Bullying and other forms of harassment in school settings have taken on various new forms in the past years because of technologies like webcams, phone cameras, Facebook, and Twitter. This past Wednesday, former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was formally charged with hate crimes involving a webcam and Twitter.
The story was brought to the public’s attention because of the tragic results of these crimes; the late Tyler Clementi, after realizing that his roommate, Ravi, had spread around a webcam video of him having an intimate encounter with a man, jumped off of the George Washington Bridge and killed himself.
Ravi used Twitter to announce the video, and tweeted “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
Initially, Ravi and his friend from the same dorm, Molly Wei, were charged with invasion of privacy, a mere slap on the wrist – probation was their only punishment. However, after the incident received more and more attention from an outraged public, with figures like Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres speaking out, Ravi was charged with hate crimes, which could land him in jail for five to ten years. For the time being, there has been no indictment against Wei.
Facebook also played as small part in the story; before Clementi jumped, he updated his status: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”
The legal ramifications of Ravi being charged with a hate crime are obviously considerable; the end results will set an example for future cases and, hopefully, deter future bullies.