As I noted recently, Berin Szoka and I just released a big PFF white paper (PDF) entitled, “Cyberbullying Legislation: Why Education is Preferable to Regulation,” which examines two very different federal approaches to the issue. One approach is focused on the creation of a new federal crime to punish cyberbullying, which would include fines and jail time for violators. One approach, set forth by Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) in H.R. 1966 (originally H.R. 6123), the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” would create a new federal felony: “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
The other legislative approach is education-based and would create an Internet safety education grant program to address the issue in schools and communities. In mid-May, the “School and Family Education about the Internet (SAFE Internet) Act” (S. 1047) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and in the House by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). The measure proposes an Internet safety education grant program that will be administered by the Department of Justice, in concurrence with the Department of Education, and the Department of Health & Human Services.
On June 12, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) hosted a discussion about these bill on Cap Hill, which was moderated by FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam. Representatives from both Rep. Sanchez’s and Sen. Menendez’s offices were on hand to discuss their bills, and I provided some feedback based upon what Berin and I concluded in our paper. It was a good discussion and I encourage you to watch the whole thing because there were some good questions from the audience later in the show.