'Cyberbullying' on track to become crime in W.Va. - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

'Cyberbullying' on track to become crime in W.Va.


CHARLESTON, W.Va.  (WVVA) They hide behind computers, cell phones, and tablets. In the past, cyber bullies faced penalties of  in-school or out-of-school suspensions, but it could soon be a crime.

The cyberbullying bill that passed Friday in the Senate would outlaw using a computer or network to harass, bully or intimidate anyone under 18. It would specifically prohibit building a fake profile for or posing online as a minor in emails, chat rooms or social media platforms.

West Virginia's House of Delegates has already passed the legislation leaving it up to Gov. Jim Justice to sign it into law. 

Sen. Lynn Arvon voted in favor of the bill. She understands the cyberbullying concept all too well, she said, after a divisive couple weeks in the legislature. 

"Personally I think it needs to be expanded to cover everyone, no matter your age. For the past few weeks, I've been cyberbullied myself. People behind their computer screen will say whatever they want to ruin your name, spread lies about you." 

While both minors and adults can be prosecuted under the legislation, only minors can be claimed as victims. The bill also would outlaw doing anything online that would reasonably cause a minor physical harm, damage his or her property or create a reasonable fear of either.

"It's a wonderful first step," said Greenbrier County Sen. Stephen Baldwin (D), "cyberbullying occurs with adults as well. It's happened to me. It's probably happened to you. I think we need to get serious about the way we treat each other even when there's a screen between us."

Unless the governor vetoes the bill in the next ten days, bullying a minor online will officially be considered a crime. 

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