Cyber-bullying bill passes House, heads to Senate

March 23, 2013

A bill inspired by the suicide of a teenage Howard County girl who was a victim of a harassment campaign over social media passed the House unanimously Saturday.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

The measure seeks to outlaw the use of Internet-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the practice known as "cyber-bullying." The bill is named "Grace's Law" after 15-year-old Grace McComas, whose family testified in support of the bill at its hearing this month.

The Glenelg High School student took her life last Easter Sunday after months of malicious postings about her on social media sites.

The legislation, which raised constitutional concerns at the time, was completely rewritten in the House Judiciary Committee. Del. Jon S. Cardin, its sponsor, said the revised bill essentially takes an existing law banning harassment by email and applies it to open-forum social media as well.

Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the bill also adopts language in a federal law to define cyber-bullying as the use of interactive computer media to  kill, injure or harass someone under 18 or to inflict emotional distress or fear of death or injury. The penalty for a violation would be a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.

The sponsor said he's pleased the way the bill was redone.

"I'm happier with it in the form it's in than in the form I originally presented it," he said.

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