New York Cyberbullying Law Violates Free Speech, Top Court Rules
ALBANY N.Y. (Reuters) - New York’s highest court said on Tuesday that a law designed to criminalize cyberbullying was so broad that it violated the First Amendment, marking the first time a U.S. court weighed the constitutionality of such a law.
The 2011 Albany County law banned electronic communication intended to “harass, annoy, threaten…or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.”
The law was challenged on First Amendment grounds by Marquan Mackey-Meggs, who at age 15 in 2011 pleaded guilty under the law to creating a Facebook page that included graphic sexual comments alongside photos of classmates at his Albany-area high school.
The Court of Appeals in a 5-2 decision said it was possible to pass a law outlawing bullying via social media or text message that respected free speech rights, but the county’s statute went too far.
“It appears that the provision would criminalize a broad spectrum of speech outside the popular understanding of cyberbullying,” Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote for the court, “including, for example, an email disclosing private information about a corporation or a telephone conversation meant to annoy an adult.”
It seems to me almost impossible to craft a criminal “cyberbullying” law that isn’t overbroad.