Is Illinois Cyber-Bullying Law Stepping Over the Line?

The government of Illinois recently passed a law to combat cyber-bullying by students. Schools in the state of Illinois have deemed it necessary for students to hand over any and all passwords and account access of all social media accounts if they are suspected of cyber-bullying.

While the internet has given rise to high profile cases where student bullying has led to the deaths of students who commit suicide as a result of cyber-bullying, it seems this law itself may be reaching beyond the scope of legality. Of course, for this to be challenged, a student must refuse to hand over information for their social media accounts and take it to court, while they would presumably be missing a lot of school in the meantime.

Prior to this new law, which took effect on January 1, the state of Illinois only held such authority if the bullying were to occur during school hours or on school property. Now, the law is effective for any student at any time no matter what. Talk about a nanny state!

Many proponents of the new law come out forcefully in favor of it, stating that if a student has done nothing wrong then they have nothing to fear by handing over their passwords. And yet the Constitution of the United States says something entirely different:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The school system has deemed that if probable cause is found in the case of cyber-bullying the student must be compelled to give up the information to their social media accounts. This probable cause, however, does not need to be followed up with a subpeona nor be enforced by law enforcement officials – just teachers and staff. There is no mention of what may happen if the students refuse to give up this information. According to Fox2 St Louis this law also affects all universities and private schools as well. While this is all very disconcerting for privacy advocates the actual text of the law does not specify nor authorize faculty or staff of any school system to receive account information.

You can read the law here

Additionally, this interpretation of the law which schools have moved to enforce also violates the Terms of Service that Facebook provides.

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Since the school officials are not members of the law enforcement agencies who would be authorized to access an account, this creates another legal barrier for which the administration would need to somehow justify.

This is very reminiscent of when employers were asking for Facebook passwords and, ironically, Illinois was one of the first states to outlaw it.

H/T Daily Caller | Featured Image Wikimedia Commons

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