A newly enacted statute, Rev. Stat. 14:40.7 provides, in relevant part:
A. Cyberbullying is the transmission of any electronic textual, visual, written, or oral communication with the malicious and willful intent to coerce, abuse, torment, or intimidate a person under the age of eighteen.
B… (2) “Electronic textual, visual, written, or oral communication” means any communication of any kind made through the use of a computer online service, Internet service, or any other means of electronic communication, including but not limited to a local bulletin board service, Internet chat room, electronic mail, or online messaging service….
F. The provisions of this Section shall not be construed to prohibit or restrict religious free speech pursuant to Article I, Section 18 of the Constitution of Louisiana.
The penalty is up to 6 months’ in jail (or an up to $500 fine or both), except that under-17-year-old offenders are routed to the juvenile justice system.
This is not bad as the earlier version, which also applied to speech intended to “embarrass, or cause emotional distress.” But it’s still pretty bad, especially because it leaves unclear what exactly is a “malicious and willful intent to … abuse [or] torment.”
Would publishing an online editorial — or a blog post — condemning an underage criminal for his crimes qualify as “malicious and willful intent to … abuse [or] torment”? Or would it not be “malicious” because it would be justified by righteous indignation (in which case I take it courts would have to decide what indignation is righteous and what is not)? Note that the law isn’t limited to messages sent only to the target, but includes speech published to the world at large as well.
Would sending a message castigating an ex-lover for cheating (assuming both the ex-lover and the sender are 17) […]