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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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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Hayes, Arthur S., author. Title: Sympathy for the cyberbully: how the crusade to censor hostile and offensive online speech abuses freedom of expression / Arthur S. Hayes. Description: New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2017. Communication law; vol. 6 | ISSN 2153-1390 Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016059650 (print) | LCCN 2017004328 (ebook) ISBN 978-1-4331-3212-4 (hardcover: alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4331-3211-7 (paperback: alk. paper) | ISBN 978-1-4539-1725-1 (ebook pdf) ISBN 978-1-4331-4152-2 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-4153-9 (mobi) Subjects: LCSH: Bullying—United States. | Bullying—Canada. Cyberbullying—United States. | Cyberbullying—Canada. | Civil rights—United States. Civil rights—Canada. | Freedom of speech—United States. Freedom of speech—Canada. | United States. Constitution. 1st Amendment. Classification: LCC BF637.B85 H357 2017 (print) | LCC BF637.B85 (ebook) DDC 302.34/30973—dc23 LC record available at DOI 10.3726/978-1-4539-1725-1

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

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