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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dharun Ravi guilty of hate crime, stupidity is not a good defense

    The trial of former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi should be a wake-up call to all Internet users who should be aware of the potential consequences of their actions.

    Ravi was found guilty of hate crimes based on tweets and videos he’d streamed of Tyler Clementi, his gay roommate, who later committed suicide.

    He became infamous in September 2010 when Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after seeing Ravi’s invasive tweets about him, including an invitation to watch one of his sexual encounters via iChat.

    And what Clementi read on Ravi’s Twitter account, while certainly offensive, wasn’t outrageous compared to other online content. Before meeting in person, Ravi linked to Clementi’s public profile on Justusboys, a gay pornography site, on Twitter with the caption “Found out my roommate is gay.”

    After the school year began, he tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

    Two days later, he wrote the tweet that caused Clementi to complain to Rutgers’ Residence Life Department: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.”

    Ravi’s lawyer, Steven Altman, asked the jury to consider Ravi’s intentions rather than his actions, claiming that his intention was not to harm Clementi or make him feel insecure about his sexuality.

    “He was an 18-year-old boy,” he told Middlesex County Superior Court, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A college freshman who had an experience he wasn’t ready for … and he didn’t know how to deal with it because he was a kid.”

    The argument didn’t work in court. Ravi may be a homophobe who intentionally committed a hate crime, or maybe he was just being, as his lawyer describes, “stupid, ignorant and immature,” but either way, his roommate is dead. His intentions are irrelevant.

    According to The New Yorker, Ravi’s friends say the tweets weren’t out of character. He had posted 2,000 tweets before meeting Clementi, telling his followers about his 2.88 GPA, his fake ID and once that he was “stoned out of my mind,” among other things.

    Some friends described him as narcissistic and “kind of a dick,” and one close friend even said, “He’s so much of a jerk that it may seem like he’s a homophobe, but he’s not.”

    A few friends who saw the videos told him to take them down, saying they weren’t as funny as he thought they were.

    Being an idiot isn’t an excuse for Ravi’s actions. Even if he thought he was being funny, his actions led to a death. Although the court did not find him responsible for Clementi’s death, the jury was right to convict him for all 15 charges against him, including two counts of bias intimidation based on sexual orientation. His trial should be an example for all other people who bully online, especially those who don’t know they’re doing so.

    There is no excuse for cyberbullying, and no reason a tweet or post should have drive anyone to suicide.

    Unfortunately, too many people are like Ravi and use social networking to harm others ­— and ultimately, themselves. Most people who post stupid tweets or statuses probably don’t intend to hurt anyone. They just want to complain about their roommate, get back at an ex or simply get a rise out of their perceived audience. But sadly, as long as people don’t take that tiresome advice and think about what they post, cyberbullying will continue to exist.

    People should be aware of the potential repercussions of their posts, and their friends should flag inappropriate comments when the poster choose not to. In the long run, no status or tweet is worth it.

    — Lauren Shores is a journalism sophomore. She can reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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