Communication in Cyberspace
46 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2015 Last revised: 9 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 1, 2015
This Article examines a problem in cybercrime law that is both persistent and pervasive. What counts as “communication” on the Internet? Defining the term is particularly important for crimes such as cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying, where most statutes require a showing that the alleged perpetrator “communicated” with the victim or impose a similar requirement through slightly different language.
This Article takes up the important task of defining communication. As a foundation to our discussion, we provide the first comprehensive survey of state statutes and case law relating to cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying. We then examine the realities of the way people use the Internet to develop a definition of “communication” that reflects those realities. That is, we aim to provide effective tools by which prosecutors can address wrongful conduct without punishing innocuous behavior or chilling speech. We conclude by proposing a model statute that appropriately defines “communication.” We recommend that state legislatures adopt the statute or modify existing laws to match it in pertinent part and demonstrate how the statute would apply in a range of situations.
Keywords: cyberharassment, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, first amendment, communication, cyberspace, internet, media, statutory law
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