Apr 11, 2007
Articles: News Analysis: Some MySpace Abuses Are Perfectly Legal
From the Gay Republic Daily newsroom: The Indiana Appeals Court has overturned an earlier finding of delinquency in the case of a minor (known only as A.B.) whose posts on MySpace attacked the principal at her school. Tuesday's ruling was based on state free-speech laws, and widespread shoddy reporting on it is likely to cause folks to believe that they can say just about anything online-- including spewing anti-gay abuse-- and get away with it. Those folks would be wrong.
Angry about a ban on body piercings at the local Greencastle Middle School, the statements that A.B. posted included one that read "die... Gobert... die." (Shawn Gobert is the principal at Greencastle.) Another read: "What the **** do you think of me[?] [T]hat you can control me? Huh? Ha ha ha guess what I’ll wear my ****ing piercings all day long and to school and you can[‘t] do shit about it! Ha ha ****ing ha! Stupid bastard!"
A juvenile court decided that those entries made A.B. a delinquent because if they'd come from an adult, they'd constitute harassment. A.B. was sentenced to probation. Now the Appeals court says no, A.B. was only exercising her right to free-speech.
Doesn't that kind of legal thinking kick the online door wide open for cyberbullying, something that gay teens already deal with everyday? To read the many stories on this Indiana incident, you'd certainly think so. What gives?
Oh, dear, now we have to go read the actual court decision, not just the pithy AP story about it. Bother.
As it turns out, A.B. got lucky: the target of her abuse just happens to be an employee of local government-- a school principal, or in legal-talk, a 'state agent.' And A.B. just happened to include a reference to a school policy in her diatribe. The Appeals court says, 'oops, hold the phone, that makes the whole dust-up about politics, and politics-- you guessed it-- triggers free-speech protections. Go forth, A.B. and sin no more.' (Fine. They didn't say that exactly, but that's the gist.)
Funny how that little detail is missing from every one of the 250 stories that Google news dredges up on this particular happening. Are we smug news analysts here at GRD? Oh, perhaps a tad.
Now we just have to wait for the inevitable case that arises when someone, wholly convinced that he or she they can say anything online, goes after a gay kid... and (to his or her horror) ends up in Juvie over it.