US: Parents of gay suicide teen condemn repeal of cyberbullying law

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Parents of a teenager who died by suicide after his gay sexual encounter was posted online have condemned the repeal of a New York cyberbullying law.

18-year-old Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off a bridge in September 2010, just weeks into his first year at Rutgers University, after his roommate Dharun Ravi broadcast the footage on the internet.

Ravi was convicted year of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and other counts, and served less than a month in jail.

On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals upheld a decision 5-2 striking down a cyberbullying law, which prohibited using “electronic communication intended to harass, annoy, threaten, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.”

Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi, wrote in a statement: “In our work against cyberbullying, we are seeing the great pain and permanent emotional harm that cyberbullying causes children.

“This is why we strongly support legislation and legal action aimed at eliminating cyber aggression aimed at young people – the most vulnerable in the online space – particularly cyber aggression of a personal or sexual nature.

“With regard to the recent case in New York, we favour the approach of the dissenting opinion which would have used the well established severance doctrine to remove portions of the law, while leaving in place measures that are crucial to protecting young people online.

“Cyber bullying is a serious issue that deserves serious, comprehensive action by our courts and legislatures.”

Last year, the Clementis demanded an apology from anti-gay group the National Organisation for Marriage, after a speaker made “ludicrous” claims that the teen was exploited by an older man. 

Rutgers University has announced that they will open the Tyler Clementi Centre, which will create programmes to help people transition to college.