Saturday, October 17, 2009

Texas Police Arrest Teen for Online Harassment

Tags: online harassment, Texas

Using the internet just got a bit scarier as Texas police arrested a teenager for online harassment last week. The arrest was made possible due to a new Texas law that took effect September 1 that criminalizes online harrasment via email, text messaging, and social networking sites.

To me, this seems like a knee-jerk reaction to the MySpace suicide case. While harassment should be discouraged, enacting and enforcing a law that seems to single out online forms of harassment is not only unpractical, but as others have pointed out, is likely unconstitutional. Free speech is something we don't take lightly, and restricting free speech online seems like something that should hopefully be overturned soon.

Sure, the spirit of the law makes sense - prevent people from attacking others on the internet. With people hiding behind their computer screens and their hard-to-trace usernames, many people often do things they'd never do if they had to do it in person - dealing with the consequences of their actions. And while free speech is often touted as the end-all-be-all amendment that should never bend or break, we clearly have exceptions to the rule. For instance, libel and slander often circumvent the 1st amendment's protection. Sexual harassment, too, is not only against the law, but companies spend both time and money training their employess on how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. So why shouldn't online harassment be yet another exception to the 1st amendment?

I guess my biggest problem with this Texas case is that I'm not exactly clear what constitutes harassment that'd be breaking the law and what harassment is really just arguing or childish namecalling. When I think about all the comments I read every day on various websites, I see too many potential cases of this law coming into play. If I see an article somewhere and I call the writer stupid is that harassment? If not, how many times do I have to call the writer stupid before it's harassment? If the writer responds back to me saying that not only am I stupid, but my mom is too, does that mean he is now harassing me? Sure it sounds silly, but it seems like almost half the comments on the internet degrade into something similar.

The article about the case in Texas says the details of the harassment haven't been revealed, except that it all started over a boy. I supposed the question to ask is would that girl have been arrested if she "harassed" the same way she did online but offline instead? I doubt she would have - and that's my problem with the whole thing.


  1. Jeremy Said:

    While I'm guessing you spamming or joking Robin Phelan, if you really are worried about being stalked online, you should really contact your local authorities rather than posting on some blog somewhere.

  2. Robin Phelan Said:

    please help me I am getting afraid for my life

  3. Robin Phelan Said:

    I am being stalked on both sites. Can you help?

  4. Jacob Forsyth Said:

    I have a problem with some kid in Texas whos harassing girls I know, including my girlfriend. Hes threatening that he will dox them if they dont do exactly as he says. This can include sending nude pictures, online cybering, and etc. Im sure this counts as part of this law, but I need to know before I actually do call the cops, because its been almost two years ive had to deal with him, and times up.

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