Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 25, 2013

‘Gracie’s Law’

Assembly should pass cyber-bullying legislation

As is too often the case, it takes a tragedy to draw attention to a problem that needs fixing. That is the case in a cyber-bullying incident that is blamed for a Maryland teen’s suicide last year.

Grace McComas, a 15-year-old Howard County girl, took her life last Easter Sunday following a prolonged period of malicious postings about her on social media sites.

Over the weekend, the House of Delegates passed a bill calling for enactment of “Gracie’s Law,” named after McComas.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the measure seeks to outlaw the use of Internet-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the practice known as "cyber-bullying."

The legislation, which initially raised constitutional concerns, was rewritten in the House Judiciary Committee. Del. Jon S. Cardin, its sponsor, said the revised bill essentially takes an existing law banning harassment by email and applies it to open-forum social media as well. Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the bill also adopts language in a federal law to define cyber-bullying as the use of interactive computer media to  kill, injure or harass someone under 18 or to inflict emotional distress or fear of death or injury. The penalty for a violation would be a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.

Now that the House has given its approval the bill moves to the Senate. With only a couple more weeks remaining in the General Assembly session, we urge the Senate to quickly move on the bill and not let it get caught up in a last-minute legislative logjam.

Cyber-bullying is widespread on social media sites. Enacting tough laws to deal with offenders gives some measure of protection to those who are on the receiving end of hateful, vicious attacks on computer websites.

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