4.4.2 Applicable legislature

Because the use of mobile and online communications has grown so rapidly and the crime is relatively new, many jurisdictions are deliberating over cyberbullying laws. However, if an online activity has indications or elements of a criminal act, existing laws should be considered, for example criminal law (assault, threats, harassment, protection of minors), civil law (defamation, data protection, consent), and in some cases regulations in special areas are also applicable (education, family, employment, human rights, data protection).

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, but not always illegal.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem and potentially extremely harmful. But in fact, a very small part of cyberbullying can be considered illegal activity. Most such behaviours are unacceptable behaviours that can and should be dealt with in the context of family and school environments.

However, at times cyberbullying incidents can have signs of criminal activity. We might believe there is a real threat to the target or the line toward harassment can be crossed. In such cases, local police departments or attorneys can be consulted to determine if the case should be reported to authorities.

It is important to realize that even if cyberbullying behaviours are not considered criminal acts, civil lawsuits may still be filed to determine the damage resulting from cyberbullying.

When designing policies and actions to fight cyberbullying, the applicable legislature should be considered. Specifically, school staff, youth workers, and parents should be aware which actions need to be reported to authorities.