Online Harassment

The term harassment is covered under section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.

You must have experienced at least two incidents by the same person or group of people for it to be harassment (https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/stalking-and-harassment).

 

The use of the internet as a source of extending the scope of harassment from purely physical to digital has become a more emerging issue due to the advance of technology and social media applications. 

 

Cyber bullying

Cyberbullying is using the internet, email, online games or any digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else (https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/types-bullying/online-bullying). Although this isn’t illegal, if it becomes persistent, this may then fall into the category of online stalking or harassment. 

 

Examples:

Online harassment, online stalking and cyber bullying can take a wide variety of forms including:

  • Trolling (sending menacing or upsetting messages)
  • Identity theft
  • Doxxing (making available personal information)
  • Cyberstalking (stalking someone on their online pages, including their social media accounts)
  • Trying to damage your reputation by making false comments
  • Tricking other people into threatening you
  • Encouraging other people to be abusive or violent towards groups of people

The general legal principle is that what is illegal offline is also illegal online.

(House of Commons library Briefing paper, online harassment and cyber bullying Sept 2017)

 

 

Online Hate Crime

The term 'hate crime' can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity (https://www.cps.gov.uk/hate-crime) Online hate crime is a relatively new practice. With race hate crime seeming to be the most significant (Action against hate: 2016).

 

 


The legal standpoint is that if something is illegal offline, it is also illegal if done online via social media, webpages and email.

 

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