Just introduced today by Delegate Mark Keam:
If any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass any person, … uses a computer, including an electronic communication device, or computer network to … engage in bullying, as defined in § 22.1-276.01, he is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
[§ 22.1-276.01:] “Bullying” means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. “Bullying” includes cyber bullying. “Bullying” does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.
So if a high school student posts several Facebook items on her own page harshly castigating her ex-boyfriend for cheating on her, and this is seen as “intended to … harass” and “humiliate” the ex-boyfriend (not implausible) and “involv[ing] a real or perceived power imbalance” — whatever that means — that would be a crime. Likewise if some students post Facebook items harshly castigating a classmate for committing a crime or some other misdeed, unless of course this qualifies as “ordinary … peer conflict.”
But wait: While the definition of “bullying” in the statute is drawn from a statute that is targeted at schoolchildren, nothing in the definition itself is limited to such children. And the statute that Del. Keam’s proposal would modify applies to everyone, not just adults. So it may well be that the proposal, if enacted, would also apply to speech about adults. If someone harshly criticizes — on a blog, or on one’s facebook page, or in a newspaper article posted online — a businessperson, a low-level government official, an academic, or anyone else in a way that is seen as “inten[ded] to … harass” and “humiliate,” […]