Ronen Perry, ‘Civil Liability for Cyberbullying’

In 2006, the world was shocked when thirteen-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide after being told that the world would be better off without her by a fake user on the social networking platform Myspace. This was neither the first nor the last suicide attributed to cyberbullying, and although suicide remains an infrequent outcome, its salience has called attention to the pervasiveness and gravity of technology-facilitated bullying among adolescents. Unfortunately, the law has failed to provide a satisfactory response. This Article aims to fill the gap, providing a law and economics analysis of the different models of civil liability for cyberbullying. It acknowledges three categories of potential defendants: (1) the juvenile wrongdoers, (2) real-life supervisors (parents, school personnel), and (3) virtual supervisors (such as social networking platforms). It systematically analyzes the legal rules delineating each party’s liability and evaluates the alternatives from an economic perspective. The Article demonstrates that technological innovation not only generates new risks or exacerbates old ones, but also simplifies the construction of efficient liability models to control them. In the context of juvenile bullying, imposing liability on real-life supervisors may be an inevitable solution to the fundamental inefficiencies of primary wrongdoers’ liability. Alas, supervisors’ liability in the digital age entails considerable information costs. Technology, which has transformed an old schoolyard problem into a cyberspace pandemic, now provides the tools to substantially reduce these costs. It facilitates the collection, analysis, and flow of information, thereby reducing the cost of preventive action. Liability rules can and should endorse these developments in an effort to secure efficient conduct of all parties involved …

Ronen Perry, Civil Liability for Cyberbullying, 10 UC Irvine Law Review 1219 (2020).

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