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A law that would specifically target cyberbullying failed to make it to a vote in the Albany County Legislature Tuesday, Oct. 12, and was instead being sent back to committee for a review.
The proposed law would make cyberbullying (defined in part as sending taunting, threatening, intimidating, insulting, tormenting, humiliating communications by way of an electronic medium) a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.
Legislator Phillip Steck, D-Loudonville, said he is fully in favor of putting an end to cyberbullying but raised questions about the law itself, saying it was worded too broadly.
"Some of the language in it is very vague and can be misconstrued," he said. "There are lots of blogs in this community that do many of the activities mentioned in this law...one person's insult isn't always another person's insult."
He also mentioned cyberbullying is covered under the existing aggravated harassment law, which does cover electronic communications, and is the subject of legislation being considered at the state and national level.
Other legislators argued the county's attorneys had seen the bill and would have raised objections had it been improper. Legislator Shawn Morse, D-Cohoes, said there is a definite need for such legislation.
"We do have children, one of whom from Guilderland called me who has been eating lunch in a broom closet for a month because of this issue," he said.
It became clear several legislators wanted to send the law back to the Law Committee for further vetting, but there was a good deal of argument about the procedure. Chairman Daniel McCoy, D-Albany, finally exercised his power to send the bill to committee after much discussion.
The bill cites a poll indicating 42 percent of children in the fourth to eighth grade reported being bullied online. A recent nationwide Pew Research Center study showed 32 percent of teens have experienced some form of online harassment, most of which originates from other adolescents.