Take, for instance, the 2006 tragic suicide of Megan Meier, who killed herself after being harassed on MySpace. It has led to a frightening attempt to crack down on speech. The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was introduced in the House of Representatives last month by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.
Exploiting the suicide of a young girl, this proposed law would punish anyone who "transmits … communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using … email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, (or) text messages … to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."
Imagine the wide-ranging latitude law enforcement would have in applying a law that allows them to judge "intent" and discern what is "hostile" language online.
How many e-mails, comment sections and blogs would fall under this category? How easy would it be to use this law to threaten political opponents or stifle debate?
Now, however serious the problems of "cyberbullying" or prostitution happen to be -- and I believe they are wildly exaggerated -- it's attacks on free expression that should cause us emotional distress.