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ACLU concerned about Vernon County cyberbullying ordinance

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VERNON COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - The American Civil Liberties Union says it’s concerned about an ordinance passed last week against cyberbullying in Vernon County.

Stacy Harbaugh of the state’s ACLU says the language appears to be overly broad. And she tells the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that it can be abused in its application.

The Vernon County Board voted 22 to 5 to make annoying and harassing electronic communications illegal. The fine is $50 to $500 – and those who don’t pay could go to jail for 30 days.

Board chairman Herbert Cornell said a group of residents proposed the cyberbullying ban, and law enforcement supported the idea. Cornell said he believed there were cases of bullying on things like Facebook – but he couldn’t give specifics.

The ACLU’s Harbaugh said there’s a difference between making threats and expressing opinions – and opinions can be legally expressed, “no matter how obnoxious it may be.” 

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