Maryland bill targets cyber bullying

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

The Maryland House of Delegates is considering a bill that would criminalize online bullying.

The bill from Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, targets so-called "cyber bullying." It would make it a misdemeanor for anybody to use a computer or computer network to harass a minor.

The family of a 15-year-old Howard County girl who committed suicide on Easter last year testified in favor of the bill before a House committee on Thursday.

"It's the Wild West out there, and our children need protection," Chris McComas, father of Grace, told the Baltimore Sun. "If it can happen to her, it could happen to anyone. And therein lies the horror, because this should happen to no one."

Grace was the victim of a cyberbullying campaign that lasted months and culminated in her suicide. Her family has said they documented the abuse, but has never discussed details.

Cardin's bill criminalizes making a minor or someone else fear for the minor's safety through the use of fake websites or social networking profiles, online sexual harassment or unauthorized dissemination of information about a minor that might cause harassment.

The penalties would be fines of up to $500 and up to one year in jail.

The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill, saying it would violates people's First and Fifth Amendment rights.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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