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House Considering Bill To Criminalize Cyberbullying, Doxxing Of Public Servants

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A proposal to add cyberstalking, cyberbullying and doxxing to the state law that protects public servants from retaliation and threats of violence went before lawmakers Wednesday. The hearing comes amid what some describe as an increasingly strained State House culture.

To its Democratic backers, the bill - HB 1159 - amounts to an update of the law that protects government workers from being threatened or harassed for doing their jobs.

One of the bills lead sponsors, Nashua Rep. Jan Schmidt, told the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday she and her family have been bullied online. She said all public servants -- including lawmakers -- should feel protected.

"I think the intent for this is to be sustained, not just simply 'I'm going to call you a bad name,' " Schmidt said. "This is sustained abuse. If it is not written this way it can be rewritten, and it should be. This is about real danger."

Republicans on the committee questioned the need for the bill. Some worried it could undercut the first amendment. Others argued that some of the bill's sponsors have themselves engaged in inflammatory rhetoric, particularly online.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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