The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 11, 2013

Snyder County DA to testify in Harrisburg on proposed cyber harassment law

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch is advocating for a tougher law and harsher penalties for people who use social media to bully or harass a child.

“I get more calls than I’d like about a child being targeted by another individual or group with the intent to just grind them into the ground,” he said of the six or so cases he’s handled involving a minor being bullied via Facebook, texts or emails.

Piecuch is scheduled to testify Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Harrisburg regarding the proposed law making it a third-degree misdemeanor offense for an individual to harass, ridicule or embarrass a minor using electronic communications.

Introduced by Majority Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, a person convicted in Pennsylvania of cyber harassment of a child would face a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Currently, Piecuch said anyone accused of harassing another person using social media faces a summary charge of disorderly conduct or harassment.

“We’re looking for something more substantial,” he said. “We’re not trying to outlaw interactions, but we have to address the effect technology has and that it has changed the face of bullying. We still need prevention education, but also the tools to punish effectively.”

Piecuch said other states, including Florida, California, New York, Alabama, Arizona, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois, have addressed the issue with new laws designed to protect children.