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Hate Crime or Cyber Crime?

The case has attracted worldwide attention and sparked a national conversation about cyber-bullying and other computer crimes. The Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his intimate encounter with another man was broadcast on the Internet has been the subject of countless media reports and water-cooler conversations.

Did Tyler Clementi kill himself because he had been the victim of a hate crime? That is what the jury must decide in the trial of Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi.

Ravi is not being charged in the matter of Clementi's death. Rather, he is facing charges that include invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and tampering with a witness and evidence. The most serious charges are two counts of bias intimidation.

Although Ravi is not accused of a cyber crime, the case raises the issue because Ravi filmed his roommate's sexual encounter and posted it on the Internet. He intended to do it again, and posted details on Twitter about how to access the feed.

Some legal experts believe that this is not the right case to test New Jersey's invasion of privacy laws because they do not match what Ravi is accused of doing. Gay activists are concerned that the high profile case will receive much attention but not do much to improve awareness and end prejudice.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Jury to rule: Was hate motive of NJ webcam spying?" Feb. 23, 2012.

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