Online Media Daily reports that Texas lawmakers passed a bill intended to crack down on cyber-bullying.Â The new “online harassment” statute makes it a felony to create phony profiles on social networking sites with the intent to “harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten” others.Â The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.Â The Texas statute, if signed by the governor, will surely be challenged on First Amendment grounds.
There have been attempts by other lawmakers to address the problem of online bullying.Â Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), has introduced a federal measure to outlaw the practice.Â These efforts follow the highly publicized suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. In Meier’s case, people created a fake MySpace profile of a fictional boy, “Josh,” who sent messages to Megan. She killed herself after receiving a final message from Josh — a statement that the world would be a better place without her.
It’s not realistic to expect any law to stop people from creating fake profiles on social networks–according to the advertising media, many Fortune 500 companies have “guerilla marketing” campaigns involving fake social profiles.Â But Texas’ statute, with its limitation to cases involving the intent to “harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten” others, looks like a good first effort at addressing the cyber-bullying problem.