By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Where does your first amendment right to free – albeit mean — speech end and anti-bullying laws begin?
When a Wisconsin news anchor took to the airwaves to call out the person who sent her an email calling her fat, support for the anchor poured in. The anchor reminded viewers that October, the month in which she received the email, is anti-bullying month. But what is the law against bullying and can she sue?
Virtually every state has a law against schoolyard bullying so if your kid is being hurt physically or emotionally, visit your school district’s website to find a person to whom to report it. But, for adults, unless someone crosses the line into stalking or harassing behavior in person, by phone, or online which is severe and pervasive and puts the victim in reasonable fear of harm, there is no law against just making a hurtful remark to another adult.
If someone makes an intentional misstatement of fact that hurts someone’s reputation, he can be sued for defamation, but simply being insulting isn’t illegal. In fact, under the First Amendment, the government can’t punish speech just because it’s unpopular.
That said, let’s all try to do a better job of making mean speech unpopular.