With over half of the world having access to social media, there has been a rise in complaints of cyberbullying and harassment. But, is there any real legal protection if you receive harassing or inappropriate messages? Let’s discuss.
In 2018, following the tragic suicide of Amy Everett, the Commonwealth Criminal Code was updated with an offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence. To prove this offence, the police must show that a person:
- Used a carrier service; and
- They did so in a way that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.
Some examples of this behaviour include calling someone and making threats or posting offensive material against another person online.
The offence carries a maximum gaol sentence of 3 years. It becomes aggravated where private sexual material is involved (‘revenge porn’). In these circumstances, the maximum gaol sentence is 5 years.
In 2017, new offences relating to ‘revenge porn’ were added to the NSW Crimes Act. These provisions prohibit recording or distributing intimate images without consent or threatening to do so. The new offence carries a maximum gaol sentence of 3 years.
Under the NSW Crimes Act, a person may be charged with stalking or intimidation with intent to cause physical or mental harm. These offences are skewed to incidences arising out of a personal or domestic relationships.
In order to prove the offence, the police must show that someone:
- Did or attempted to stalk or intimidate a person; and
- That person intended to cause fear of physical or mental harm (whether or not the victim actually did actually fear).
This offence carries a maximum gaol sentence of 5 years.
While there is some protection for victims of cyberbullying and cyberstalking, there are still issues the law hasn’t yet evolved to deal with, such as tracking overseas web users and dealing with creation of fake profiles.
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