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6 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 673 (1996-1997)
Threats, Harassment, and Hate On-line: Recent Developments

handle is hein.journals/bupi6 and id is 683 raw text is: THREATS, HARASSMENT, AND HATE ON-LINE: RECENT
The Internet, probably the most powerful communication tool in the world,
has gone mainstream and is growing at a rapid pace. As a medium, it has cre-
ated many new and exciting possibilities for both business and individual; in-
deed, it already has revolutionized the way in which we communicate. The In-
ternet allows people to connect with others around the world to exchange ideas
and information for very little cost. For many, the advantage of having access to
the tremendous volume of information that the Internet offers easily outweighs
the cost of going on-line. The Internet allows people to connect with others
around the world to exchange ideas and information for very little cost.
Reputable businesses and individuals, however, are not the only groups taking
advantage of the Internet. The Net's characteristics make it the ideal tool for
harassment, threats, and the dissemination of hateful messages. The Net attracts
these individuals because of its ability to distribute massive amounts of informa-
tion quickly and anonymously. As traditional misdemeanor offenses occur on-
line they can have a serious impact, raising new First Amendment issues. This
article explores some specific uses of the Net, some criminal and some not, that
have emerged in recent years.
Cyberspace offers previously unavailable harassment possibilities. The poten-
tial for instantaneous, inexpensive, worldwide communication can magnify what
would otherwise be simply irresponsible behavior. Prior to the advent of this
technology, acts of harassment could reach only a limited number of people.
Word of mouth, mail, and even publication in a newspaper pale in comparison
to the potential numbers of people one can reach through cyberspace.
William White, an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Maryland,
summed up the philosophy of many Internet users when he stated, You should
be able to write what you want on the Internet, whether it's true or not.' White
had heard that a fellow student was being mistreated at home. Although he re-
* Sally Greenberg served as the Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel for the Anti-
Defamation League from 1985 to 1996. She also served on the Massachusetts Governor's
Task Force on Computer Technology and Law from 1992 to 1994. Alison Fee, a student
at Boston University School of Law, assisted in the researching of this article.
I Todd Shields & Scott Bowles, Over the Line On-Line: Family Put Under Seige; Stu-
dent Message Elicits Angry Calls to Md. Home, WASH. POsT, Feb. 14, 1996, at A01.

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