Cyberbullying and cyber harassment: acts punishable by law

Harassment and bullying are nothing new. Characterized by offensive actions, words, images and behaviors, harassment and bullying aim to demean or socially exclude another person.

However, with the advent of the internet, harassment and bullying have taken on a whole new form. The basic nature remains the same. Only the means have changed. As methods of online communication have developed, we’ve seen the emergence of what today is known as cyberbullying and cyber harassment.

What is cyberbullying?

The term “cyberbullying” designates any form of hostile communication perpetrated via websites, social media, email, blogs, instant messaging or text messages. Threats, insults and offensive messages of a sexual nature are all forms of bullying that may be directed at classmates, workmates or ex-partners, among others.

Here are some specific examples of acts that are considered violations of the Criminal Code and could therefore lead to prosecution:

  • Sending unsolicited or threatening emails
  • Transmitting viruses by email intentionally
  • Propagating rumors
  • Transmitting defamatory or negative remarks online
  • Usurping another person’s identity
  • Transmitting content that is pornographic or of an offensive nature
  • Inciting hatred
  • Encouraging suicide, etc.

How the internet enables cyberbullying

In addition to offering new possible roads to bullying, the internet, by its very nature, can be fertile ground for aggressors:

The accessibility of the network: the ease of entering in contact with anyone in any part of the world, the possibility of contacting people at any time, and the rapid, instantaneous character of the interactions all mean that the possibilities for bullying are no longer limited by the bounds of time and space.

The sense of anonymity: in recent years, the social media have made this matter a hot topic of discussion and debate. The sense of anonymity that the internet gives its users makes them feel as though they can express things they wouldn’t dare to say in a different context.

Greater scope: everything that is shared on the internet can be viewed by thousands or even millions of people all over the world. As a result, the prejudice against the victim is multiplied and can reach disproportionate levels.

What are the consequences for aggressors?

Engaging in bullying can end up being a costly mistake. The offenses punishable by law (listed above) can lead to an arrest, and if the aggressor is found guilty, the sentence will vary depending on the seriousness of the violation. The perpetrator also runs the risk of facing charges in civil court, which could result in having to pay a large sum of money in damages to the victim.

Have you been accused of cyber harassment?

If you’ve been accused of cyberbullying, contact criminal lawyer Martine Thibodeau to learn about your rights and possible recourses. It would be her pleasure to meet with you in her offices in Valleyfield or Vaudreuil.



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