New Details in the Tyler Clementi Cyberbullying Case

There are some new details emerging in the Tyler Clementi cyberbullying case at Rutgers.  The case involves freshmen at Rutgers University.  Dharun Ravi used a webcam to film and broadcast online an intimate encounter between his roommate Tyler Clementi and another man.  Ravi watched the encounter in the dorm room of his friend, Molly Wei.  Distraught when he found out he was being spied upon, Clementi committed suicide.  Ravi and Wei were criminally charged with invasion of privacy.  Wei pled guity.  Ravi’s trial is upcoming.  For more background about the case and my initial thoughts on it, please read my Huffington Post article,The Clementi Suicide, Privacy, and How We Are Failing Generation Google (Oct. 7, 2010).

The news media is reporting some new details about the case.  Here are some of the details as reported by the NJ Star-Ledger:

•  Clementi told his family he was gay shortly before leaving for college and received a mixed reaction from his parents. “It’s a good thing dad is ok w/it or I would be in serious trouble/ mom has basically completely rejected me,” Clementi wrote in another instant messaging chat with a friend.

• Ravi used his computer skills to deduce Clementi was gay as soon as Rutgers sent him the name of his new roommate. He used Clementi’s e-mail address to learn he had frequented web pages for gay men. “Most gay person I’ve ever seen,” Ravi wrote in an Aug. 22, 2010, computer chat with a friend.

• After they moved in together, Clementi and Ravi spent time in their room chatting on their computers with friends about their tense living arrangements. Clementi said Ravi would not change his clothes in front of him. “He knows I’m gay and wow he changes his pants inside of his closet … it’s the most awk thing you’ve ever seen,” Clementi wrote in an instant messaging chat with a friend.

• While Ravi made fun of Clementi being gay, Clementi made fun of his roommate’s Indian heritage. “His (family) is sooo indian/ first gen americanish . . . just like . . . first son off to college . . . his rents defs owna dunkin (donuts),” Clementi wrote in an Aug. 28 chat with a friend the day he moved into the dorm.

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Ravi’s co-defendant, Molly Wei, who has known Mr. Ravi since grade school and has agreed to testify against him, described him to investigators as a braggart and a habitual liar, who tried to mislead the police into thinking that the spying was unintentional.

Even before he met his future roommate, Mr. Ravi had learned from some Internet research about Mr. Clementi’s sexual orientation, had written about it on Twitter and was discussing it with friends.

On Sept. 19, three days before he killed himself, Mr. Clementi asked Mr. Ravi to leave their room for a few hours. Mr. Ravi figured out that his roommate intended to have another man visit.

“Dharun’s in my room and he’s kind of freaking out,” Ms. Wei said of the episode in an interview with investigators, adding that he had said he was worried the visitor would steal his iPad.

Mr. Ravi set up his webcam so that they could view his room on Ms. Wei’s computer, and later turned it on and saw Mr. Clementi and his guest, their shirts off, kissing and touching. “We were both kind of just in shock,” she said, “just freaking out.”

Cross posted at TeachPrivacy’s Education Privacy Law Blog

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