Virginia lawmaker introduces “cyber-bullying” ban that includes adults

The measure, introduced by Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna), would criminalize online “bullying,” defined among other things to include behavior (or speech) intended to “harass” or “humiliate” when it “is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma,” but purportedly excluding “ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.” Unlike Maryland’s enactment of “Grace’s Law,” which I criticized last year, this one would not be limited to speech directed at minors. Another prerequisite for liability is that the online verbal aggression “involves a real or perceived power imbalance between” the parties, which can be expected to involve courts in some delicate inquiries. Eugene Volokh criticizes (“dangerous and deeply unsound”).


  • Perceived? By whom?

  • Hoo Boy. Political campaigns with an incumbent in a sleaze-fest campaign would offer feature length complaints if this idea takes off. Or would politicians get a free ride again?

  • Yes, Canvasback, politicians would give themselves an exemption. Notice how the Do-Not-Call laws for phone numbers exempts political campaigns. There is an obvious “real or perceived power imbalance” between an incumbent Congressman and a candidate who wants to challenge him, but it is the incument Congressman or legislator who write the laws.

  • Laws named after individuals tend to be bad ones. “Megan’s Law”, “Grace’s Law”, “Kevin’s Law”.