Remember the days when kids used to pass notes in class?
Now they go online with some posting harassing or mean messages about other kids.
Now a new law (AB 746) written by Assembly Member Nora Campos (D-San Jose) has passed, allowing schools to punish kids who cyber bully through social networking sites like Facebook.
“This is not acceptable,” says Campos, “and there now will be consequences to your child or your student engaging in cyber bullying.”
Campos’s law is only meant to empower school districts.
However, the state had already passed a new law designed to keep people from posing as you and harassing you online.
But a Sacramento family found out that law wasn’t protecting them.
“It was very explicit” says Cheryl Needham of Sacramento.
Her husband Tony says “we had groups of cars at three and four at a time pulling up in front of the house.”
At the door, Cheryl was surprised to find “um, it was a man looking for a man to have sex with.”
What in the world was going on?
One after another strangers were coming to the door and calling at all hours of the day and night.
Cheryl says the callers’ questions were creepy: “’Are you horny? You ready? I am’ and I’m asking him ‘what are you talking about? Who are you?’ And he goes ‘I’m calling about your ad.’”
The ads he referred to were those that were posted on Craigslist and invited sex-craved men to their home, while other ads announced a ‘divorce’ and ‘moving sale’, announcing that ‘everything must go, free!’
Only Cheryl Tony hadn’t placed the ads; they believe they know who did.
“It’s absolutely embarrassing” says Nicholas Needham, Cheryl’s son; he says he knows the suspect very well.
They all say the suspect also created a fake Facebook page in Nicholas name,
saying very embarrassing things.
“I’ve lost 60 lbs from stress” Nicholas says.
He and his mom filed police reports and pleaded for cops to do anything to stop the ads.
“I’ve contacted the police and the sheriffs numerous times and I get absolutely zero help” says Nicholas.
We told you about a new law on the books late last year (SB 1411), one that helps protect people from being impersonated and harassed online.
Shouldn’t that help?
The law says anyone who “impersonates another… through or on an internet website … for purposes of harming… is guilty of a public offense…”
It goes on to say that it’s “punishable by a fine of a thousand dollars… a year in jail… or both.”
It’s a misdemeanor and only relates to social networking sites.
And Twin Rivers Police Department Detective Steve Emert, who’s a member of the Sacramento Valley High Tech Task Force, says unless it’s a felony he can’t get a search warrant to track down the computer and the person behind the online postings.
“(I) was very frustrated with the fact that there was not a law in place. So I took it on myself to do the research and drafted one myself” says Detective Emert.
If his bill passes it would help law enforcement get those warrants, busting cyber bullies and stalkers.
“It’d make me feel I guess like a little super hero because I’m able to come in here and say hey, yeah, I can finally help you with this.”
For now, though, all the Needhams can do is post a sign outside their home, one that warns of the fake Craigslist ad and to go away.
“I’d like to be left alone, plain and simple,” says Nicholas.
Detective Emert’s law would also make certain instances of cyber bullying a felony.
That would make it very easy for authorities to prosecute based on the electronic evidence from the internet service provider and eventually the suspects own computer.
He says it’s being passed around various lawmakers’ offices and appears to be getting a good response.
If it passes anyone convicted of felony level cyber bullying could go to prison for up to five years.