New Jersey Proposes Legislation Regarding Online Harrassment of Minors

Proposed Legislation:  A new bill was recently proposed to the New Jersey legislature, which appears to be, in large part, a reaction to the infamous story of Megan Meir, the Missouri teenager that committed suicide after being defrauded on the MySpace.com website.  The now-all-too-famous story is that a neighbor, and arguably the mother of that neighbor, created a false identity on MySpace, purporting to be a young man interested in dating Megan.  Megan allegedly committed suicide once her “suitor” indicated that he was no longer interested in her.  Among other things, the proposed legislation would make it a crime for a person to utilize the Internet to represent himself “to be another person without the express authorization or written approval of that person, for the purpose of harassment of a minor child. . .”  While the law is well-intended, I believe it currently lacks many of the limitations and protections that will need to be incorporated to make it workable.  For instance, the bill, as drafted, would have it apply to “any person.”  Does this mean that a minor engaging in such misrepresentations would be equally guilty as an adult doing so?  Moreover, there could be other instances when the prohibited conduct may be necessary.  For instance, as drafted, the law would arguably prohibit Chris Hansen and his crew’s actions in their How to Catch a Predator series, since the law specifically prohibits posing online as someone younger with the intent that someone will try to make contact with that purported minor. That being said, legislation in this arena is sorely needed.  Hopefully this bill will evolve in a manner that makes it both enforceable and effective. 

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