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bullying

In the North of England, “South Tyneside Council has abandoned its hunt for notorious blogger Mr Monkey after spending more than £200,000 of taxpayers’ cash.” [Chronicle] The widely read blog had made scurrilous charges against council members and others. “The authority said it had a ‘duty’ to protect staff and councillors against” what it called “cyber-bullying and harassment.” “Councils cannot sue for libel. Any action against the ‘Mr Monkey’ blogger could only be taken by named individuals.” [BBC] More: Daily Mail, Taxpayers Alliance.

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We warned that there were First Amendment problems with the overbreadth of these legal proposals, and the New York Court of Appeals sees things the same way. [People v. Marquan M.; Volokh] Two dissenters would have cut down the scope of the law significantly and deemed the remainder constitutional, but the majority invalidated it in its entirety, whether applied to minors or persons of full legal age. We’ve earlier criticized cyber-bullying enactments and proposals in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere.

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2014

  • How the Progressive movement changed thinking on free speech [David Bernstein]
  • More “bullying” legislation: “A crime for teenagers to excoriate their unfaithful or abusive lovers on Facebook?” [Eugene Volokh on pending Colorado bill] “Crime to spread rumors about under-25-year-olds, to send ‘hurtful, rude and mean messages’ about them, or to make fun of them online?” [same; pending ordinance in Carson, Calif.]
  • “First Amendment protects Internet search results: N.Y. judge” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
  • Wisconsin + other states too: “Last week, the enlightened citizens of Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and several other communities voted to repeal the freedom of the press and of the free speech rights of organizations ranging from the NAACP to the National Rifle Association.” [Rick Esenberg, Shark and Shepherd]
  • NYC comptroller Scott Stringer, posing in investor hat, demands that Texas firm Clayton Williams Energy Inc. explain its political giving [AP]
  • Look before you leap: some proposals billed as criminalizing revenge porn appear to criminalize far more than that [Scott Greenfield]
  • Consumer secretly videotapes allegedly unneeded repairs at Missouri Chevrolet dealership, litigation ensues [Popehat]

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on April 22, 2014

  • Excellent Mark Oppenheimer column cites new Cornell study: students deprived of whole milk and chocolate milk as choices “drank less milk, threw more milk away, and bought fewer school lunches over all” [New York Times]
  • “The process of tying curricular standards to federal money actually helps create the ‘ideological circus’ that [David] Brooks decries.” [Rick Hills, Prawfsblawg on Common Core]
  • School choice lawsuits and legislation news updates from Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and elsewhere [Jason Bedrick, Cato]
  • More applications of New Jersey’s pioneering “anti-bullying” law. And will it stand up in court? [Hans Bader, earlier here, etc.]
  • “When one New Zealand school tossed its playground rules and let students risk injury, the results were surprising” [Sarah Boesfeld, National Post (Canada)] Plenty of discussion of new Hanna Rosin piece “The Overprotected Kid” [Atlantic via Tabarrok; a contrasting view from Max Kennerly]
  • News you can use about applicability of Institutional Review Board regs to research on oneself [Michelle Meyer, Bill of Health] Another new blog about IRBs [Suffocated Science via Instapundit]
  • Community college suspends professor over Google Plus share of Game of Thrones quote on daughter’s T-shirt [Bergen Record]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on April 8, 2014

  • “Zero Tolerance Hurts Kids and Ruins Schools” [A. Barton Hinkle] “Teen’s military plans on hold after spending 13 days in jail” [WOIO, Ohio]
  • Who knew the visiting scholar of conservative thought would turn out to be conservative? [Boulder Daily Camera re: U. of Colorado attacks on Steven Hayward]
  • Case by case, courts take away right of taxpayers, lawmakers to regulate school spending [Steve Gunn, EAG News; earlier here, etc.]
  • Heather Mac Donald on gangs and the case for school discipline [NRO] More: Ruben Navarrette, CNN.
  • Editorial board endorses parent liability for school bullying [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • States to GAO: feds’ school lunch changes aren’t going well [Jason Bedrick, Cato; Washington Post]
  • Proposed Rhode Island law: “No Child Under 7th Grade Shall Get On or Off School Bus Without a Guardian” [Free-Range Kids] St. Louis: “Mom Arrested for Not Signing School Sign-In Book” [same]

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The measure, introduced by Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna), would criminalize online “bullying,” defined among other things to include behavior (or speech) intended to “harass” or “humiliate” when it “is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma,” but purportedly excluding “ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.” Unlike Maryland’s enactment of “Grace’s Law,” which I criticized last year, this one would not be limited to speech directed at minors. Another prerequisite for liability is that the online verbal aggression “involves a real or perceived power imbalance between” the parties, which can be expected to involve courts in some delicate inquiries. Eugene Volokh criticizes (“dangerous and deeply unsound”).

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From Britain: “Domestic abuse involving “emotional blackmail” – but no violence – could become a criminal offense carrying a heavy jail term under tough new measures published for the first time.” [David Barrett, Telegraph]:

“Critically, its [the draft's] definition of abuse includes “controlling or coercive behavior” which would “encompass but is not limited to physical, financial, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse”.

“Controlling behavior” would also lead to criminal charges, including when a partner makes another person “subordinate”, “exploits their resources” or “deprives them of the means needed for independence”.

The offense would apply to abuse committed against any spouse, partner or former partner, regardless of gender.

As Pamela Stubbart notes at the Daily Caller, when based on purely psychological and emotional interactions and states of dependence, concepts like “control” and “coercion” are at best highly subjective affairs, inviting unpredictable legal application as well as he-said-she-said legal battles in the wake of breakups or other relationship failures. The measure would also threaten criminal liability for some speech (e.g., emotionally hurtful insults not involving threats of violence) that would often be included in definitions of free speech. Meanwhile, a ban on exploiting partners’ resources or denying partners financial independence threatens to throw a shadow of criminal liability over many marital and romantic arrangements long deemed unproblematic, whether or not egalitarian.

Barrett in the Telegraph notes that while the cross-party group of Members of Parliament who are introducing the bill do not speak for the Cameron administration, they have a record of some success at getting their ideas on domestic violence enacted into legislation. Offenses will carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Related: periodic proposals in state legislatures and elsewhere to ban “workplace bullying” (more) raise some of the same issues, as do enactments (like “Grace’s Law” in Maryland) endeavoring to ban “cyber-bullying.”

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Tech roundup

by Walter Olson on November 6, 2013

  • Far-reaching, little-discussed new regulation: Stewart Baker on NIST rules mandating cybersecurity at private enterprises [Volokh; first, second, third, fourth posts]
  • “Ominous Developments on the Internet Governance Front” [David Post]
  • “The Exaggeration Of The Cyberbullying Problem Is Harming Anti-Bullying Efforts” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • “Will California’s New Data Breach Notification Duty Stimulate Class Action Litigation?” [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
  • Some thoughts on how the law should treat domestic drones, public and private [Kenneth Anderson]
  • Privacy lawsuit against Gmail could do a lot of damage [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Matt Powers, CEI "Open Market", parts one, two]
  • Warning: more efforts ahead from legal academia to come up with stringent liability schemes for software makers [New Republic and Lawfare]

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November 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 4, 2013

Ken at Popehat offers some perspective [link fixed now, thanks Hans] on the events at Aledo High School in Texas:

It’s important to point out that the report is from one angry father, not from an entire culture. The systemic issue, if there is one, is the series of laws that requires a formal investigative process no matter how facially ridiculous a complaint. Another systemic issue, if there is one, is the malleability of words like “bullying,” which can be used to pursue any sort of grievance, whether or not it is actually related to the well-being of children.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2013

  • Opponents, including U.S. Department of Justice, go after school choice programs in court [Jason Bedrick, more]
  • Study finds bullying programs may have opposite from intended effect. Why, next they’ll tell us D.A.R.E. is a flop at curbing drug use. Oh wait [CBS Dallas]
  • National Association of the Deaf files lawsuit against Maryland, seeking captioning at sporting events [WaPo]
  • “NYC will spend $29 million on salaries, benefits of educators it can’t fire” [NY Daily News] [NY Times]
  • Gotta-cover-yourself incident and accident reports clog the classroom day with paper [Ted Frank, Point of Law]
  • “IRBs and mission creep” [Dave Hoffman, Prawfs, earlier]
  • Boy who drew cartoonish bomb at home suspended, reinstated [Fox Carolina, Free-Range Kids]

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I’ve got a new piece at Reason.com expanding on my earlier reports on the new pilot program by which Facebook will give Maryland school officials a dedicated channel with which to seek takedown of posts and other material that in their view contributes to the problem of “cyber-bullying.” I think the program represents a disturbing step toward a wider government role as arbiter of what is allowed to be said in social media, the more so as it will be difficult or impossible to know whether takedown decisions at Facebook’s discretion are an entirely neutral application of the service’s “Community Standards” or are swayed in part by the wish to keep government bodies happy. I quote various press accounts, some affording additional insight into the existing and proposed takedown process, as well as commentary by Scott Greenfield, TechDirt, and the Daily Caller in which I’m quoted. Some additional commentary: Joy Pullmann/Heartland, Josh Blackman. More: Instalanched, thanks Glenn Reynolds.

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That’s the gist of an announcement this morning from the office of Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler, following on the passing into effect of the state’s groundbreaking “cyberbullying” law, which I criticized earlier this year. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is involved too in the Educator Escalation Channel, which will start with a pilot Maryland program. Gansler says those targeted for post takedowns will include Facebook users who are “not committing a crime… We’re not going to go after you, but we are going to take down the language off of Facebook, because there’s no redeeming societal value and it’s clearly hurting somebody.” Although the rationale is to protect Maryland juveniles from unwelcome and hurtful online communications, the initial press reports offer no indication that the Facebook users whose speech is targeted for takedown will necessarily be other Maryland juveniles.

What could possibly go wrong? I’ve got some thoughts on the question at Cato at Liberty. More: Scott Greenfield (“Facebook becomes the agent of the state. … Welcome to the start of something big.”)

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on October 3, 2013

  • University of Montana professors who refuse Title IX training to be reported to federal government [FIRE, more, Missoulian] Professor yanked from public-university classroom over offensive out-of-class tweet [Popehat, Peter Bonilla/FIRE]
  • Preacher/historical fantasist/horrible human being Scott Lively has probably accomplished more actual evil in life than the picketers of the Westboro Baptist Church, yet it raises disturbing First Amendment questions to let him be sued in U.S. court for having urged foreign governments to be more oppressive [NBC News]
  • Speaking of wacky preachers, Florida sheriff says Terry Jones arrested for unlawful fuel transport and open gun carry, not because anyone disagreed with his speech [Orlando Sentinel, Volokh]
  • Critical speech annoys elected officials and that’s one reason we keep having to fight about campaign regulation [Barton Hinkle, Brad Smith on McCutcheon case, Ilya Shapiro on Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus]
  • Minnesota: “Ban on ‘Advis[ing or] Encourag[ing] … Another’ to Commit Suicide Violates First Amendment” [Eugene Volokh] Pennsylvania: “Crime to ‘Disparag[e]‘ an Under-18-Year-Old ‘With Intent to Harass’?” [same] Liking Facebook page presumptively protected speech [same] Veto override fails, so Missouri won’t enact proposed ban on publishing names of gun owners or concealed carry permit holders [same, followup]
  • Danish-Iranian artist convicted of “racism” after critical comments re: Muslim men [Copenhagen Post via @ClaudiaHajian]

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on August 21, 2013

  • Chicago-area bus company keeps menacing customer-critics with lawsuits [Coyote]
  • Some government officials want a say in who owns newspapers [Ira Stoll on Hartford Courant/Koch story] Using public apparatus to squelch political adversaries not exactly something new in America [David Beito on New Deal episodes]
  • Barbarity: “Saudi Court Condemns Editor to 600 Lashes With Breaks” [Bloomberg ("insulting Islam"), Volokh]
  • Scheme backed by many state AGs to roll back websites’ immunity for content posted by visitors “could singlehandedly cripple free speech online” [ACLU, earlier]
  • Attention enemies of Ken at Popehat: even if you can find your bus pass you’ll still need to withstand his cat squirt bottle [Popehat; another speech case there (censorious bell can't be unrung) and yet another (bogus DMCA notice)]
  • State law providing that persons with erased records are “deemed never to have been arrested” never meant to muzzle discussion of arrests [Eugene Volokh]
  • Nova Scotia: “cyberbullying legislation allows victims to sue” [CBC]

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on July 2, 2013

  • Paleo-diet blogger wins a round in battle with North Carolina occupational licensing [IJ via Alkon, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • If you live in Connecticut or Montana, you have a U.S. Senator who’d go this far to trample rights [Volokh on Tester-Murphy constitutional amendment, earlier] Related: “In Attack On Commercial Speech, Law Professor Sadly Supports Selective Rights” [Richard Samp, WLF, on Columbia's Tim Wu]
  • Lawyers sue publishers of medical literature for failing to warn about drug side effects [ABA Journal, Drug and Device Law]
  • “Anti-Bullying Bill Could Jail People Who Criticize Politicians” [Ted Balaker, Reason]
  • Regarding the L.A. Times: “So people are really suggesting a city council interfere to make sure a newspaper’s owners have the proper political views. Flabbergasting.” [@radleybalko]
  • “Judge: Rocker must pay Herald $132G in court costs for dismissed defamation suit” [Boston Herald] Second Circuit recognizes scientific-discussion defense to defamation claims [Science World Report]
  • “Does Freedom of Speech Conflict with Freedom of Religion?” [Jacob Mchangama video] “Turkish Blogger Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Criticizing Mohammed” [Volokh] So much repression: State Dept. International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 [executive summary]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2013

  • Chilling one side of a debate? American Federation of Teachers arm-twists board members to quit groups critical of union contracts (including the Manhattan Institute, with which I used to be affiliated) [New York Post, Bloomberg, Ira Stoll]
  • “Third Circuit Finds Schools Aren’t Liable for Bullies” [Fed Soc Blog]
  • Case dismissed in Marshall University student’s suit over exceedingly undignified bottle-rocket stunt [West Virginia Record]
  • Free pass for harming students? Realistic policy call? Both? Courts frown on “educational malpractice” claims vs. schools, teachers [Illinois State Bar Association; Beck]
  • Brookings has very poor reviews for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan plan [Matthew Chingos and Beth Akers; Megan McArdle]
  • 1,200 sign Harvard petition assailing academic freedom in Jason Richwine case [Boston Globe]
  • College selection of commencement speakers: political spectrum’s so skewed that even moderate GOPer Bob Zoellick’s a no-go [Bainbridge]
  • The Common Good online forum on risk and legal fear in schools, in which I’m a participant, continues for another day or two.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2013

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