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Speak Out: Is Cyberbullying Criminal?

Two Cobb County juveniles are being investigated for identity theft, reported 11Alive News.

Fourteen-year-old student Alex Boston of Acworth made national headlines last week after she and her parents filed a civil libel suit against classmates they say bullied her through the use of a fake Facebook page.

Now, two Cobb County juveniles accused of creating the page to impersonate the Acworth girl and post racial and sexual material, are being investigated by the Cobb Sheriff's Office for identity theft, reported 11Alive News.

According to the Huffington Post, the page suggested Boston smoked marijuana and spoke a language called "Retardish." A racist video and sexual and obscene comments were also left on friends' pages using the fake account.

Boston's attorney, Natalie Woodward, told the Daily Report that the family filed the defamation suit against the two juveniles and their parents after the Kennesaw school said nothing could be done since they couldn't prove the incident happened on school property. Cobb police initially said they couldn't take action because no crime was committed.

But Woodward told 11Alive Tuesday that one of their investigators has since contacted her. A spokesperson for the Cobb Sheriff's Office wouldn't discuss the case, writing in an email to 11Alive that "it is an ongoing investigation and involves juveniles."

Is cyberbullying a crime? Should bullying policies in Georgia cover off-campus incidents? Tell us in the comments.

In a similar 2010 incident, three 14-year-old boys from Newburyport, MA were charged with identity theft after they allegedly harassed a boy by creating a fake Facebook page with his name and picture and posted disparaging remarks about other students.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, told the Daily Report that Georgia House Bill 310, known as the "cyberbullying" bill, ran out of time last session but will be brought back next year. The bill expands the term "bullying" to include incidents that may happen off school property via texts, e-mails and websites. 

In August 2008, California gave schools the authority to discipline students for online bullying through one of the country's first cyberbullying laws. With the global nature of the Internet, cyberbullying legislation isn't limited to the United States. In the Philippines, the province of Bulucan recently enacted an ordinance that prohibits school bullying via social networking sites and mobile phones. Those who violate the ordinance could be fined P5,000 and imprisoned for six months.

An Ipsos for Reuters News poll conducted in 24 countries and published this year found that one in 10 parents said their child had experienced cyberbullying and that one in four knew a child in their community who had been cyberbullied. Sixty percent said the harrassing behaviour occurred on social networking sites like Facebook.

A 2011 U.S. Consumer Reports survey found that one million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook over the previous year.

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