Parents rally around bill to protect children from cyberbullying

By JULIA MALDONADO
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Under Maryland’s current anti-bullying law, it is illegal to send threatening, intimidating emails to minors.

However, “there’s no limitation on Facebook or Twitter because of its public nature,” Delegate Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore County, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Cardin is putting forth a bill that would make publicly posted cyberbullying a crime in Maryland, thus closing the loophole that exempts harmful material transmitted via social media websites.

“We want to make sure that our minors are protected,” Cardin said, adding that he believes cyberbullying is the next frontier in terms of protecting minors.

The bill would prohibit a person from using electronic communication to publicize certain facts concerning the private life of a minor, disseminate harmful information about a minor, and direct a threat to or make a comment about a minor that would reasonably place the minor in fear of bodily harm or death.

House Bill 396 has received bipartisan support from co-sponsor Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick, who said hate speech is not covered by the First Amendment, and thus should be addressed by legislators.

“If someone says, ‘you should die,’ or ‘I’m going to kill you,’ I think we need to take those words seriously,” Afzali said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define electronic aggression as any type of harassment or bul

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