Monday, March 25, 2019

Bad news, trolls: Cyberbullying is now illegal in Michigan

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 3:07 PM

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Attention internet trolls of Michigan: it's time to clean up your act. Starting Wednesday, a new law goes into effect that makes cyberbullying a crime, punishable by fines and even jail time.

Under Public Act 457, which former Gov. Rick "One Tough Nerd" Snyder signed in December, online harassment is now a misdemeanor crime punishable by a maximum of 93 days in jail or a maximum fine of $500, or both. Second-time offenders could face up to a year in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000. Repeat offenders could face a 5-year maximum sentence or a $5,000 fine.

Offenders who have a "continued pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior and by that violation causes the death" — as was the case in 2015, when a 13-year-old Michigan girl committed suicide after being bullied and taunted by classmates on Facebook — could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail for the felony or a $10,000 fine.

According to the law:

(a) “Cyberbully” includes posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person if both of the following apply:
(i) 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.
(ii) The message or statement is posted with the intent to communicate a threat or with knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.

(b) “Pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior” means a series of 2 or more separate noncontinuous acts of harassing or intimidating behavior.
(c) “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.

Under the law, a public media forum is defined as "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." So that would include social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, as well as the comments sections of news websites. (*Ahem.*)

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