Bullying is a generations-old problem suffered by many children on playgrounds across the nation. Historically, bullies picked on those smaller in stature or more vulnerable to physical overpowering. However, in today’s society, bullying is taking place less in the schoolyard and more online and through social networking. Known as cyber-bullying, extreme and harassing conduct against others over the internet carries stiff criminal penalties ranging from harassment, threats and even assault. It is important to understand that even if a bully has not physically attacked his victim, cyber-bullying can fall under the realm of civil injury law.
Cyber-bullying can take place across many mediums: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, text messaging, blog posting or instant messaging services. In late-breaking Orange County news, a 28-year old man pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening violence against a Villa Park councilwoman. The charge, which is a felony, came after the defendant posted upon the victim’s Facebook page following a rally featuring the politician. The post contained threats of violence using weapons. He was sentenced to 97 days in jail for the threatening remarks which were posted regarding a protest against the Muslim Circle of North American Relief.
While the incident in Orange County was between two adults, statistics show that cyber-bullying overwhelmingly takes place between adolescents, teenagers and young adults. In 2006, 58% of children stated someone has said something mean or hurtful to them online. The growth of this phenomenon is attributed to the separability between victim and offender. By using the internet to commit bullying, offenders feel more confident than bullying in person. In June 2008, Representative Linda Sanchez proposed federal anti-cyber-bullying legislation criminalizing acts of digital harassment. California has lead the way in cyber-bullying laws by empowering school administrators with authority to punish students for bullying others online.
In addition to nationwide criminalization of cyber-bullying, the act of harassing another carries certain civil liability as well. Many civil suits are the result of physical assaults or violence. However, laws protect against defamation and infliction of emotional distress. A person victimized over the internet has legal options under which he could hold the bully responsible. Many circumstances of digital harassment involve explosive allegations or public dissemination of highly personal information. The California Court of Appeals has already held that this type of behavior does not fall under the First Amendment’s free speech protections and upheld a cyber-bullying defamation suit.
No two personal injury cases are exactly alike. Some personal injury plaintiffs suffer obvious and physical injuries. Others suffer in silence or at the hands of a harassing and irreverent online bully. In any event, we here at Ledger Law are dedicated to protecting our clients from all instances of injury. If you have been victimized by a bully of any type, feel free to contact us today. (800)-300-0001.