Washington, D.C.

FOSI Panel Series: Is it Possible to Legislate Safety?

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June 12, 2009
 - 
Room HC-7, in the Capitol, Washington DC


Overview

June 12, 2009
 - 
Room HC-7, in the Capitol, Washington DC

FOSI’s June Hill Panel, titled “Is it Possible to Legislate Safety?” featured Mercedes Salem from the office of Representative Linda Sanchez; Jason Tuber from the office of Senator Robert Menendez; and Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. The discussion, moderated by FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam, focused on the recent introduction of two pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill: the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act and the SAFE Internet Act. Each of the panelists shared their perspectives on these bills.

Salem provided support for the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act and said that educating youth about online safety is crucial. Salem said that Rep. Linda Sanchez is dedicated to a holistic approach to online safety, but also finds it necessary to give prosecutors the ability to punish online bullying. Although Salem emphasized that education is absolutely essential, she also said that there are people who should be punished because cyberbullying is a serious problem.

Tuber emphasized the importance of education in dealing with online safety and concluded that it is not possible to legislate safety, but that Congress can facilitate safety. Tuber explained that the way we can do this is by giving schools and teachers the resources that they need to teach kids about the importance of online safety.

Thierer shared his view on the two bills and said that “people have always engaged in bullying, but they are doing it even more now and they are doing it online.” He acknowledged that cyberbullying is a serious problem and applauded both Rep. Sanchez and Sen. Menendez for focusing the attention of Congress on these issues, but cautioned against criminalizing kid on kid bullying. “The Menendez approach is preferable because you can’t go wrong with education,” Thierer said as he discussed the need to focus on prevention and education rather than the criminalization of adolescent behavior. Thierer also addressed the First Amendment concerns in the Megan Meier Act which led to a debate among the panelists and a number of audience questions.

All three panelists’ views on the two bills differed slightly, but all of the panelists agreed on the importance of educating today’s youth about online safety.

See previous FOSI Hill Panels on FOSI's YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/fosi

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