Cyber-Bullying is illegal, and criminal charges can be laid by the police. It can take place on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Cyber-bullying can also take place through mobile phone SMS, or via email. Bullying behaviour is defined as behaviour which is hurtful, embarrasses, threatens or intimidates, targets a certain person or group of people, and happens more than once. The effects of cyber-bullying can have devastating consequences especially for children who experience it from their peers. It can cause fear, embarrassment, poor performance at school, loss of confidence, revenge cyber-bullying, self-harm, and even suicide.
What are the Criminal Charges relating to Cyber-Bullying?
In Western Australia cyber-bullying offences are governed by the Criminal Code Act Compilation 1913. If the behaviour involves using the internet or a phone in a threatening, harassing or offensive way then charges can be laid. If a threat is made to hurt someone then criminal charges may result with a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment. Stalking can also occur when someone gets repeated messages that frightens, or intimidates, them. Under the Criminal Code a stalking offence can have a penalty of up to 3 years imprisonment. If you log into someone else’s online account without permission then you can be charged with unauthorised access which can result in a 2 year jail term. Defamation is governed by the Defamation Act 2005, and occurs when untrue information about someone is published. Encouraging suicide is a crime, and can include causing someone to commit suicide through your actions. The penalty for this is life imprisonment. Complaints relating to comments made about someone’s religion, race, disability, sexuality, or gender identity can also be made to the Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia .
What can be done about Cyber-Bullying?
If you are a victim of cyber-bullying it is important that you tell someone, and take measures so it stops. It is important to know how to block communications from cyber-bullies. If you are at school then find out about your school’s policy relating to cyber-bullying, and inform the school immediately if it is occurring. Internet service providers also should have policies on cyber-bullying as well as the social media sites, which can block people once a complaint has been made. If cyber-bullying occurs the first step is to block the person, the second is to ask them to remove it and inform them it is a crime, if it continues you can report it to the police, or email the Technology Crime Unit at Technology.Crime@police.wa.gov.au . If the harassment is by phone you can report the behaviour to your phone provider. The provider may investigate and send them a warning letter. The phone company also has the ability to suspend, or cancel, the person’s phone. If the behaviour continues, and you are being stalked, intimidated, harassed, or threatened you can also apply to the Court for a protection order to prevent them from contacting you again.
What to do if you have been accused of Cyber-Bullying?
In today’s society with unlimited access to social media cyber-bullying is a very real problem. It is easier to make a derogative comment about someone on line rather than to their face. Even if you are trying to by funny, don’t consider it a big deal, or don’t believe there would be any consequences think before you type. Cyber-bullying is never acceptable regardless of your intention. If you have been accused of cyber-bullying the best thing you can do is apologise, and remove the comment immediately. Charges are unlikely to be laid if you do not continue the behaviour. However, if the police become involved then it is important to seek legal advice. As mentioned offences relating to cyber-bullying can result in terms of imprisonment. The law does not deem the offence any less serious because it was committed through social media, or text message, than if the behaviour was done face to face.