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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
June 19, 2009
(202) 289-8928
Education is Best Way for Congress to Address Cyberbullying
PFF Fellows Say Criminalization is Wrong Approach

WASHINGTON D.C. - If Congress wishes to address cyberbullying through federal legislation, it should focus on education-based approaches instead of criminalization, argue Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer in "Cyberbullying Legislation:  Why Education is Preferable to Regulation," released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Criminalizing what is mostly minor-on-minor behavior will not likely solve the age-old problem of kids mistreating each other, a problem that has traditionally been dealt through counseling and rehabilitation at the local level. 

In the paper, PFF Fellows Szoka and Thierer applaud policymakers for focusing more on cyberbullying, a serious and rising online safety concern, instead of previous fears about online predation, which have been greatly overblown.  But because criminalization could raise thorny free speech and due process concerns related to how the law defines harassing or intimidating speech, they argue that education and intervention strategies are generally preferable.  By supporting Internet safety education in schools and communities, state and federal lawmakers could make a significant contribution to effectively reducing truly harmful behavior, especially over the long-haul.  Such education and awareness-building would also be completely constitutional, meaning lawmakers could avoid the legal challenges that would follow other regulatory approaches.

"If lawmakers feel the need to address cyberbullying concerns at this time," they argue, "it is clear that regulation is, at best, premature and that education is the better approach.  If federal criminal law has a role to play, it is in punishing clear cases of harassment of minors by adults in ways that do not chill free speech protected by the First Amendment," they conclude.

"Cyberbullying Legislation:  Why Education is Preferable to Regulation," is available on the PFF website.  PFF also produces a book, Parental Controls and Online Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods, which offers parents and policymakers a comprehensive inventory of the many excellent tools and strategies that can be used to protect kids online.  Co-author Thierer also currently serves on a new government online safety task force, the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, and he previously served on two other online child safety task forces.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation