Internet trolls may run rampant these days, but now they have one less state to do it from. According to a report from Metro Times, a Detroit-based news site, cyberbullying is now a crime worthy of possible jail time for offenders.
Cyberbullying has been officially classified as a misdemeanor in Michigan, thanks to a bill signed by Governor Rick Snyder and sponsored by fellow Republican Rep. Pete Lucido. The new law will take effect in March.
The law has a tiered system which takes into account how severe the supposed cyberbullying is.
At the lowest tier, a single act of cyberbullying is punishable with up to 93 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. If the cyberbullying is part of a “repeated pattern of harassment,” it’s a felony and punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the cyberbullying demonstrably results in a victim’s death, offenders are looking at up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
According to the bill, cyberbullying is formally defined as “posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person” if both “the message or statement is intended to place a person in fear of bodily harm or death and expresses an intent to commit violence against the person” and “the message or statement is posted with the intent to communicate a threat or with knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.”
The bill also defines a “pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior,” meaning two or more instances of non-continuous harassment or intimidating behavior.
“Public media forum” means “the internet or any other medium designed or intended to be used to convey information to other individuals, regardless of whether a membership or password is required to view the information.”
Michigan isn’t the first state to enact legislation that makes cyberbullying a punishable offense. In 2017, Texas enacted “David’s Law,” which makes cyberbullying a Class A misdemeanor. Essentially, that means student harassment, bullying, or cyberbullying is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $4,000, amid a suite of other requirements that schools must abide by if a student is suspected of cyberbullying or being a victim of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying was classified as a serious public health problem in a 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. More recently, cyberbullying has been the focus of First Lady Melania Trump’s activism.
The new Michigan law is one of a multitude that Governor Snyder is attempting to pass before the end of his term, when he will be replaced by Democrat Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer.
H/T Metro Times