponent.


I apologize for the delay of my response but exams are fast approaching and so I have to dedicate time to studying. On to the debate!

1) My opponent points out that there are laws against harassment and stalking in the real world and asks why we can't have such laws online. As I have already said the difference between online harassment and real world harassment is you can easily choose to ignore online harassment whereas you can't in the real world. If a person is constantly following you around school, for example, taunting you and teasing you, you can't simply press a button and make them not be there any more. That's why we need harassment laws that pertain to the real world. Online however you can essentially choose whether or not the bully is "in your room". If you don't want to hear from that person then choose not to be on Facebook at that time, or tag their e-mail address as spam, or auto-ignore their texts and calls. My opponent also says that legislating cyber bullying would make it occur less. While that may be true, the real question (and the one we are debating) is whether or not cyber bullying should be against the law in the first place. Just because something is distasteful to people does not mean that it should be made illegal. I will elaborate more in point 2.

2) My opponent states that "Everyone has a right to be on the Internet..." which includes the victim and the bully. While anyone has the right to surf the web and do almost whatever they want on the internet, people also have the right to be rude. If you criminalize a person's ability to be rude then you will assuredly infringe upon their right to speak their mind. While ignoring the bully may seem like a cop out method, it is the only proposed method that doesn't infringe on the rights of others.

3) If you want to teach someone that doing something is bad, making it illegal should not be your first option. Education should always be the primary method and then if that doesn't work consider legislation. However, legislation should not even be an option here since as I previously stated people have a right to be rude no matter how much you may not like it.

4) When parents put their children in time out for doing things that their parents don't want them to do it is because the children don't already know better. Cyber bullies like the ADULT woman who bullied Megan Meier do already know better since most cyber bullying occurs between teens and other people who are old enough to have been educated about what is right and what is wrong. The reason most cyber bullies still do it is because they simply don't care enough that what they are doing is rude and hurtful. That's why legislation won't work, it will only make the offenders resentful and most likely will cause them to do it again.

Because people have a right to say what they want with the exception of "shouting fire in a crowded theatre", vote con and support the right to be a jerk!
Debate Round No. 2


No problem! I'm in school too, I completely understand. But yes, on to the debate!

1) My opponent says that you can choose to ignore the person online, however, what about sites such as Formspring? You cannot block a person on Formspring, and it should not be the victims problem to have to delete their account online: we should be punishing the bully. Also, by not creating a law against cyberbullying, we are essentially saying that cyberbullying is okay. We are not promoting it exactly, however we are complying with it, because we see that it is a problem, but we choose to ignore it. And yes, by creating a law against cyberbullying, less people would do it. 23% of people said that they would be less likely to cyberbully if it was made illegal.

2) I agree: it is a cop out method. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do. Cyberbullying is a huge problem in our nation today, and we need to create a law that says that it is not okay to cyberbully people. We will not be infringing on a person's rights, because laws are there to eliminate the gray area; we will be saying: this is what is okay to say, and this is what is not. No one will be wondering "if I say this, will I be in trouble?" because the law will define what is okay to say and what is not.

3) Education is a great option, and we can have legislation and education, however cyberbullying should be a criminal offence for the reasons I have already stated: it is a widespread problem, it is invasive of privacy, we would be saving lives, and we would be giving victims a method to stop the bullying. Education can only prevent people from cyberbullying another person, education can't actually stop someone from cyberbullying another.

4) Like I stated in my previous point, we could have both education and legislation. However, education will only go so far. Education can't stop someone from cyberbullying another, but having a law can. Education is a great option, however we are debating whether or not cyberbullying should be a criminal offence. I believe that cyberbullying should be a criminal offence, and I believe that you must vote Affirmative because education can only go so far. Once someone does cyberbully another person, what use will education be? Absolutely none. This is why I believe you must vote Affirmative on this resolution.

I thank my opponent for debating me on this topic, it was a great debate! Good job, and good luck in your final speech. I would ask, for reasons of fairness, that my opponent doesn't bring up any new arguments in their last speech because I can't respond after this.

Vote Affirmative, and help crack down on this serious problem in our nation today. Thank you.


1) If a person decides to create an account online then they are willingly taking the risk of running into overly rude people just as they take the same risk when they leave. The difference is however that people (for the most part) need to leave their houses, they don't have to create online accounts. Also, cyberbullying is okay, not because it's nice (it's obviously not and I'm not saying that it's a good thing) but because it doesn't harm a person in a way that they can't control. As I have stated earlier, simply ignoring the bully is the easiest solution, to which my oponnent has only replied that the victim shouldn't have to ignore the bully. I shouldn't have to deal with people who are horrible drivers but it's everyone's right to be bad at driving just as it's everyone's right to speak their mind. Also I would like to point out that my opponent gave no source for the statistics they presented.

2) I don't think that my opponent fully understands what "infringing on someone's rights" means. I have a right to breath. Making a law saying that I don't have a right to breath no longer changes what rights I have, it only means that I will be punished for what I should be allowed to do. I would also argue that, "defining what is okay to say and what is not", is a very dangerous concept that could quite easily be misused to put down political opponents for speaking their minds. *Looks at China*

3) Ignoring the obvious contradiction in my opponent's last sentence, I have already explained how legislation should not be an option in preventing cyber bullying and this debate is now becoming circular. To sum up: people have a right to say anything that isn't immediately dangerours like shouting "Fire" in a theatre, such legislation could easily be misused.

4) This point is basically a repeat of the third one so I will skip it.

As members of DDO frequently engage in activity that, according to the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, is classified as cyber bullying, I urge you, for their sake and for the sake of anyone who wishes to speak their mind, to vote Con in this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by SuperRobotWars 5 years ago
Don't irritate the lulz . . .
Posted by tornshoe92 5 years ago
Wow luckily I happened to look at this debate right as there were 40 minutes left. I didn't think I'd get the argument in.
Posted by Emmamay 5 years ago
Haha, yeah it's going to be a long week. =)

And we did really well actually! We're not exactly sure of our win-lose ratio, because the ballots haven't been mailed yet, but one of our judges disclosed, and we won that one. Also, my partner and I are Parli (Parliamentary) debaters, and we were doing PuFo (Public Forum) debate, so it was really different for us. I'm really proud of myself and my partner, just because we gave up our whole weekend for this, and we did really well, especially considering this was a whole new kind of debate for us.

I'm going to be scrimmaging another school next Wednesday, and we're debating this case (again, I know, but me and my partner were the only ones to go to the tournament >.<) and I know we're gonna kick butt after all the practice we got! XD The top three teams get trophies at that scrimmage (I know, my league is pretty awesome!! =D), so I will update you guys and tell you how we did there! We'll probably do even better at that scrimmage than the tournament. =P
Posted by tornshoe92 5 years ago
It's all good. Like I said it's dead week for us so I'm spending all of my time studying so I feel your pain.
Posted by RougeFox 5 years ago
How did you do in the tournament with this case?
Posted by Emmamay 5 years ago
Hey, I just wanted to post a comment real quick apologizing for the long wait between arguments. o.o I just had a debate tournament (on this topic actually), and I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning, debate until 11, get home at 12, refine our case, and do it all again today. Except I only debated until like noon today, but you get the idea. >.< Sorry that it'll have to wait until tomorrow, but I just can't do it tonight, I haven't even done any of my homework yet.

Looking forward to continuing this tomorrow!
Posted by dinokiller 5 years ago
Yes, we should lock up mean 13-year old girls!!!
Or fining but the result has to damage the 13 year old meanie.
Posted by Emmamay 5 years ago
Haha, actually, in real life I'm against this policy. But, this weekend I'm going to a tournament, and I wanted to practice. Our Negative case, not to be like braggy, but it's kinda awesome. XD So I wanted to practice my Affirmative case. My partner and I really really want to do well, so we're getting as much practice in as we can.

But, yes this policy would call on either fining or "locking up mean thirteen year old girls." However, it's not just mean girls, it's repeated, abusive bullying that we're targeting. Not just "oh, she called me a name" more like: "she threatened me, and she won't leave me alone".
Posted by annhasle 5 years ago
So, you plan on locking up mean thirteen year old girls? Sweet.
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