As one of his final acts in office, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law that makes cyberbullying a crime in the state. Public Act 457 defines cyberbullying as posting a message about somebody on social media or another forum if "the message or statement is intended to place a person in fear of bodily harm or death and expresses an intent to commit violence against the person" and "the message or statement is posted with the intent to communicate a threat or with knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.," the Metro Times reports. The act, which takes effect in March, classifies cyberbullying as a misdemeanor.
The law makes cyberbullying punishable by 93 days in jail and a fine of $500, though the penalty increases depending on the severity and consequences of the harassment, KSTU reports. A bully can be sentenced to up to a year if their actions cause the victim to be assaulted. A "pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior" can get the offender up to five years in prison, while if the bullying is found to have caused the death of the victim, the bully can face up to 20 years in prison. "Cyberbullying can cause just as much trauma as traditional bullying so it's important that it be considered a crime," Snyder said. (Two 12-year-olds in Florida were arrested after a classmate killed herself.)