Aware of the horrifying digital trend, and in light of recent viral fight videos making waves online, Illinois Republican Rep. Terri Bryant proposed a bill that would make it illegal to post or share fight videos on the internet.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Bryant’s bill “would make it a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct to post fight videos online with intent to condone or promote the violence.”
While this specific bill is currently unrelated to cyberbullying, which was criminalized in Illinois in 2014, other states have tried unsuccessfully to pass similar legislation, considering fight videos to be a form of cyberbullying.
Bryant said that, before the onset of omnipresent cell phones and social media, “We would have never thought of getting a video camera instead of getting help.”
The biggest challenge to passing a bill like Bryant’s? First Amendment rights.
Uploading videos with violent content is constitutionally protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Others are concerned that such legislation would unfairly criminalize adolescents. Furthermore, just because somebody uploads a violent video does not mean that they condone the action or posted it with the intent of humiliating or threatening another.
“I would hate for children or teenagers to then have a misdemeanor on their record, and be introduced to the justice system well before they need to be,” said Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “Kids do it simply because they are kids.”
But is that a good enough excuse to protect the “kids” that can threaten and beat up other kids to within an inch of their lives?
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I agree that freedom of speech remains paramount in this argument, but perhaps platforms like YouTube should more strictly monitor what its users are posting, such as the vitriol of viral fight videos. How would you feel if you or your teenager were forever published for all the world to see in a video of you being harassed or attacked?
As the mother of one boy who was attacked in an Illinois fight video that went viral recently, “I wish someone would have stepped in.”
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