This past weekend New York Law School officially launched the Tyler Clementi Institute for Internet Safety with its first annual Internet Safety Conference. The two-day conference explored such topics as the role of industry in addressing Internet Safety, the role of the attorney in representing victims of cyber-harassment and the role of the school in creating safe learning environments. The panels included a number of distinguished professionals, including Jacqueline Beachere, the Chief Online Safety Officer for Microsoft, Holly Jacobs, the founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and Professor Danielle Keats Citron, author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.”
A theme throughout each panel was the need for increased legislation to address the harms created by the Internet. With the reality of Washington’s dysfunction, it was agreed that the best chance to accomplish meaningful legislation was through the States. That being said, many panelists noted the problem of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act and the fact that federal law immunizes web companies from the content posted on their sites. Unless Section 230 of the CDA is reexamined, achieving complete relief for victims of online abuse will continue to be difficult.
The Conference was organized to inaugurate the Tyler Clementi Institute, the nation’s first law clinic dedicated to supporting victims of online harassment. The Institute’s mission and existence is critical for a couple of reasons. First, victims of online abuse will now have a place to turn for assistance and support. Secondly, a new generation of lawyers will now have the expertise to represent online harassment victims and the complex issues raised by their cases.
The Tyler Clementi Institute is launched in conjunction with the Tyler Clementi Foundation. As many know, Tyler Clementi was a Rutgers Freshman when his roommate live streamed him during an intimate moment with another man. After Tyler discovered the violation of his privacy, Tyler sadly took his own life. The story made national news and raised awareness for the abuse that can be perpetrated online. Tyler’s family started the Tyler Clementi Foundation to honor his life and with the goal of ending online and offline bullying.
Online abuses and Internet privacy issues have garnered increased public attention. However, to effectuate change, we need more conferences like the Tyler Clementi Conference for Internet Safety to highlight these issues and for the opportunity to debate and discuss legislative solutions.