FL Case Highlights Burden of Linking Cyberbullying to Criminality


The unraveling of criminal charges against two girls in a Florida cyberbullying case shows the difficulty prosecutors have in trying to link mean behavior to criminality, reports the New York Times. Prosecutors decided this week to drop felony charges against two girls in a September cyberbullying case that the police said contributed to the death of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, 12, who jumped from a tower two months ago. She has been characterized as a fragile girl who had a troubled home life, had been cutting herself and was ordered to go to a psychiatric facility to get help last December.

The decision was made by the Polk County state attorney's office after weeks of investigation and an analysis of thousands of Facebook messages failed to turn up enough evidence to charge the girls, one 14 and the other 12. While the messages revealed that the 14-year-old had insulted Rebecca and called her ugly names, the posts did not rise to the level of a crime, lawyers for the two girls said. The laws on the books are not always written to deal with the nuances of cyberbullying, and such laws have had little impact on changing behavior.

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