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This article gives advice on what you can do if you are bullied on line and although I deal speficially with social networking sites it can be applied to other online areas such as forums, gaming, texting and messaging services.  If you are being bullied on line there are various laws that can be used to help you defend yourself.

Cyberbullying is the term used to define bullying behaviour that takes place on line, on social networking, mobile technologies, gaming and instant messaging platforms.

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Cyberbullying is an issue that is affecting more and more people, and does not discriminate for age, race, gender or social background.  It causes untold and often unseen amounts of anguish for many people.

Cyberbullying, like all forms of  bullying and harassment, stalking, etc are now being taken a lot more seriously by social networks, gaming organisations etc and the police.  If you are being affected by these issues please tell someone you can trust and seek help.  Many more people will continue to be effected if bullies are consistently escaping being called to account for their actions.

My Personal Experience

As a result of challenging a particularly hate-filled link I had been sent via Facebook I was faced with a barrage of abuse all of which is prosecutable under the laws detailed below.  Anything I posted in my own defence was deleted, similarly anyone who came to my defence was deleted and we were all banned from posting anything further.

If you are being bullied or harassed online, seek help from someone you trust.

Lies concerning my work status, the parentage of my 3 children and allegations about my sexual behaviour was widely circulated as fact and with great authority by the admin of the page involved (although he does not know anything about me or my background).  An example of 2 of the comments are visible here and those are the milder of what was later written.  The participants certainly have a lot of anger to vent event with their albeit limited vocabulary.

All of the comments relating to this were subsequently removed probably because they knew it had been reported to Facebook and they did not want the page to be closed and possibly to prevent a case for slander or harassment being brought against them. I did however, have the foresight to take several screenshot photographs of various comments.

Luckily once I had blocked the worst offenders and ignored all the comments they went away.  Had it not stopped I would at least have had some form of concrete evidence to present to the police.

I’m being bullied, What Can I do?

On social networking platforms like Facebook, MySpace and so on there are ways of dealing with mild to moderate bullying:

  • Set your profile to friends only or private
  • Block the offenders from seeing your profile or contacting you
  • Report the abuse to the organisation
  • Delete the comments if this option is available

Personal Tip ~ take screenshots of comments that appear on pages/walls/forum posts.  Bullies often delete their comments once they have been seen (and the damage done) so if you subsequently report them the comments are no longer there.  You may also need to use these as evidence later

What about the law?

You do have recourse to certain laws, in England and Wales there are 4 such laws on the statute books that can be applied to certain actions on line.

  1. Protection from Harassment Act 1997 – has been successfully used by the police to bring prosecutions for offensive emails. Specifically this law states that ‘A person must not pursue a course of conduct, which:
    • amounts to harassment of another
    • he knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment of the other.’
  2. Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 – defines intentional harassment as an offence.  A person is guilty of this offence if he or she
    • uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour; or
    • displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
  3. Malicious Communications Act 1998/Telecommunications Act 1984 – The MCA states that it is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person.  The Telecommunications Act 1984 it concerned with similar offences where telephone messages are used.
  4. The Communications Act 2003
    The Communications Act 2003 Section 127 states that a person is guilty of an offence if he/she

    • sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
    • causes any such message or matter to be so
    • A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he/she knows to be false,
    • causes such a message to be sent; or
    • persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network

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Useful Links:  Respect Me  Wikipedia Dr Internet Safety, cyberbullying tactics More WordPress articles on this issue

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