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Internet gay bashing not protected by free speech, court rules

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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Students at a private school in Los Angeles who posted internet death threats and anti-gay messages on a classmate’s webpage, can’t claim the constitutional protection of free speech, a California appeals court has ruled.

The parents of the boy targeted by the threatening and derogatory posts on his website, withdrew him from Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City and moved to Northern California to protect him from classmates who had incorrectly labeled him as gay and pronounced him “wanted dead or alive.”

The 2-1 ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal will allow a lawsuit to go forward that was brought by the 15-year-old boy’s father, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The 1st Amendment doesn’t protect hostile Internet banter if the messages can be taken as genuine threats of harm, the court ruled.

Legal analysts said the decision sends a warning signal that there are boundaries even on the Internet, and that the court ruling also appears to toughen standards for court intervention in cyber-bullying cases.

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