Cyber Bullying Laws

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Nalates
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Cyber Bullying Laws

Post by Nalates » Sun Apr 18, 2010 7:23 pm

More states and countries are passing Cyber Bullying Laws. The protection given ISP’s and site operators is being penetrated in specific situations.

Much of my thinking derives from the idea that when people are allowed to engage in undesirable behavior it continues. Unchallenged the misbehaving can gain the idea it is acceptable behavior. Therefore, they have no reason to change. In our society one aspect of undesirable behavior has been labeled Cyber Bullying, with many using it as a run together word to denote a special meaning. I think society taking this as a serious issue demonstrates my idea and that others think it is necessary to take some action to correct bad behavior much earlier than society historically has.

With the advent of Cyber Bulling Laws the situation is changing. Cyan is located in Washington, which has Cyber Bullying Laws. In 2002, Washington adopted a law prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying specifically for, but not limited to, Washington schools. In 2007, Washington amended the law to include electronic forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying.

References
RCW 28A.300.285 - Harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention policies.
RCW 28A.600.480 - Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying Law - Reporting of harassment, intimidation, or bullying - Retaliation prohibited.
RCW 28A.635.090 - Interference by force or violence – Penalty.
RCW 28A.635.100 - Intimidating any administrator, teacher, classified employee, or student by threat of force or violence unlawful – Penalty.
Superintendent of Public Education wrote:Electronic name-calling, shunning and shaming are all forms of cyberbullying. So are spreading rumors, gossiping and making threats online. Schools are permitted to discipline students who engage in cyberbullying if it disrupts the orderly operation of school.
Reference - Cyber-Bullying and Internet Safety

More specifically:
Superintendent of Public Education wrote:Harassment, intimidation, or bullying means any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated because of his or her perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap or other distinguishing characteristics, when the intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act:
1. Physically harms a student or damages the student's property; or
2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's education; or
3. Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
4. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.

Reference

Since these are taken from the state board of education’s web site it is not surprising they frequently use the term ‘student’. However in reading the written laws one finds they are not limited to students. Nor are students thought of as only K to 12. For our purposes we could substitute ‘forum member’ for ‘student’ and forum for school.

Cyber Bullying is prosecuted as malicious harassment and is a class C felony in Washington.
"Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices."
Polling 12 to 18 year olds:
20.4% - Have been cyber bullied in their life time
13.7% - Have experienced mean or hurtful comments
12.9% - Have dealt with cyber rumors
8.2% - Have been threatened with harm via cell phone
7.1% - Have been threatened with on-line harm
6.7% - Have had others pretend to be them in cyber space
4.5% - Have had a hurtful picture of them posted on-line
3.1% - Have had a hurtful web page posted about them
2.6% - Have had a mean or hurtful video posted on-line
17% - Have experienced these problems two or more times (my rephrasing)
Reference

Along with cyber bullying are cyber stalking and cyber harassment.
Wikipedia wrote:Common tactics used by cyberstalkers are to vandalize a search engine or encyclopedia, to threaten a victim's earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. A repeated pattern of such actions against a target by an adult constitutes cyberstalking.
In the Uru community it is more easily apparent when one is followed to other forums. It is easy enough to screen capture those posts from various sites and provide prima facie evidence of stalking. While little is done with such information by law enforcement it is collected and retained. I suspect the idea being it will provide the pattern of behavior in any legal action.

Changes to the ISP and site operator liabilities has started changing in the UK.
Wikipedia wrote:A recent ruling first seen in the UK determined that it is possible for an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to be liable for the content of sites which it hosts, setting a precedent that any ISP should treat a notice of complaint seriously and investigate it immediately. [21]

Out-Law.com by George Lubega wrote:This was first seen in the UK in a legal action brought by Mr Godfrey against Demon, the ISP . An unknown person, purporting to be Mr Godfrey, made a defamatory posting which appeared on Demon's news server in the UK . The posting could be read by Demon's customers. When Mr Godfrey asked Demon to remove the posting (having explained that it was a forgery), Demon did not do so. Mr Godfrey took Demon to court, claiming the ISP was responsible for defamation because it hosted the posting. As a result of Demon's failure to act on Mr Godfrey's request, he won his case against Demon.

It takes some time for these ideas to migrate to the USA… but… These changes will eventually affect site operators.

On the other side of this coin are the free speech issues. Nothing is ever clear cut… it all seems to be a balancing act.

We have discussed the issues of moderators recognizing patterns of behavior members engage in. So, we don’t need to go over that. We have also covered some of the problems of when to step in on judgment call issues and can skip that.

What is new… For moderators the stalking issue brings up the issue of sharing information with moderators on another site. Once stalkers realize the behavior they want to engage in, when connected across sites, is revealed as stalking… I would expect the common practice of using the same user ID on several sites to stop. So, I could see a need to check IP addresses on various forums. Is it ok for moderators to do that?

Also, does the concept of cyber bullying and the possible changes in ISP/admin liability change anything for moderators?

Does the awareness of a cyber bullying change anything for fans?

What definition would be good for use in forum rules and guidelines?
Nalates
GoW, GoMa and GoA apprentice - Guildmaster GoC - SL = Nalates Urriah

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Mac_Fife
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Re: Cyber Bullying Laws

Post by Mac_Fife » Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:13 pm

While resorting to law is the ultimate means of tackling certain forms of undesirable behaviour, I'm rather inclined to be cynical and say that the only people who win out that are the lawyers, because going to court is not without risk or cost (to someone).

One you introduce the internet into the equation , things become even more complex, because you have to decide which laws can be applied. In your example you cite the Cyber Bullying laws in Washington state: Now, I don't know how these things really work (and nor will a great many others, which is why the lawyers make a killing), but a company located in Washington might easily have it's website hosted in Arizona. So who's law applies? The host and the client will have a Terms of Service agreement, to say how a legal issue between those two parties is dealt with. That could say that the applicable law is for the registered address of the hosting company which might be in yet another state. but the end user may have yet another arrangement with the client company. Then throw in possible international aspects... I simply dunno :? . For everyone's sanity, resorting to law needs to be a last resort, but I guess the US is popularly represented as probably the most litigious place in the world, so maybe I've just got a more parochial European perspective.

The Demon case was, I think, an application of long standing libel law rather than any recent law on Cyber Bullying: Libel is probably a lot easier to prove than bullying, so even though the defmatory posting may have been part of a bullying campaign, it doesn't necessarily show that the law is making it easier to take bullying cases through the law courts.
What is new… For moderators the stalking issue brings up the issue of sharing information with moderators on another site. Once stalkers realize the behavior they want to engage in, when connected across sites, is revealed as stalking… I would expect the common practice of using the same user ID on several sites to stop. So, I could see a need to check IP addresses on various forums. Is it ok for moderators to do that?
Well, there you run into yet another difference between Europe and the US. Europe has quite strong regulations with regard to data protection, and I guess the sword of justice cuts both ways here: While what you suggest would seem to help combat cyber stalking, the exchange of personal data in Europe would mean registration with the National Data Commissioner within any EU state.

As it stands, you don't need to register holding a membership or mailing list, provided that all you hold is the basic contact details necessary for that purpose, so basic forum membership does require to be registered. As soon as you start tracking behaviours then your "data" becomes "personal" and registerable, and I think you get onto a really sticky area if you start passing that information to third parties as the data holder is obliged to protect the information they hold, and the international issue kicks in again.
Principle 8 of the Data Protection Act wrote:Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the EEA unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.
On that basis it'd be illegal to send personal data from an EU state to the US (maybe with the exception of California, which at least seems to have some form of DPA).

Registering costs money (currently £35 pa in most cases in the UK). Not a big deal, but it can still be a problem, plus anyone can submit a subject access request (SAR) requiring full disclosure of all information held about them (including telephone recordings, etc.). The data holder is, however, allowed to charge a "reasonable" fee, not exceeding £10 for providing that data. I think they are also entitled to know how their data is used.

But a more practical issue is how would forum moderators or admins know what to exchange? Forums don't always make their membership lists public. How does a moderator on one forum know that someone was a member of another forum. Not everyone has a static IP address, so the same IP could represent a number of different users on the same forum (I've seen this). Conversely, the same user may have access to several different PCs on different ISPs (home, school, library, friend's home, etc.).

Identifying anf dealing with bullying is possible at the moderation level within a single forum; Tracking that, or stalking, across multiple forums seems to be a lot less feasible.

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Re: Cyber Bullying Laws

Post by Nalates » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:11 pm

Mac_Fife wrote: For everyone's sanity, resorting to law needs to be a last resort, but I guess the US is popularly represented as probably the most litigious place in the world, so maybe I've just got a more parochial European perspective.

I suspect that is accurate. Too many politicians in Congress have created massive problems for us. Tort reform is a big thing here. Unfortunately too many people don’t understand what it means. So, it is possible to file suit here and not worry about losing. It costs you as much or less than the one defending, so a law suit can be used as coercion. In other countries the loser pays all costs. But that is in civil cases. Bullying is resulting in loss of life and is generally being classed a felony, that typically means jail time and no cost to the one filing charges.

I was not pointing to the Demon case as it being an example of ease, but that it was penetrating the concept that the ‘host is not liable’.

I see the complication that data privacy adds. I had not thought of that in relation to the problem I posed. Thanks.

As for tracking behavior across the Uru community, or any, the privacy laws you point out pretty much stop that. The changing IP’s, ISP’s, and locations certainly add complexity that places it beyond many moderators’ ability.

Like many things, bullying laws are a risk hosts have to put in perspective with other risks. In the USA these laws seem nebulous enough and so poorly defined they will create more problems than solutions. Yet, they do give people another tool to work with. While filing a false report in any felony related matter is a felony, everyone involved is in a tangle while outsiders unravel it, usually via expensive lawyers.

Also, like many things having some acknowledgment of the problem and stated policies provides some protection.

I think it also places more pressure on site managers to police the information on their forums and keep things civil. I what I am unsure of is how much the new laws move the bar.
Nalates
GoW, GoMa and GoA apprentice - Guildmaster GoC - SL = Nalates Urriah

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