Cyberbullying and the Law

The use of modern communication devices to bully someone is known as cyberbullying. Computers, mobile phones, tablets, and game consoles can all be used for electronic communication. Emails, text messages, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, chat rooms, interactive video games, and a variety of other mediums can all be used to perpetrate cyberbullying. Every day, as technology continues to evolve, more opportunities appear for people to abuse communication in the digital age to cause harm to others.

Posting hurtful, disrespectful, or embarrassing remarks or images on social networking sites, sending threatening or abusive emails, or creating bogus online personas to ridicule or belittle another person are all examples of cyberbullying, and in the past 10 to 15 years, they have sadly become very common.

What makes cyberbullying different from traditional bullying?

Cyberbullying takes place online, but many victims report that they have also been tormented in person, making the abuse appear impossible to avoid. The following are some of the distinctions between cyberbullying and ‘direct’ bullying:

  • Cyberbullying can occur at any hour of the day or night. Bullies have unlimited access to the internet, thus their behaviour is not limited to work, school, or social hours. This can lead to people feeling that they cannot escape being bullied and harmed online.
  • Cyberbullying can involve a bigger audience, even if they are unaware of it. If a bully posts a photo of a victim on the internet, for example, that photo can be viewed and shared by a much larger audience.
  • Cyberbullying makes it easy to secure evidence. One advantage that cyberbullying victims may have is that they frequently have more physical proof that they may keep and provide to the police. To aid investigations and, ideally, secure convictions, victims can snap screenshots, download pictures, and exchange website addresses.
  • On the internet, bullies may cover their identities more easily. Bullies, often known as keyboard warriors or trolls, are able to act in ways that they would not be able to in the ‘real’ world since their identity is masked.
  • When cyberbullies bully their victims online, they usually don’t see their victims’ reactions, which means they aren’t aware of the emotional misery they inflict. This is especially troubling because cyberbullies do not experience the emotional consequences of their actions, making them less likely to stop.

Is cyberbullying considered a crime?

Cyberbullying in and of itself is not technically a crime in and of itself, and it is not regulated by a specific statute in the United Kingdom currently. A person who engages in cyberbullying, on the other hand, may be committing a criminal offence under a variety of statutes. The following are examples of this:

The Harassment Prevention Act of 1997

A person who pursues a course of action that amounts to harassment of another, which the offender knows or ought to know amounts to harassment, commits a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This could entail sending a person a series of unpleasant emails in the hopes of alarming or distressing them. A person convicted of this crime could face up to six months in prison, a monetary fine, or both.

Those found guilty of inducing another person to fear that violence would be used against them on at least two times may face harsher penalties under Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. If convicted of this crime, a person could face up to 5 years in prison as well as a fine.

In order to safeguard the victim, the 1997 Act grants courts the authority to issue restraining orders against persons found guilty of an offence.

The Malicious Communications Act of 1988

It is illegal to send a communication that is “indecent or extremely offensive” with the intention of causing “distress or anxiety to the receiver,” according to Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988. The Act also covers threats and material that is untrue and that the sender of the communication knows or believes to be false. A person who is found guilty of this crime faces a jail sentence of up to 6 months, a fine (now up to £5,000), or both.

2003 Communications Act

Sending a message or other materials that is regarded “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character” via any electronic communication network is a criminal offence under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. A person can receive up to six months in prison, a fine, or both if proven guilty of an offence under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

The Obscene Publications Act of 1959

It is illegal to print an indecent article under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. The effect of an obscene article is to deprave and corrupt those who are likely to read, see, or hear the matter included or embodied in the piece. Circulation, exhibiting, playing, or projecting the article, or data transmission are all examples of publishing.

1986 Public Order Act

Using threatening, abusive, or insulting words, behaviour, writing, or other visual representations likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress within the hearing or sight of a person is a crime under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. This offence could apply to cyberbullying when the camera or video functionality now found on the vast majority of mobile phones is used to cause harassment, alarm, or distress.

The Computer Misuse Act of 1990

The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 regulates the usage of computers. If someone hacks into the victim’s internet accounts or personal computer as part of cyberbullying, they may be committing an offense under this legislation..

Cyberbullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, particularly in the form of cyberbullying. One out of every five employees has been the victim of workplace bullying, which can lead to time away from work due to illness or stress. Bullying in the workplace is expected to cost UK companies £2 billion a year in lost productivity and sick pay, according to reports.

All employers have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 to create a safe working environment for their employees. If an employee is subjected to cyberbullying at work while using the company’s computer equipment and infrastructure, the employer may be in violation of the Health and Safety at Work Act’s duty to safeguard employees.

How Can We Help?

At Levy & Co, we are well versed in all forms of criminal law. If you have been accused of committing an offense under this legislation, we are always happy to help. Online personas, gaming characters and avatars shroud a person’s identity online, and in many cases, this has been used to set people up for crimes they have not committed. Recently, cyber crime has been on the rise in the UK, and the This has changed the landscape when dealing with all forms of cyber crime and cyberbullying.

Levy & Co

I'm a content writer and blogger for Levy & Co Solicitors.