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Sympathy for the Cyberbully

How the Crusade to Censor Hostile and Offensive Online Speech Abuses Freedom of Expression


Arthur S. Hayes

In the first systematic account of judicial rulings striking down cyberbullying laws in the United States and Canada, Sympathy for the Cyberbully offers an unapologetic defense of online acid-tongued disparagers and youthful and adult sexters. In the first decade of the 21st century, legitimate concerns about the harmful effects of cyberbullying degenerated into a moral panic. The most troubling aspect of the panic has been a spate of censorship—the enactment of laws which breach long-standing constitutional principles, by authorizing police to arrest and juries to convict, and schools to suspend, individuals for engaging in online expression that would be constitutionally protected had it been communicated offline. These hastily drawn statutes victimize harsh critics of elected officials, scholars, school officials and faculty, distributors of constitutionally protected pornography, adolescents "talking smack," and teens who engage in the consensual exchange of nude images, even in states where teens of a certain age enjoy the right to engage in sexual relations. The victims’ stories are told here.

Sympathy for the Cyberbully is suitable for undergraduate, graduate and law school courses in media law, First Amendment law and free expression.

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Chapter 7: The Short Life and Quick Death of the First Cyberbullying Law in Canada (August 6, 2013–December 10, 2015)


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The death of Nova Scotia’s first cyberbullying law in December 2015 started with a tweet from a waggish teen and the foolish decision by an actress-turned-elected official to invoke the statute in retaliation.

Just about anyone in the world can go online and access a full-frontal nude image of Lenore Zann from her performance in the 2008 Showtime cable television series The L-Word.1 More to the point, voters living in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, Nova Scotia, Canada, can download the photo and other nude photographs of Zann from her movies any time they want.

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