NPR’s “On Point” on the Rutgers Suicide, Cyberbullying, and Internet Crime Law

I was on the NPR program “On Point” today discussing the Rutgers suicide and criminal liability for invasions of privacy online. You can listen to the program here; I come in at the 13-minute mark. Here’s the blurb about the program from the “On Point” homepage:

Tyler Clementi was eighteen years old. He closed the door to his college dorm room and had an intimate encounter. As it happens, it was with another man — and, unknown to Clementi, it was streamed over the Web by his roommate, from down the hall.

Tyler Clementi then killed himself. He jumped off one of the biggest bridges in the country.

Now, his roommate, Rutgers freshmen Dharun Ravi, and Molly Wei, Ravi’s friend, are facing invasion of privacy charges, which could result in up to five years in jail. Should they be charged with a hate crime?

Interestingly, I was on the same radio program back in 2003 making philosophically similar points in a totally different context. Back then, the issue was the Patriot Act, and there was a lot of hysteria about government surveillance. On the show, I tried to counsel caution, focus on what was actually in the law, draw analogies to off-line conduct, and make sure we weren’t letting our fears get the best of us. (I join at the 16-minute mark.) Today, the issue was cyberbullying and a criminal case that has a lot of people very upset. On the show, I tried to counsel caution, focus on what facts were actually known, draw analogies to off-line conduct, and make sure we weren’t letting our passions get the best of us. Hmm, I guess I’m just a “counsel caution” kind of guy.