Cyberbullying is now a crime in Michigan punishable by jail time

Dec 28, 2018 at 10:49 am
click to enlarge Cyberbullying is now a crime in Michigan punishable by jail time

We've got bad news for you, Metro Times trolls: Cyberbullying is now a crime in Michigan.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township that formally defines cyberbullying as a misdemeanor. Public Act 457 of 2018 will take effect in March.

The law states cyberbullying is a crime punishable by 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. A "pattern of repeated harassment" is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Meanwhile, cyberbullying that is found to cause a victim’s death is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

According to Lucido's bill, "cyberbullying" is defined by "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."

A "pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior" means a series of two or more separate noncontinuous acts of harassing or intimidating behavior. And a "public media forum" refers to "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."

In 2015, a 13-year-old Michigan girl committed suicide after being bullied and taunted by classmates on Facebook. At the time, police said the social media posts did not indicate criminal wrongdoing.

"Cyberbullying can cause just as much trauma as traditional bullying so it's important that it be considered a crime," Snyder said in a statement. "With this bill, we are sending a message that bullying of any kind is not tolerated in Michigan."

The measure was one of hundreds of lame-duck bills Snyder is now considering before ceding power to Democrat Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday.

Snyder, who earned a reputation as "One Tough Nerd," has repeatedly called for civility in recent months. In 2016 he had refused to endorse then-presidential candidate Donald Trump — no doubt due, in part, to Trump's inflammatory rhetoric on Twitter. Perhaps because of her husband's own cyberbullying tendencies, First Lady Melania Trump has spoken out in support of an anti-cyberbullying campaign — though the hypocrisy has drawn plenty of ridicule from commentators.

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