Cyberbullying constitutes one of the largest growth categories of recent cyberlaw legislative proposals, and many state legislatures have already enacted measures aimed at combating this problem using a variety of approaches. Those attempting to monitor ongoing developments in this field might find it useful to examine this National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) compendium of recent state cyberbullying bills.
In June, Berin Szoka and I published a PFF white paper, “Cyberbullying Legislation: Why Education is Preferable to Regulation.” That paper mostly address federal legislation and, in particular, we contrasted the approaches set forth in Rep. Linda Sánchez’s (D-CA) “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” versus the “School and Family Education about the Internet (SAFE Internet) Act,” which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and in the House by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). Whereas the Sánchez bill would create a new federal felony to address these problems, the SAFE Internet Act proposes an education-based approach to the issue.
Generally speaking, Berin and I favor the latter approach, to the extent federal legislators feel the need to act. But we argued that state experimentation on this front may be the better way to go at this time. As the NCSL survey suggests, states are pursing a variety of strategies and will continue to do so. In light of that, I’m not sure why any federal legislation is needed at this time. If the feds are really eager to push something at the national level, perhaps a generic public awareness / PSA campaign would make the most sense while more tailored state-based experimentation continues. This is rare example of where state-based experimentation with a cyberlaw issue actually makes a lot of sense.