Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teen sues fellow students for libel after Facebook cyberbullying

A cyberbullyed Georgia teenager is taking the battle back to her oppressors. She has filed a lawsuit against two other teenagers, accusing them of libel.

Alex Boston, 14, obviously didn't need to be identified due to her age, but agreed to do so to raise awareness about cyberbullying. Boston related what happened when into school one day, excited for field day.

“As soon as I got to school, I was all dressed up and happy then all my friends started saying why did you say this to me on Facebook? Why did you say this?”

The answer was: she didn't. Someone had put up a fake Facebook page in her name. It had both her name and her pertinent information, but the profile image had been altered to make her face appear bloated.

The page was set up in such a way that it appeared that Alex had left obscene comments on the Facebook pages of friends, made sexual references in postings, and uploaded a racist video. The page also intimated Alex smoked pot and spoke a made-up language called "Retardish."

Although her parents reported the cyberbullying to the police and to school officials and police, neither authority could do much of anything. Georgia does not have a cyberbullying law; only eleven states do.

Facebook wasn't much help either. Despite entreaties to the social networking giant, the page remained up until about a week ago, a year after the first requests by the Bostons. That was, ironically, about the time the family filed their lawsuit against the two students allegedly involved and their parents.

Chris Boston, Alex’s father said, “When we were kids bullying stayed on the playground, now it follows you 24-7.”

Amy Boston, Alex's mother said, “We want protect our child and we want to protect our children.”

Alex and her family have initiated a petition encouraging lawmakers to strengthen Georgia's law. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Alex's attorney, Natalie Woodward said that the lawsuit is intended to “untie the educators and police in these kinds of situations so that the law in Georgia is able to address these situations."

Woodward added, "At first blush, you wouldn't think it's a big deal. Once you actually see the stuff that's on there, it's shocking."

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