Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Cyber cry-babies

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

I can't believe I eventually gave in.

I promised myself I wouldn't do it, no matter how often I was lured. With so many legal, moral and common-sense obstacles, I'd be embarrassed to surrender to temptation. Eventually, I couldn't take it any more, so I hid in the bathroom, locked the door, and did the dirty deed.

Yes, I confess. I looked up Section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act. Sometime ago, while politicians and human-rights activists foamed at the mouth about this allegedly landmark legislation, I almost laughed myself to death. I wonder, would that be cyber-suicide? At that time, excitement was rife. Committees were formed; debates raged; Jamaica was cracking down on modern crime. Whoopeeee!

My daddy left home when I was three

And he didn't leave much for Ma and me;

Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.

Now, I don't blame him 'cause he run and hid,

But the meanest thing that he ever did

Was before he left, he went and named me Sue.

I took a nap. You see, the problem is Jamaica's innate backwardness. We NEVER see the future. We're ALWAYS trying to catch up with the past. Mid-1990s, the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act was overhauled when a new, computerised tote allowed all bets wherever placed to go directly to it. Nothing had changed, save two separate pools had become one, but an entire industry was put on hold until the act was amended. You see, new legislation makes work for idle draftsmen's hands.

Well, he must've thought that it was quite a joke

And it got a lot of laughs from a lot of folks.

It seems I had to fight my whole life through.

Some gal would giggle and I'd get red

And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,

I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.

Now everybody is excited about 'cyberspace', but the reality is that many of us already live 80 per cent of our lives right there and we transact all sorts of business in that vast new world. Cyberspace is the future world. It's not magic. It's just a virtual warehouse/economic hub in a different dimension. Marvel Comics readers recognise it instantly. In cyberspace, we store our documentation, pay our bills, carry out every banking transaction, pay taxes, place orders locally and overseas, correspond, we trade, hold business meetings, Skype relatives/friends, and vote in online surveys.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,.

My fists got hard and my wits got keen,

Roamed from town to town to hide my shame.

But I made me a vow to the moon and stars.

I'd search the honky-tonks and bars

And kill that man that gimme that awful name.

OK, are you sitting down? Here's the shocker. Crime occurs in cyberspace just like it occurs in the 'real' world. There's fraud in cyberspace. Sexual abuse, identity theft, larceny, and even murder can be set up by cyber-messaging. Civil liability for defamation, breach of contract, negligence, et al can also be found in your cyber actions. Why on earth we need special laws to 'create' cyber crimes defeats me.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July.

And I'd just hit town and my throat was dry,

I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.

At an old saloon on a street of mud,

There at a table, dealing stud,

sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me Sue.

Except to allow parliamentarians, legal draftsmen, and legislative committees to fill slow days, I see no reason for a special Cybercrimes Act. I understood that its purpose was to deal with computer hacking, but we already have criminal and civil privacy laws, and laws against interference with contractual relations, malicious destruction of property, identity theft or larceny. Not to mention good, old-fashioned self-help. Beats me why we need another complexly worded statute to deal with these same crimes online.

Then I hear Section 9 is inserted to criminalise cyber-bullying. Wow! Don't I wish there had been a law against bullying when I was in school red, fat, ugly and the object of much physical and emotional embarrassment.

Wait a minute. They DID have laws. Schoolyard bullying was an assault, and, if it came with physical contact, battery. Bullying a student out of his lunch was extortion or threat. But in those ancient days, we recognised bullying for what it really was, namely, a cry for attention on the part of the bully who had only to be faced down for him to shrivel up and disappear. The police were rarely called.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad

From a worn-out picture that my mother had

And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.

He was big and bent and grey and old

And I looked at him and my blood ran cold

And I said, 'My name is Sue! How do you do!

Now you gonna die!'"

So why do we have a special statute with a special section criminalising 'cyber-bullying', which the police seem determined to use to resurrect repealed criminal libel? Don't we still have real-world rights and recourses?

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes

And he went down, but, to my surprise,

Come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.

But I busted a chair right across his teeth

and we crashed through the wall and into the street

Kicking and a-gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer."

Section 9(1) reads:

"9 (1) A person commits an offence if that person -

( a) uses a computer to send to another person any data ... that is obscene, constitutes a threat, or is menacing in nature; and

(b) with the intention to harass any person or cause harm, or the apprehension of harm, to any person or property."

It seems to me that the naming and shaming of alleged sexual abusers falls squarely within the four corners of this silly statute. The 'message' is certainly 'menacing' and might even constitute an implied threat. It's certainly intended to at least "harass"; certainly to cause "harm" in its widest sense or "apprehension of harm". In other words, being accused of a sex crime is highly likely to cause all of the "you-hurt-my-feelings (sob)" sequelae listed in subsection (b).

I tell ya, I've fought tougher men

But I really can't remember when.

He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.

I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,

He went for his gun and I pulled mine first.

He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.

And he said, 'Son, this world is rough

And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough

And I know I wouldn't be there to help you along.

So I give you that name and I said goodbye.

I knew you'd have to get tough or die.

And it's the name that helped to make you strong.

But, it's all nonsense. Any person aggrieved by being wrongly named has recourse in the civil law of defamation. Just like bullying in the real world, it's best for the 90-pound weakling being pushed around in the schoolyard to toughen up, lift some weights, and stand up to the bully. Life's lessons are far better learned by experience than in the courthouse.

He said, 'Now you just fought one hell of a fight

And I know you hate me, and you got the right to kill me now,

And I wouldn't blame you if you do.

But ya oughtta thank me, before I die,

For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye

Cause I'm the sonofabitch that named you Sue.

What did I do? What could I do?

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun

I called him my Pa, and he called me his son

And I came away with a different point of view.

And I think about him, now and then,

Every time I try and every time I win,

And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him ...

Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

Legendary rock 'n' roll/country music singer/songwriter Johnny Cash, still the only artiste to be inducted into all three Halls of Fame, debuted A Boy Named Sue (written by Shel Silverstein showing how bullying could be a character-building tool) during a live 1969 performance at San Quentin prison. The live recording became one of his biggest hits.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to