you virtually murdered me, I'm suing

I thought our discussion on "A Rap in Cyberspace," divided the class into two camps. One side, the student an NYU is innocent, or the other it was in fact rape. I think those who say he was innocent, miss the point that had he sent a letter of made a phone call with such graphic comments it would have been considered harassment, and punishable under law, and those who view it as a rape and punishable as such, including the author, Julian Dibbell, are making a gross overstep when assessing the situation.

The media often makes a big deal out of cyber threats, like child molesters, and virtual harassment, saying there is need for new laws and regulation, and I understand the desire. Many, like Dibbell suggest that these online threats should be treated and punishable as real physical world offenses. Dibbell writes that rape, "must be classified as a crime against the mind." However, I wholeheartedly disagree.

It makes no more sense to accuse someone of raping someone virtually, then to accuse someone of murder after they are killed in a multiplayer game. However, I do believe that where traditional law intersects with actions online a real offense has occurred. This is true of identity theft, and bank fraud. If something is contained online and poses no threat to physical realities, what harm is it.

I don't buy the emotional harm argument in this particular case, it was an online text based community, and as such there are built in protections, ie. stop playing the game, or create a new user profile. But, if I was to concede that the incident caused the woman real harm, then this should fall under the umbrella of an act crossing over in to the physical world. While not rape, it is clearly harassment, or verbal abuse. As I said before, this form of communication should not be treated differently then threatening mail, abusive phone calls, or stalking, and there are punishments that currently exist for those offenses.

So I, don't think laws need to be changed to make a virtual act punishable more so or equal to a physical one. I think that what needs to happen is to bring virtual communications, like email, text messages, or online community chats, under the purview of existing law. Something, that is not yet universally accepted, and tested in the courts.