The Best Intentions: A Constitutional Analysis of North Carolina’s New Anti-Cyberbullying Statute

June 16, 2012

Cyberbullying, which is bullying using technology and/or the Internet, is a new phenomenon that has devastating effects as demonstrated by the suicide of Megan Meier as a result of cyberbullying over MySpace. To address the problem, the 2009 North Carolina General Assembly passed and the governor signed HB 1261, “Protect Our Kids/Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor,” which criminalizes a large set of behaviors. This Recent Development analyzes the constitutionality based on existing First Amendment jurisprudence, including the Brandenburg v. Ohio imminent lawlessness test and the Watts v. United States true threat test. Most of the provisions of the new law fall short of these tests and are thus likely unconstitutional. As a result of vagueness as well as undefined and confusing terms in the law, it also may have a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.