Cyberbullying is when an individual or group uses the Internet and other technologies like cellphones to harm other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile way.
- Using electronic devices to send or post images to hurt or embarrass another person
- Sending emails when someone said they no longer want contact with you
- Sending messages with threats or sexual remarks
- Ganging up on someone online to ridicule them
- Posting false statements as if they are facts just to humiliate someone
Depending on the situation, cyberbullying may be punishable under civil law or criminal law. For example, it may fall under civil law if the bully caused harm to the targeted person’s reputation by spreading false information about them. This is called defamation and could result in the bully paying damages (money) to the person who was targeted.
A cyberbully could be breaking a criminal law too. A cyberbully could be charged with harassment or defamatory libel. For example, cyberbullying would be harassment if a court found that the targeted person feared for their safety. This is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
An act of bullying could also be found to have harmed someone’s reputation (defamation). It is considered defamatory libel when the remarks are permanent, such as when they are recorded in a book or on a website. It usually concerns the reputation of a person in authority. It is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. MediaSmarts has a fact sheet on its website that describes the ways in which cyberbullying falls under civil law and criminal law.
To join the fight against bullying, including cyberbullying, visit the Stop a Bully website. In this video, kids talk about being cyberbullied and what people can do to prevent it.