On February 9, 2012, Robert Bishop was arrested and charged with one count of cyberbullying under the North Carolina Cyberbullying statute, which states that it is “unlawful for any person to use a computer or computer network to…[p]ost or encourage others to post on the Internet private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to a minor””[w]ith the intent to intimidate or torment a minor.”
The case started when high school students posted negative pictures and comments about a male classmate on Facebook, including sexually themed text messages that the male student had inadvertently sent to a male classmate. The situation escalated and numerous posts were added that were sexual, name calling and insulting.
The student’s mother became aware of the situation and called the police. The police used undercover Facebook accounts to view the postings and conduct an investigation. Following the investigation, six students were charged with cyberbullying.
Bishop was convicted and he appealed. He alleged that the statute was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and punishes protected speech based on its content.
The Supreme Court found that the law restricts speech that is content based, not content neutral, and that the statute’s scope was not sufficiently narrowly tailored to serve the State’s interest in protecting children from the harms resulting from online bullying, and found the statute to be unconstitutional.