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Louisiana Tries to Protect the Kids ... From Feeling Bad

The Volokh Conspiracy reports today that the Louisiana legislature is poised to pass a "cyberbullying" bill making it a crime to use the Internet to "embarrass, or cause emotional distress to" anyone under the age of 17.

Volokh's examples of people who could be locked up under the terms of such a law are striking, and would be laughable, were they not seemingly plausible:

  • A girl who sends her under-17-year-old boyfriend an e-mail telling him what a schmuck he is for having cheated on her, and hoping that he feels ashamed of himself.
  • A blogger, or a newspaper columnist, or an online commentator, who publishes something condemning an under-17-year-old criminal, hoping the criminal feels embarrassed and ashamed as a result.
  • A public or private school official e-mailing the parents of an under-17-year-old student a message about the student’s misbehavior, hoping that the student will feel embarrassed and change his ways.
  • Parents e-mailing their under-17-year-old children telling the children that they should feel ashamed of some misbehavior.
  • A professional or amateur music critic or sports reporter writing a harsh review of an under-17-year-old performer’s or athlete’s behavior, hoping that the review will embarrass the performer or athlete into behaving more ethically, professionally, or competently.

Volokh had first pointed out the patently obvious unconstitutionality of the bill when it initially passed out of a committee in the Louisiana House. And he is certainly not alone. The Media Coalition sent a letter (.pdf) to the committee members explaining its position on the bill. Lowering the Bar suggests that publishing the bill itself online might subject the legislature to being charged, since it is clearly intended to "'coerce' or 'intimidate' young people into not being cyberbullies."

Who elects these people?

Posted by Eric Lipman on May 20, 2010 at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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