High school students in Dix Hills in a fist-fight posted...

High school students in Dix Hills in a fist-fight posted on YouTube. Credit:

Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) hits free speech rights in his free-swinging effort to keep videos of fighting minors off the Web.

Stern's law would make it illegal to post videos depicting minors in violent acts, whether as perpetrators or victims. His purpose is to stifle cyberbullying and, by extension, the continuing pain suffered by those involved.

At first, this may seem like a fine idea - violent videos, especially those featuring minors, are, at best, in bad taste. Stern is right to say those videos can have lasting, negative consequences for those involved.

But in fishing for a way to protect children, Stern casts too wide a net. If a police officer assaulted a 15-year-old and someone recorded it, that video couldn't be posted under Stern's law. The same applies if the 15-year-old took a swing at the officer. Both videos would be important to the public debate, and sharing them online is a protected free-speech right.

Worse, limiting rights by banning the videos does nothing to stop the real problem - the actual fighting.

Stern, who introduced the bill on Thursday, has since pledged to revisit it to address free-speech concerns, but he should just drop it. Images of violence are unpleasant, but not illegal. It should stay that way.

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