By David Lindsey Attorney of David Lindsey, Attorney at Law posted in Computer Crimes on Monday, September 24, 2012.
In the first arrest under a new computer crime law governing online impersonation, a twelve year old and thirteen year old from Granbury, Texas are facing a felony charge after fabricating a Facebook page under the identity of a fellow middle school classmate.
"The juveniles were using the fake Facebook page to make threats towards other students and cultivated a bad reputation for the victim," according to a Hood County Sheriff's Department statement, which continues, saying that the girls "caus[ed] the victim to endure threats from other students" and be "rejected by her peers."
Because the juvenile court records are protected under Texas law, it is impossible to determine the precise nature of the Facebook page and the comments; as late as July 28th, a full 12 days after their arrest, the girls were still being detained at the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center, which indicates that authorities were taking the situation very seriously.
The ACLU is weighing in on this and similar computer crimes cases where children are being arrested and/or expelled for behavior that, had it taken place off-line, would have met with lesser consequences.
"Every time a new form of communication emerges, there's hysteria from people who don't understand it," according to ACLU attorney Chris Hansen. "One example is kids getting suspended or arrested for saying derogatory statements about fellow students online. If it's not illegal offline, it's not illegal online." The ACLU is not yet involved in this case, but it is fighting similar battles across the country. "This is a criminalization of children's behavior. Increasingly, this is the case; if you misbehave in school, you get arrested. You don't get a suspension. We call it the school-to-prison pipeline."