“Grace's Law” Seeks to End Cyberbullying
According to a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, out of a survey conducted of 4,500 U.S. 12-17 year-olds, over 30% respondents stated that they had been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Specifically, 30.7 % of the males surveyed and 36.3% of the females surveyed responded in the affirmative to having been bullied in their life. HB2655 seeks to criminally punish those that engage in cyberbullying. House Bill 2655 seeks to adopt “Grace's Law”, which makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00 to engage in “cyberbullying” behavior.
Under “Grace's Law”, it is unlawful to:
(1) Cause a minor or another person to reasonably fear for the safety of the minor by:
(A) Building a fake profile or website;
(B) Posing as the minor in:
(i) An electronic chat room;
(ii) An electronic mail message; or
(iii) An instant message; or
(C) Repeatedly following the minor online or into an electronic chat room;
(2) Engage in conduct which would constitute sexual harassment of a minor, including:
(A) Posting or encouraging others to post private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to the minor on the Internet;
(B) Posting a real or doctored image of the minor on the Internet; or
(C) Signing up the minor for a pornographic Internet site;
(3) Disseminate unauthorized data pertaining to the minor with the malicious intent to psychologically torment or harass the minor; or
(4) Make any statement, whether true or false, intending to immediately provoke, or that is likely to provoke, any third party to talk or harass a minor.
“Grace's Law” is not intended to apply to peaceful activity intended to express a political view or provide information to others. The bill was introduced on January 10, 2018. The lead sponsor is Delegate Jill Upson (R – Jefferson, 65th District) and is co-sponsored by Delegates Saira Blair (R – Berkeley, 59th Distrcit), Paul Espinosa (R – Jefferson, 66th District), Eric L. Householder (R- Berkeley, 64th), Linda Longstreth (I – Marion, 50th District), Andrew Robinson (D – Kanawha 36th District), Kelli Sobonya (R – Cabell, 18th District), Rupert Phillips (R – Logan, 24th District), Jordan C. Hill (R – Nicholas, 41st District) and Joshua Higginbotham (R – Putnam, 13th District).
The bill is currently pending in House Judiciary. It may be read and tracked at http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=2655&year=2018&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill. For more information on cyberbullying and/or to view the statistics on cyberbullying, please visit https://cyberbullying.org/new-national-bullying-cyberbullying-data.