Wednesday, May 14, 2008

YouTube my beef

With an influx of Internet assault videos being posted on video-sharing websites by young teens seeking fame across the web, New York lawmakers are considering legislation to make it a felony to videotape violent attacks for the sole purpose of distributing the footage on the Internet.

In Florida last month, eight teenagers were arrested and charged with allegedly attacking and beating another teen so they could make a video to post on Myspace and YouTube.

In Indiana, a brawl between two teenagers in a parking lot with young and adult bystanders was caught on a camera phone and then uploaded to Photobucket for the world to see.

Photos from another attack on a 17-year-old San Francisco sophomore by two other students in a locker room was found on Craigslist, a popular bulletin board site where people sell items, post job listings and search personal profiles.

The bill, which comes in response to the "animalistic attack" in Florida, was advanced by the New York Senate Majority Conference.

Hawaii has yet to see crimes being flaunted across the Internet, but maybe that's because no one has found them.

Should lawmakers create criminal laws for every aspect of a crime? Is it not enough to have assault as a crime? Is it necessary to increase sentencing for those criminals who record their heinous acts for the purpose of entertainment?

Internet crimes span from video assaults to email harassment to impersonation. Anyone with minimal technology knowledge can create a false email account, or steal a person photo and create a false profile on a networking site like Myspace.

This session, the House and Senate passed a bill (SB2456) that creates the crime of harassment by impersonation. The bill was in response to the continued harassment of a local attorney who daily receives crude emails from an anonymous person and whose colleagues and friends routinely receive defamatory emails claiming to be from the attorney. Lawmakers also passed out an indecent exposure bill (HB3040), which makes it a crime to expose oneself to minors on the Internet with a term of imprisonment to be determined by the court. Both bills are awaiting approval from the Governor.

Some may argue that law books already address crimes such as harassment, assault and indecent exposure and that creating laws for every criminal incident related to the Internet would just be bad policy, but with more youth, perverts and criminals cowering behind social-networking websites to vent anger, settle disputes and share with the world their battle bruises and personal packages, it may be sooner than later that we need a law book exclusively for Internet crimes.

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