Should cyberbullying be criminalized?
"Sticks and stones may break my bones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This old saying may have been true in the past, but however, in this new age of technology, words are more powerful than ever. Cyber bullying is defined as the act of tormenting, threatening, harassing, humiliating, embarrassing, or otherwise targeting someone by using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or cell phones repeatedly. Cyber bullying is a big problem in today's society and should be criminalized, because criminalization would serve as a deterrent, cyber-bullying is more serious than normal bullying, and criminalization would serve as a deterrent.
First, cyber-bullying is a widespread problem. 53% of teens admit they have said hurtful things to others online. This is about 21,200,000 teens. Out of this number 1/3, or over 7,000,000 teens have admitted doing it repeatedly, constituting it as cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying starts at an early age. According to an i-safe.org survey, over 50% of 4th graders have said something hurtful to someone else online, with almost 70% of 8th graders saying something hurtful to someone else online. Because cyber-bullying is a big problem in today's society, it needs to be criminalized.
Second, cyber-bullying is more serious than normal bullying. For normal-bullying, the bully will usually just go to the same school, or live near the victim, however, with cyber-bullying, the bully could be anywhere. The bully could be anywhere on the other side of the computer screen, anywhere in the world! Not only are the places unlimited, the time is unlimited. Normal-bullying will usually occur during school, or whenever the victim is outside, but cyber-bullying can happen anytime. The bully can send a message whenever they want, wherever they want. Clearly, cyber-bullying is more extensive than normal bullying. However, according to the Bullying Prevention Program, 49 out of the 50 states have laws against bullying. However, only 25 out of the 50 states have laws against cyber-bullying. It is generally accepted that bullying is illegal. Cyber-bullying is more serious than normal bullying. So by criminalizing cyber-bullying, it can also be generally accepted that cyber-bullying is illegal.
Lastly, cyber-bullying would serve as a deterrent. Criminalization would be a deterrent and reduce the number of victims. Also, the 70,000,000 teens who have cyber-bullied would probably not cyber-bully again, and if they did, then the victims have a method to stop the bullying- criminalization. The 7,000,000 teens that have cyber-bullied will not cyber-bully because it is criminalized, and those that will cyber-bully will be punished. Think of it this way. If you were caught stealing a video game, what would you do if your only punishment was a firm warning and "Don't do it again." Probably steal again, right? Now, what if you were caught stealing, and this time, you were sent to jail? That would make a much bigger impact. The same is true for cyber bullying.
Cyber-bullying is a serious problem. Criminalization is needed to stop this major problem. Cyber-bullying should be criminalized because it is a widespread problem, is more serious than normal bullying, and criminalization would serve as a deterrent. The world is already facing problems, why ignore the chance of a solution?
Thanks to wolf44 for starting this round. I'll start by introducing my case and then addressing my opponent's.
Criminalization is a Misguided Response to Cyberbullying
The Progress Freedom Foundation explains “Criminalizing what is mostly child-on-child behavior will not likely solve the age-old problem of kids mistreating each other, a problem that has traditionally been dealt with through counseling and rehabilitation at the local level.” In fact, according to the International Journal of Reality Therapy, just as local education initiatives to combat traditional bullying have had far more success than prosecuting bullies as criminals, education in proper ‘netiquette’ would likely be more effective than simply passing legislation that would label a sizable chunk of the teenage population as criminals.
C2: Criminalizing Cyberbullying Sets a Dangerous and Unconstitutional Precedent
Sub-Point B: Criminalizing Cyberbullying Infringes on Free Speech
The vague definition of cyberbullying means that any legislation seeking to outlaw it would be completely unconstitutional. Using the definition of cyberbullying [provided by my opponent], constitutional attorney Eugene Volokh explains "So if I harshly criticize someone in a way that a jury finds “severe,” whatever that exactly means, and if I do that “with the intent to ... cause substantial emotional distress,” I could go to prison for up to two years. My criticism could be perfectly accurate. It could be an expression of my opinion, including on political, social, or religious issues. The desire to cause substantial emotional distress could be prompted by the target’s reprehensible actions or political views, and could be coupled with a genuine attempt to persuade the public. Doesn’t matter: My actions would be a crime.”
Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1988 case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell that “even civil liability for “outrageous” (not just “severe”) behavior that recklessly, knowingly, or purposefully causes “severe emotional distress” (not just “substantial emotional distress”) violates the First Amendment when it’s about a public figure and on a matter of public concern.” Yet no definition of cyberbullying makes exceptions for acts of speech that the Supreme Court has ruled are definitely protected by the First Amendment. This means making cyberbullying a criminal offense infringes the right to free speech and is unconstitutional.
"Social networks are just the latest in a series of new communication technologies—preceded by writing, telegraphs, telephones, email—all of which are simply extensions of the baseline: direct face-to-face interaction. If you somehow manage to control bullying via social networks, it will simply shift to these other communications channels. Is bullying via the mail in poison-pen letters illegal? How about over the phone? Why single out cyber-bullying?" (1)
Bullying is bullying is bullying. The only difference is the medium.
C2: To say that cyberbullying is worse than "normal bullying" is to presume that the two are mutually exclusive. But as I explained in my second contention, the most harmful bullying generally includes both online and offline hurtful interaction. So when it comes time to take action, how do you isolate the most impacting source of the bullying? The reality is you can't.
Furthermore, if legitimate harassment does occur online, it can by all means be addressed through anti-bullying and anti-harassment laws already on the books, even at the federal level (2). There is no reason to create a whole new law addressing only cyberbullying, which would, due to the ambiguous definition of the term, only provide the opportunity to stamp thousands of minors with a criminal record.
C3: So if we are going to criminally prosecute thousands of children for acting like, well, children on the Internet, we could only hope that the intimidation effect would serve as a deterrent to cyberbullying. Sadly, this would not be the case. Justin Patchin of the University of Wisconsin explains:
"While our criminal justice system has been very good at ratcheting up the severity of punishments, there is very little certainty or swiftness of punishment in our system. It is more likely that students will be deterred by the potential disapproval of parents or peers than any formal criminal justice sanction." (2)
Furthermore, it is also unlikely that children would be very aware of the consequences of their actions that are considered completely normal among peers. According to Thomas Holt, a criminologist at UNC-Charlotts, "It's very hard to say that any 14-year-old with a cell phone who can text is going to think about a cyber-bullying law when they're communicating with peers." (2)
"But if the same comment were sent via email or posted on a social networking site, the bully would be subject to criminal prosecution if cyberbullying legislation were enacted.""
Actually, this is not true. Cyberbullying, to be constituted cyberbullying, must be a repeated attack. One time is not considered cyberbullying.
"Education is Preferable to Regulation...'
If education is preferable, then why are there still major cyber-bullying problems today? According to U.S. Representative Debbie Schultz, nine American teenagers killed themselves in September of last year, as a direct result of cyber-bullying. Clearly, if nine teenagers kill themselves and 43% of teenagers are cyber-bullied, clearly, education is not working. A harsher standard is needed. Criminalizing cyber-bullying will teach American teenagers a lesson- making fun of others is not a good decision. Also, according to the Bullying Prevention Program, 29% of cyber-bullying cases are not reported. Making it known that cyber-bullying is illegal will increase the number of cases reported.
"Criminalizing Cyberbullying Diverts from a Pre-Established Precedent"
First, cyberbullying does have an effect. According to cyberbullying.us, cyberbullying victims generally ha lower self esteem than those that were not cyber-bullied. Many were afraid. However, it is the law that a minor must attend schoo. Since cyberbullying does drive people to not wantng to go to school, it needs to be criminalized.
"Sub-Point B: Criminalizing Cyberbullying Infringes on Free Speech"
This is not true. According to the Supreme Court case, "Schenk vs. United States", the standard set was that if the speech causes, "clear and present danger, then the speech is not protected. So parts of cyber-bullying are not protected, because threats cause, "clear and present danger", and also it could be interpreted hat cyber-bullying itself could not be protected, because it could lead to suicide.
Also, cyber-bullying can also be considered defamation, meaning publishing information that is not true about a person. For example, insults targeting and demeaning a person through cyber-bullying is "defamation".
C1: A vast majority of children would probably admit to calling each other names on the playground more than one time. Furthermore, a similar number would most likely admit to getting into a fight with peers. This is clearly a widespread problem. Does that mean the government should propose legislation targetted at children criminalizing name-calling and fighting? Of course not! Such legislation is both unnecessary and impractical, as such conflicts are best mediated among schools and parents. It may be a problem, it may even be harmful, but there is no reason to suggest that we can legislate cyberbullying away. And if actions do escatlate so that the victim is legitimately threatened, then we have laws already on the books to deal with such cases, which I'll get to later.
C2: I believe this point was adequately addressed in the previous round, but I'll expound a bit more. My opponent seems to be incorrectly asserting that because cyberbullies could engage in their devious deeds from virtually anywhere, then it is more serious. But he never showed any evidence suggesting that the location of a cyberbully poses any more significant threat to a child's safety that normal bullying. If the child's safety it turns out is threatened, then THE ACTIONS ARE ALREADY ILLEGAL, the perpetrator will be backtraced by the cyberpolice, and there will be no need for extra legislation.
C3: Already addressed.
C1: My opponent's only response to my assertion that criminalizing cyberbullying would be an extreme punishment compared to how conventional bullying is dealt with is:
"Actually, this is not true. Cyberbullying, to be constituted cyberbullying, must be a repeated attack. One time is not considered cyberbullying."
Person 1 [via Facebook]: "Jimmy is such a flamer." (2x)
Ta-da. Now this person is officially a cyberbully. The "victim's" parents are now free to criminally prosecute person #1 for "embarassing" or "humiliating" the Jimmy repeatedly.
Pro also never refuted my assertians that the most harmful bullying is a mix of both online and offline interactions, so trying to isolate the effects of cyberbullying alone would be impossible. Bullies would not get the help they need, and a double standard is set by only focusing on the "cyber" part of bullying.
My opponent then responds to my "education is preferable to regulation" point by stating that because cyberbullying is still occuring, then education must not be working. First, it must be pointed out that education programs are currently not that widespread, but where enacted have had enormous success (1). Second, my opponent has never provided anything except faulty logic to back up his claim that blanket criminalization would work better. States like Missouri, which have criminalized cyberbullying, have not admitted any success in enforcement.
C2: This is the key focal point of this debate, and my opponent's responses in the previous round actually reinforce my contention. My opponent in his response cited several examples of cyberbullying that, according to the Supreme Court and current laws, are not protected forms of speech. But this is my exact point. Speech online that poses a "clear and present danger" or that qualifies as defamation, libel, etc., CAN ALREADY BE PROSECUTED UNDER CURRENT LAWS! The problem with a blanket outlawing of cyberbullying is that there are no provisions in the definition of cyberbullying for speech that is accurate, only embarassing (certainly not a "clear and present danger"), or of a public and political nature. Thus, criminalizing cyberbullying in and of itself is both unconstitutional and unncecessary.
In conclusion, let us look at who you should vote for. By voting for the Pro side, you enact an ambiguous and counterproductive ban on speech that may or may not pose any concrete harms in the first place. By rightly voting for Con, you would protect both free speech rights and the opportunity for legitimately criminal actions to be prosecuted under EXISTING laws. There is no reason for extra attention and resources to be directed towards an activity as broadly defined and ambiguous as cyberbullying. There is no reason for cyberbullying to be criminalized.
"My opponent seems to be incorrectly asserting that because cyberbullies could engage in their devious deeds from virtually anywhere, then it is more serious. But he never showed any evidence suggesting that the location of a cyberbully poses any more significant threat to a child's safety that normal bullying."
First, the real danger of cyber-bullying is not where it happens, it's when. Cyber-bullying attacks can happen at ANY time, leaving the victim vulnerable. Also, the place does matters. Some cyber-bullying could be misunderstandings. I concede to that. If the cyber-bully is someone the victim knows, then the victim can confront the bully and work things out face-to-face. However, if the cyber-bully is some random person half-way across the world, it is almost impossible that the confrontation will happen.
Person 1 [via Facebook]: "Jimmy is such a flamer." (2x)
Ta-da. Now this person is officially a cyberbully. The "victim's" parents are now free to criminally prosecute person #1 for "embarassing" or "humiliating" the Jimmy repeatedly."
My opponent is taking the word "repeatedly", for granted. Repeatedly is not just two or three times. It has to be a sustained attack. Also, the messages have to cause actual harm to the victim, such as intimidation, harassment, and the like. Just a simple comment such as, "Jimmy is a flamer", will most likely not cause that great harm. The cyber-bullying law is not there to obstruct free speech. It is to stop others from misusing the internet for harm.
"the most harmful bullying is a mix of both online and offline interactions, so trying to isolate the effects of cyberbullying alone would be impossible. Bullies would not get the help they need, and a double standard is set by only focusing on the "cyber" part of bullying."
As mentioned before, 49 out of the 50 states have laws against bullying, while only 25 have laws against cyber-bullying.
The cyber-bullying law is to help equalize cyber-bullying and bullying.
"States like Missouri, which have criminalized cyberbullying, have not admitted any success in enforcement."
There are not any cyber-bullying laws that criminalize cyber-bullying currently.
"According to USLegal.com, "instances involving emotional distress are normally dealt with as criminal cases only when definite physical harm has also occurred....speech online that poses a "clear and present danger" or that qualifies as defamation, libel, etc., CAN ALREADY BE PROSECUTED UNDER CURRENT LAWS!"
At this point, the opposition contradicts his points. Before, the con stated that cyber-bullying cannot be considered severe enough to be prosecuted or punished with criminalization, when later in the debate, the con also claims that it can be prosecuted.
The only other way a cyber-bully could be punished is through civil cases, but civil cases would not have a more beneficial effect to victims and the cyber-bullies.
Voting pro will allow cyber-bullying, a practice that can be performed with impunity, to be discouraged.
Steelerman6794 forfeited this round.
wolf44 forfeited this round.
Steelerman6794 forfeited this round.
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