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Cyber Suicide Sentencing

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A seemingly joking text carries a heavier weight now as MIchelle Carter's involuntary manslaughter case sets a legal precedent for cyber bullying.

A seemingly joking text carries a heavier weight now as MIchelle Carter's involuntary manslaughter case sets a legal precedent for cyber bullying.

Haley Spencer

Haley Spencer

A seemingly joking text carries a heavier weight now as MIchelle Carter's involuntary manslaughter case sets a legal precedent for cyber bullying.

Haley Spencer, Staff Writer

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Years after her crime was committed, Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in prison after it was proven that she talked her boyfriend into committing suicide over text messages.

Carter’s case has set a new legal precedent for cases like hers. Before, there was no real backing for a case involving social media and things like texting. These are still relatively new concepts that our legislators and lawyers are trying to wrap their minds around. With a conviction like Carter’s, it could put a damper on some people’s casual social media commentary.

If you look at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for long enough, it won’t be long until you stumble across a joke involving suicide. Someone making a snarky comment will sometimes result in a response reading, “kys.” Maybe you comment on your best friend’s lame tweet saying, “You should just kill yourself.” While both of these instances will be seen by most teenagers as a lighthearted joke, (which is kind of scary, honestly) many others may not.

Here is where this could directly affect you: let’s say you comment “kys” on someone in your algebra class’ picture, thinking it is a fitting response. They laugh about it in class with you and everyone sees it as a joke. But, you still told your classmate to kill himself. A few weeks later some drastic changes occur in your friend’s life and they tragically end their own life. Investigators dig and social media reveals on Tuesday, March 2, 2017 at 4:39 p.m., you told this person to kill themselves. This case has taken a new turn and you are the criminal now.

What is interesting about Carter’s case is that it is a new kind of involuntary manslaughter. She didn’t accidently get in a car wreck and end someone’s life. She talked her boyfriend into suicide. She, personally, didn’t really kill anyone. She didn’t hook the machine up to her boyfriend’s car that leaked carbon monoxide and ended her boyfriend’s life. She was sitting at home staring at her phone screen like millions of other teenagers at that exact moment.

So the next time you are sitting at Chick-Fil-A checking Instagram or scrolling through your Twitter feed before bed, remember to watch your lingo. You may know it’s a joke, but others won’t. It is always very important to be very cautious of your social media presence, but with our legislators becoming more aware of cyberbullying and the things going on our websites we all need to take the extra step to make sure that we aren’t accidentally saying something that we don’t mean.

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Cyber Suicide Sentencing