A Pennsylvania committee has forwarded legislation that would make it illegal to bully or harass a child through email and social media.
House Bill 1163 would make it a third-degree misdemeanor to use electronic communications to repeatedly make statements about a child's sexuality or sexual activity, or make statements that significantly ridicule, demean or cause serious embarrassment to a child.
The bill unanimously cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It was authored by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), who said cyber bullying has become all too prevalent on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
"The consequences can be devastating to a child," Marsico said in a news release. "There have been numerous cases across the country where the harassment has become so acute that a child has taken his or her own life as a result."
The House Judiciary Committee also gave unanimous approval to House Bill 764, a measure that would create a new offense of online impersonation.
The bill would make it illegal to use another person's identity to create a web page, post messages on social media, text or e-mail for the purpose of harassment, terroristic threats, stalking, retaliation or intimidation.
Marsico said the bill was drafted in response to an incident where two Pennsylvania students used an email account in a teacher's name to harass another student, and prosecutors could not file charges under the state's identity theft statute because the teacher had not suffered a monetary loss.
A third measure passed by the committee Tuesday, House Bill 714, would increase the penalty for identity theft committed against children.
The bills will now go to the House floor for further consideration.