Is cyberstalking a thing? Yes, cyberstalking is a thing. Even in Polk County, Florida, it’s a thing.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd does not take internet bullying of its residents lightly, even if it involves EllenBeth Wachs, the former Vice-President and Legal Affairs Coordinator for Atheists of Florida and current President of Humanists of Florida Association, who recently asked the sheriff to investigate a relentless case of cyberstalking aimed against her.
Judd assigned a Special Investigations detective to investigate a North Carolina man who has, for almost two years, employed an arsenal of social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Google+ and Twitter, to conduct a relentless campaign to harass and abuse Wachs.
But you’re allowed to do that, aren’t you? It’s free speech, isn’t it?
No, and no.
According to Florida statutes the term “cyberstalk” means “to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”
Such activity is a first degree misdemeanor or, if a credible threat is conveyed, a third degree felony. Earlier this month, sheriff detectives arrested two Polk County men under the Florida cyberstalking statute for harassing a 15-year-old high school student via Twitter.
But but but harassing people is a glorious part of our glorious tradition of free speech!
North Carolina laws make it a Class 2 misdemeanor “for a person to electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.” According to a University of North Carolina School of Government website, over 1200 people were charged with cyberstalking in 2010 under North Carolina law.
Martyrs of free speech!
No, actually. Just thugs.