A candle light vigil was held Sunday for Tyler Clementi, a former Rutgers freshman who was only 18 years old when he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22.
Clementi committed suicide after his roommate posted a video on the Internet that featured him engaging in sexual acts with another man.
Cyberbullying, as it’s continually referred to, is becoming an increasingly controversial issue as online hate speech becomes more frequent and its consequences more severe.
Preventive steps may be able to reduce the severity of cyberbullying’s impact.
Political leaders on different levels should act proactively by pushing for federal and state legislation similar to what’s already in place in states like Wisconsin that make it a crime to inflict injury and harm via e-mail and the Internet.
While the government’s role in this effort is an important one, there are other steps that can be taken by colleges and universities as well.
Sites like CollegeACB.com – an acronym for Anonymous Confession Board – allow users to anonymously post unsubstantiated gossip about classmates.
These sites have already been blocked on many campuses, including Millsaps College in Mississippi and Washington and Lee University in Virginia.
These sites are especially troublesome and, while free-speech advocates may disagree, they need to be banned from use on campus and should fall under government regulation – which already prevents libel and defamation in other forms of media.
On top of preventative steps, appropriate measures must be taken to hold the worst offenders accountable.
Dharun Ravi and Molly Weit, the two classmates allegedly involved in broadcasting the clementi video, are only being charged with invasion of privacy.
Instead, individuals who have significantly contributed to mental degradation that has led to suicide should be charged with manslaughter, or an accessory to it.
Just as these recent events have exemplified the continuation of hate and intolerance that has plagued the U.S. for centuries, legal and civil prosecution must make an example of those who wish to prey on individuals because they are different from them.
American citizens are free to do what they like, but only to a certain degree.
Hate crime laws have already illustrated how personal freedoms are limited when it comes to assaults against individuals solely because of reasons outside of their control.
Even if they are anonymous, hateful attacks on one’s character and mental health must not be tolerated online. Measures must be taken to address an online atmosphere that leads many to act crueler toward others than they would in person.
As times change, so do the ways people hurt each other. Authorities must step up to protect the latest victims of this painful truth.