The law and cyberbullying

In severe cases, cyberbullying can be against the law in Australia. Cyberbullying comes in many different forms; sending DMs, messages, and e-mails that bully the person getting the message is just one form of cyberbullying. When it happens often and is done on purpose, it can make you feel terrified, upset, hurt or even embarrassed. Cyberbullying can be anything from messages to embarrassing photos, rumours, threats, exclusion, catfishing or even doxing.

Some of the laws which can apply to cyberbullying are below but remember the law is tricky, and this is a summary of general information. If you want more specific information, you can contact LawStuff here and click on the "get help now" link to provide state or territory-specific information and contact details. Legal Aid also provides information that can be relevant and helpful.


If you are using the internet or a device to

  • Harass or intimidate someone; there is a national law that makes it a crime. For this to be considered a crime there needs to have a serious effect on the targeted person.

  • Stalk or frighten someone; this can also be considered a crime. Stalking can involve continuously contacting or following someone repeatedly.

  • Threaten someone, there is a national law that makes it a crime to threaten to hurt, destroy or damage people or their property.

  • Encourage someone to commit suicide; this is a crime and against the law.

  • Send or threaten to post sexual or nude images or videos of someone without their permission; this is image-based abuse which is a crime.


Other criminal and civil laws could apply, but it all depends on your specific circumstances. These include

  • Logging onto someone's online accounts to find information or change their details.

  • Posting information online about someone that is untrue and can damage their reputation and defame them.

  • Ridiculing or mocking someone based on their race, sexual identity, or cultural identity. These actions can align with anti-discrimination laws.


If what you've read has caused some concerns or worries and you'd like some support, you can call Lifeline on 13 14 11 at any time. They are available 24/7. Headspace also provides counselling and support in many forms for individuals up to the age of 25. If you're in immediate risk or someone you know is, call 000 to speak to emergency services.


References

Youth Law Australia (2021). Cyberbullying. https://yla.org.au/nsw/topics/internet-phones-and-technology/cyber-bullying/

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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