Is Cyberbullying Illegal? When Comments Turn Criminal (2023)

Is Cyberbullying Illegal? When Comments Turn Criminal (1)

It’s no surprise that cyberbullying has been a hot topic lately. With the rapid progression of technological abilities, the age-old issue of bullying has moved to the more anonymous—but no less harmful—digital world.

Recent research reports that 58 percent of kids admit to receiving hurtful comments online. About 75 percent of students have visited a website bashing another student while about 70 percent of students report seeing frequent bullying online.

And with the denouncement of cyberbullying by national figures, the problem is well on its way to attracting unprecedented attention. But in the midst of it all, it’s difficult to parse what cyberbullying really means at a legal level.

Is cyberbullying illegal? Could it result in jail time? Keep reading for expert insights and clarity on the legal ramifications of cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying, anyway?

“Cyberbullying is the platform the twenty-first century bully uses to inflict pain and humiliation upon another,” says author and speaker Dr. John DeGarmo of The Foster Care Institute. “The use of technology to embarrass, threaten, tease, harass or even target another person.” DeGarmo emphasizes the danger of cyberbullying in how inescapable it can be.

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“Today’s bully can follow the targeted victim wherever that child may go,” he explains. “Whether the child is in school, at home ... whenever that bullied child has access to online technology, he or she can be bullied.” He adds that this form of bullying can be non-stop; twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

"Today's bully can follow the targeted victim wherever that child may go."

DeGarmo stresses that bullying is on the upswing. Online platforms create easy, accessible opportunities for harassment—to the point that witnessing cruelty online is the norm for many. “Younger people see that on Twitter all the time,” he says. “It’s become part of their daily lives, and it’s a breakdown of compassion.”

Because cyberbullies can’t witness the effect of their words, they use less restraint than they would in face-to-face situations. This emotional and physical detachment allows them to harass others, in some cases without truly realizing they’ve become a bully. But if you are thinking cyberbullying can never harm someone as much as a punch or getting shoved into a locker, think again.

“We see a significant number of young people who have experienced cyberbullying,” says Dr. Jeff Nalin of Paradigm Malibu. “We have seen young people traumatized from a variety of events ranging from character assassination to revenge porn and taunts to engage in destructive behaviors, including suicide.”

With the possibility of such severe ramifications, it begs the question: Is this a criminal offense?

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Is cyberbullying a crime?

“Yes, there can be legal consequences,” says attorney and founder of Carter Law Firm, Ruth Carter. “Depending on the rules of your state and the circumstances involved, discipline can include expulsion from school, criminal charges for harassment and/or civil lawsuits for defamation and other harms.”

"The last thing anyone wants is a suicide or school shooting because of cyberbullying."

DeGarmo adds that due to the prevalence of the issue, most schools have created specific policies for cyberbullying. “Ten years ago, no one gave much thought to this issue,” he says. “But now, schools are paying more attention. The last thing anyone wants is a suicide or school shooting because of cyberbullying.”

The consequences for cyberbullies depend on the specific circumstance. Many cyberbullying cases wind up getting prosecuted as harassment. Some cases result in civil court, while others might warrant criminal charges and prosecution for hate crimes, impersonation, harassment, cyberbullying and violations under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

In addition to the larger laws, individual states have their own rules for cyberbullying. Stopbullying.gov offers a state-by-state map to highlight the specific policies.

But where do we draw the line between what cyberbullying is and what it isn’t? What are some of the specific crimes cyberbullying can fall under? See this quick list below for reference.

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Here is a list of potentially criminal forms of cyberbullying, as listed by Stomp Out Bullying:

  • Harassing someone, especially if the harassment is based on gender, race or other protected classes
  • Making violent threats
  • Making death threats
  • Making obscene and harassing phone calls and texts
  • Sexting
  • Sextortion, which is sexual exploitation
  • Child pornography
  • Stalking someone
  • Committing hate crimes
  • Taking a photo of someone in a place where they expect privacy
  • Extortion

If you are unsure about whether or not a specific behavior counts as cyberbullying, Carter says the best course of action is to ask for help. “Review the rules and go to the proper authority, depending on what avenue you’re pursuing and ask if a particular behavior or situation is a violation,” she suggests.

Carter advises anyone feeling harassed by a possible cyberbully to keep copies of harassing messages, screenshots of social media posts and video of the date, profile information of who posted it and the URL.

What are the long-term consequences of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying could land you in court, get you fired, expelled or even arrested. But in addition to the trouble cyberbullies might face with authorities for a specific instance, both Carter and DeGarmo mention more long-term consequences.

“What goes online stays online,” DeGarmo says. “People can find it. Those posts and comments won’t just go away.”

"The courts have already ruled that there's no such thing as privacy online."

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DeGarmo recalls seeing applicants lose job opportunities because their potential employers went online to research the candidates and their social media platforms. “It’s becoming a more common practice for employers,” he says.

“What you thought was justified or funny in the moment may be tomorrow's regret,” Carter points out. “Once you put something out there, you can never fully take it back. My rule is don't put anything online that you wouldn't put on the front page of a newspaper.”

Carter has worked on several cases where social media posts became evidence or significant research factors in court. “The courts have already ruled that there’s no such thing as privacy online,” she adds.

Where is the issue of cyberbullying headed?

“Our culture has made a major shift for the better in identifying and addressing face-to-face bullying,” Nalin says. “Because the media is currently putting energy and focus on cyberbullying, it seems likely that we will be able to do the same in the online arena.”

Indeed, many anti-bullying campaigns are calling for increased uniformity and policy in how our society deals with cyberbullying. Sameer Hinduja recently wrote on the topic on behalf of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We go into schools all the time and administrators simply don’t know what they should do (and not do) to really make a difference,” he wrote. He calls for clear, practical guidance from the federal government for schools to understand how to reduce online (and offline) harassment and promote peer respect, tolerance and kindness.

“I hope the lesson of ‘think before you post’ is being instilled and frequently repeated to young people when they get their first device or social media accounts,” Carter says. “If you’re angry, upset or in another heightened emotional state, don’t post about it.” If you feel you need to vent about it, she suggests writing it down or creating a video for personal use. But she urges you never to put it on the internet, regardless of the privacy settings.

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Crime and technology

So is cyberbullying illegal? The answer to that is that it can be, and it is increasingly likely to have consequences for perpetrators. As cyberbullying has attracted greater attention, parents, educators, lawmakers and tech companies are hustling to create solutions. But the speed at which our technological capabilities develop is hard to match in legal infrastructure and the justice system.

Cyberbullying isn’t the only issue where technology and the legal system crosses wires. Learn about another example of the intersection of crime and technology in our article: Has Technology Outrun the Law? What We Learned from the Apple vs. FBI Case.

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FAQs

What are 2 different definitions of cyberbullying? ›

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

What is anti cyber bullying law? ›

It specifically references cyberbullying, or "bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication". The law does not include criminal sanctions. It directs school districts to draft policies and to report instances of bullying. Schools can suspend or expel students found guilty of bullying.

What is the best example of cyberbullying *? ›

Here are examples of cyberbullying
  • Sending mean texts or IMs to someone.
  • Pranking someone's cell phone.
  • Hacking into someone's gaming or social networking profile.
  • Being rude or mean to someone in an online game.
  • Spreading secrets or rumours about people online.
  • Pretending to be someone else to spread hurtful messages online.

What is problem statement on cyberbullying? ›

Statement of the Problem: Cyberbullying as the name implies is the use of cyberspace as a mechanism to bully others known or unknown to the bully. Cyberbullying has caused significant issues for those involved ranging from extreme displays of anger to suicide attempts.

Is cyberstalking a cyber crime? ›

Cyberstalking is a type of cybercrime that uses the internet and technology to harass or stalk a person. It can be considered an extension of cyberbullying and in-person stalking.

What does bully mean now? ›

transitive verb. 1 : to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion : to act like a bully toward bullied her younger brother. 2 : to cause (someone) to do something by means of force or coercion was bullied into accepting their offer. intransitive verb.

What is defamation in cyber crime? ›

Cyber defamation means injuring the reputation of a person on the internet by using social media email, etc. Generally, a defamatory statement has to be published over the internet to fall under the category of cyber defamation.

What is the punishment of cybercrime? ›

A misdemeanor conviction can result in relatively minor fines of a few hundred dollars, and possibly up to a $1,000 or more, while felony convictions can have fines that exceed $100,000. Jail or prison. A person convicted of certain internet or computer crimes may also face a jail or prison sentence.

Is online harassment a crime in the US? ›

Cyberbullying or Cyberstalking as Harassment

Cyberbullying tends to fall in a grey area that's harmful but not yet criminal. However, it often doesn't take much to cross the line into a criminal act when the behavior makes the targeted victim fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress.

Which of the following is not an example of cyberbullying? ›

Correct option is b. Bullying a classmate in the school corridor.

What are the factors of cyberbullying? ›

Whereas low self-esteem is usually linked to traditional bullying, many cyberbullies demonstrate a high perception of self-esteem in perceiving their relationships with peers as satisfying. However, feelings of loneliness and a perception of unsafety at school were often linked to cyberbullying.

What percentages of students grades 6 8 have responded that they have been cyberbullied? ›

In a study by Kowalski and Limber (2007) with students in grades 6-8, 18% said they had been cyberbullied at least once in the last couple of months and 6% said it had happened two or more times; 11% had cyberbullied others at least once in the last couple of months, and 2% said they had done it two or more times.

What is a conclusion of cyberbullying? ›

In conclusion, awareness is the key to prevent online harassment. We should make the children aware from an early age so they are always cautious. Moreover, parents must monitor their children's online activities and limit their usage. Most importantly, cyberbullying must be reported instantly without delay.

What is cyberbullying in your own words essay? ›

Cyber Bullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. Now a days it's so easy for someone to fall victim to a cyberbully or for someone to be a cyber bully. There are so many ways a person can be cyber bullied.

What are the social impact of cyberbullying? ›

Victims of cyberbullying can experience wide-ranging effects, including mental health issues, poor academic performance, a desire to drop out of school, and even suicidal ideation. Bullies themselves are also at an increased risk of issues such as substance abuse and experiencing violence.

How do you Cyberstalk someone? ›

There are several ways a cyberstalker goes after a victim. Here are a few examples.
...
Here are a few examples.
  1. False Accusations. ...
  2. Gathering Information. ...
  3. Monitoring. ...
  4. Flying monkeys. ...
  5. Playing the Victim. ...
  6. Sending viruses. ...
  7. Ordering products. ...
  8. Arranging a meeting.
23 Sept 2019

How do I get rid of a cyberstalker? ›

The first point of contact should be local law enforcement, such as the police department. You may also need to escalate further and report to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. To effectively report cyberstalking, you should collect evidence of the harassment.

Is stalking someone illegal? ›

Stalking is illegal and can include being followed or constantly harassed by another person - for example being sent unwanted emails.

What is Mully? ›

adjective. (US) A hornless or polled animal. noun. (UK, dialect, childish) A cow. noun.

How much are pocket bullies? ›

The Average Cost of an American Bully Puppy
American Bully SizePrice Range
Standard American Bully$2,000 to $5,000
Pocket American Bully$3,000 to $8,000
XL American Bully$5,000 to $10,000
4 Sept 2022

Who said bully for you? ›

Theodore Roosevelt, who left his mark on so many facets of American life, also changed its language: his use of the adjective “bully” as an exclamation of commendation is the most singular example of his linguistic influence.

What is an example of cyber defamation? ›

In today's digital age, defamation takes countless shapes and forms. Common defamation examples include: False posts, comments, statuses, and profiles on social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter used to harass individuals and businesses.

Can you sue for defamation on social media? ›

Can You Sue Someone for Defamation on Social Media? Yes, you can sue for social media defamation. However, while it may seem natural to want to sue the social media platform for defamation, your best option is to file a defamation lawsuit against the individual poster or commenter.

What is digital defamation? ›

A plaintiff suing for online defamation typically must show that the defendant: made a false statement of fact. the statement was made to someone other than the plaintiff. the statement harmed the plaintiff's reputation, and. the defendant was "negligent" (careless) about whether the statement was true or false.

Is cyber crime a criminal offense? ›

Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network. While most cybercrimes are carried out in order to generate profit for the cybercriminals, some cybercrimes are carried out against computers or devices directly to damage or disable them.

Is cyber crime criminal or civil? ›

Cyber crimes are criminal offenses committed via the Internet or otherwise aided by various forms of computer technology, such as the use of online social networks to bully others or sending sexually explicit digital photos with a smart phone.

Why is it hard to prosecute cyber criminals? ›

The world of cyber crime is more complicated. There are too many cybersecurity incidents and too little law enforcement resources available to keep up with the crime. To add more complexity to the issue, there are jurisdictional boundaries that prevent criminals from being prosecuted.

Is text harassment a crime? ›

A person found guilty of text harassment may face only misdemeanor charges and minimal jail time if the harassment was minor. Individuals with a documented history of harassment or those already under a restraining order are likely to receive harsher judgments.

Is it illegal to harass someone on social media? ›

Cyberstalking in California (Penal Code Section 646.9)

“Cyberstalking” is online harassment using an electronic communication device. It is one way to violate California's stalking laws. Penal Code section 646.9 prohibits the willful, malicious and repeated following or harassing of another person.

Is mental harassment a crime? ›

There are laws against mental abuse under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Act, Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, Dowry Prohibition Act and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Meaning, if anyone in the family, in-laws husband or wife are found to cause any mental torture, law in India takes strict action against them.

How much of a problem do you think cyberbullying is? ›

Answer: The numbers indicate that cyberbullying and harassment are huge problems for young people on social media.

Why is ignoring a mean email usually the best first response? ›

Why is ignoring a mean email usually the best first response? In most cases, cyberbullies stop after one email message. It frustrates cyberbullies' desire for an emotional response. If you respond, you could get in trouble for cyberbullying too.

How would you interpret the line in connection to cyberbullying Brainly? ›

  1. Answer: Cyberbullying exists bullying with the help of digital technologies. ...
  2. Explanation: Cyberbullying contains sending, publishing, or transferring unfavorable, dangerous, wrong, or mean content about somebody else.
  3. (1) I agree with this quotation... ...
  4. (2) ...
  5. (3)
9 Oct 2020

Who is the perpetrator of cyberbullying? ›

In this sample, 6.6% reported being a cyberbully victim, 5.0% reported being a perpetrator, and 4.3% reported being a perpetrator–victim. Cyberbullying behavior frequently occurred on Facebook or via text messaging.
...
CharacteristicUnweighted No. (Weighted %) or Mean ±SD
Cyberbully–victim32 (4.27)
Missing155
37 more rows

How does cyberbullying affect your mental health? ›

The effects of cyberbullying also include mental health issues, increased stress and anxiety, depression, acting out violently, and low self-esteem. Cyberbullying can also result in long-lasting emotional effects, even if the bullying has stopped.

What effects does cyberbullying Brainly have? ›

Explanation: Bullying—including cyberbullying—causes significant emotional and psychological distress. Just like any other victim of bullying, cyberbullied kids experience anxiety, fear, depression, and low self-esteem. They also may experience physical symptoms, and struggle academically.

Why is it difficult to catch perpetrators of cyberbullying? ›

Equipped with an Internet connection and a capable device, cyberbullies can wreak havoc on their victims at any time, from virtually anywhere. And because the act doesn't require face-to-face interactions like physical bullying, catching the perpetrators in timely fashion can be difficult.

What is cyberbullying journal article? ›

Defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text” (Patchin & Hinduja, 2006), this negative experience not only undermines a youth's freedom to use and explore valuable online resources, but also can result…

What is my conclusion on the lesson cyberbullying Brainly? ›

Answer: Cyberbullying is a problem in societies that are advanced enough to have the technology to connect with other people online and is not easily fixable.

What is the methodology of cyberbullying? ›

There are many different ways in which cyberbullies reach their victims, including instant messaging over the Internet, social networking web sites, text messaging and phone calls to cell phones. There are different forms of cyberbullying including, but not limited to, harassment, impersonation, and cyberstalking.

How do you start an essay? ›

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:
  1. Share a shocking or amusing fact.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Dramatize a scene.
  4. Kick it off with a quote.
  5. State your thesis directly.
  6. Pick the right tone for your essay.
  7. When you're stuck, work backwards.
2 Jun 2022

How do you write a paper about bullying? ›

Write your ideas on how to prevent bullying essay. Share your own experience of bullying at school: either being a victim or a person who has bullied someone. Write about your attitude to those who behave aggressively towards classmates. What are the effective ways to stop bullying in schools?

Should individuals be prosecuted for statements made on social media argumentative essay? ›

Individuals should definitely be prosecuted for statements made on social media. First and foremost, cyberbullying affects teens more than you think. Cyberbullying does not only take an emotional toll on its victim but can also lead to physical injuries and self harm according to, Psychologist Eden Foster.

What is problem statement on cyberbullying? ›

Statement of the Problem: Cyberbullying as the name implies is the use of cyberspace as a mechanism to bully others known or unknown to the bully. Cyberbullying has caused significant issues for those involved ranging from extreme displays of anger to suicide attempts.

What is the objective of cyberbullying? ›

Cyberbullying is acted through digital tools, it is often anonymous, and aims to destroy and psychologically humiliate the victim. There are various forms of cyberbullying that involve different reactions and consequences.

What are the effects of cyberbullying on students academic performance? ›

Loss of interest in going to school 1 8 Agree Decrease in academic performance 1 8 Agree Anxiety or low self -esteem 2 7 Agree Losing interest to listen the teachers 2 7 Maybe Not Participating in class 2 10 Maybe Not paying attention in class 2 9 Maybe Low self -esteem poor academic 2 8 Maybe Ashamed to go to school 2 ...

Is cyberbullying one word or two? ›

Using the Internet to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm someone else. Also spelled cyber bullying (without the hyphen) or cyberbullying (as one word). See also the Legal Definition of Bullying.

What is cyberbullying in your own words essay? ›

It includes actions to manipulate, harass and defame any person. These hostile actions are seriously damaging and can affect anyone easily and gravely. They take place on social media, public forums, and other online information websites. A cyberbully is not necessarily a stranger; it may also be someone you know.

What is cyberbullying Oxford dictionary? ›

[uncountable] ​the activity of using messages on social media, emails, text messages, etc. to frighten or upset somebody.

What is the synonym of cyberbullying? ›

What is another word for cyberbullying?
cyberharassmentonline bullying
online harassmentharassment online
bullying online

How much of a problem do you think cyberbullying is? ›

Answer: The numbers indicate that cyberbullying and harassment are huge problems for young people on social media.

How does cyberbullying affect your mental health? ›

The effects of cyberbullying also include mental health issues, increased stress and anxiety, depression, acting out violently, and low self-esteem. Cyberbullying can also result in long-lasting emotional effects, even if the bullying has stopped.

What is the plural of cyberbully? ›

Noun. cyberbully (plural cyberbullies) A bully who operates online, in cyberspace.

What are the social effects of cyberbullying? ›

Victims of cyberbullying can experience wide-ranging effects, including mental health issues, poor academic performance, a desire to drop out of school, and even suicidal ideation. Bullies themselves are also at an increased risk of issues such as substance abuse and experiencing violence.

How do you start an essay? ›

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:
  1. Share a shocking or amusing fact.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Dramatize a scene.
  4. Kick it off with a quote.
  5. State your thesis directly.
  6. Pick the right tone for your essay.
  7. When you're stuck, work backwards.
2 Jun 2022

How do you write a paper about bullying? ›

Write your ideas on how to prevent bullying essay. Share your own experience of bullying at school: either being a victim or a person who has bullied someone. Write about your attitude to those who behave aggressively towards classmates. What are the effective ways to stop bullying in schools?

What does cyberstalking mean? ›

Cyberstalking is a crime in which someone harasses or stalks a victim using electronic or digital means, such as social media, email, instant messaging (IM), or messages posted to a discussion group or forum.

What does disrupting mean? ›

transitive verb. 1a : to break apart : rupture three periods of faulting disrupted the rocks — University of Arizona Record. b : to throw into disorder demonstrators trying to disrupt the meeting. 2a : to interrupt the normal course or unity of … disrupted a bridge game by permanently hiding up the ace of spades …—

When was sexting added to the dictionary? ›

2. sexting n. (2007): the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cellphone. This is a relatively new word to be entered into the dictionary, but it's a huge one.

What do you think does cyber kindness mean? ›

Cyberkindness is using technological means to uplift, serve, love, improve someone's day, or otherwise use digital media to make life easier for someone, emotionally strengthen them, or mentally uplift them.

What does it mean persecutor? ›

(pɜːʳsɪkjuːtəʳ ) Word forms: plural persecutors. countable noun [usually plural] The persecutors of a person or group treat them cruelly and unfairly, especially because of their religious or political beliefs, or their race.

What are other words for mean? ›

greedy, selfish, callous, dangerous, evil, hard, malicious, nasty, rough, ugly, vicious, vile, humble, miserable, petty, vulgar, determine, imply, indicate, involve.

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