The way we interact online is changing at a pace that the law is struggling to keep up with. While it tries to figure things out, we need to realize that the things our children do (to each other) online do leave a permanent mark. That is why you need to learn CyberBullying Laws in UK.
There have been several incidents and tragic stories of young ones terribly affected by the intoxicating reach of online bullying. According to the cyber bullying charity, the Cybersmile Foundation, every 20 minutes a child between 10 to 19 years of age attempts to commit suicide in England and Wales, while one in three children in the UK suffers from cyber-bullying, hence the pressing need for anti cyberbullying laws.
Cyber bullying, harassment and hoaxes have been linked to teen depression, such as the story of fourteen-year old Carney Bonner, who attempted self-harm after being relentlessly subject to a Cyber bullying campaign that ate into his self-confidence. Even worse, it has been linked to suicide, like the case of fifteen-year old schoolgirl Megan Gillan who took a fatal overdose of painkillers in June after bullies waged a hate campaign against her on Bebo, the popular SNS. Beyond the tragedy of a life so cruelly cut short, the fact that these young people felt they had no alternative but to commit suicide should surely awaken us to the acute child-on-child violence made possible by cyber bullying.
CyberBullying Laws in UK: What do cyber bully laws say?
All UK state schools are required to have anti-bullying policies under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and independent schools have similar obligations under the Education (Independent Schools Standards) Regulations 2003. These should include policies and processes for dealing with Cyber bullying against teachers, as well as pupils.
Although Cyber bullying is not a specific criminal offence in UK law, criminal internet bullying laws such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 may apply as cyberbullying laws in terms of harassment or threatening behavior. Where mobile bullying is concerned, the Telecommunications Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence to make anonymous or abusive calls. In addition, if you are harassed persistently on your mobile, it may be an offence under the 1997 Harassment Act. There is some anecdotal evidence that the police are more comfortable in bringing forward this law when dealing with issues of Cyber bullying. The police have successfully used the Protection from Harassment Act to prosecute for the sending of offensive e-mails through the internet. Such messages will also constitute an offence under the Malicious Communications Act and be treated as one of the cyberbullying laws.
Furthermore, the Communications Act 2003 makes it a criminal offence to send: “…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”.
CyberBullying Laws in UK: The Challenges Facing Policymakers in creating cyber bully laws
Despite these laws, several problems remain. First, how should lawmakers define Cyber bullying and cyber stalking? Also, if charges are pressed, does this violate the bully’s freedom of speech?
“In an attempt to protect people, we risk curbing their right to be offensive, inane, or downright ridiculous.” says Emily Jupp in a relevant -rather sarcastic- article published in The Daily Mail. “Even more worrying is Section 127 of the Communications Act, which suggests if you re-share or retweet something that breaks the law, you commit the same offence. As far as I know, this hasn’t been enforced yet, but it’s potentially very scary”, she says.
To further explore the challenges, there are real issues in policing online offences when they are committed by those in other countries (in other words, victims are protected if their “attacker” is in the UK, but unprotected if not) which in itself has sparked a debate as to whether Twitter, Facebook or other media sites should bear some form of criminal responsibility themselves for allowing their sites to be used in the commission of these offences. Facebook has a rule that if you are under 13 you can’t set up a profile on the site, but parents still allow young children to access it. In seventh grade, British Columbian Amanda Todd would have been 12 years old when she first got in contact with the bully that tormented her for the rest of her life.
On July 12th, 2009, a status posted on Facebook said:
“Keeley is going to murder the b*****. She is an actress. What a ****ing liberty. Emily ****head Moore.”.
Keeley Houghton, who was 18 then, had victimized Emily Moore for four years, both online and offline, before a court ruling sentenced her to a three-month period in a young offenders’ institution, becoming the the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site.
Furthermore, in June 2012, Nicola Brookes from Brighton, England, won court backing to force Facebook to reveal the identities of cyberbullies who had targeted her with a string of abusive messages on the website after she posted comments in support of the former X-Factor contestant, Frankie Cocozza. Facebook was to be made to reveal the names, emails and IP addresses of those behind the abusive messages, showing who they are and where they posted from. It was believed to be one of the first cases where an individual had successfully taken action against Facebook to reveal such kinds of information.
In a statement made regarding the court order, published in The Guardian, Facebook said, “There is no place for harassment on Facebook, but unfortunately a small minority of malicious individuals exist online, just as they do offline. We respect our legal obligations and work with law enforcement to ensure that such people are brought to justice.”
Finally, while a growing body of evidence is emerging that identifies peer-to-peer bullying as an increasing component of our young people’s daily experience in cyberspace, the legal system has sent clear messages to young people that criminal acts of bullying will be not be tolerated. However, it is not good social policy to wait until bullying reaches such acute levels before we intervene. For every bully who is punished before the court, many more will succeed in tormenting their target if we fail to engage sufficiently with the problem at a grass-root level.
The Cyberbullying Protection Law made it a crime to harass, stalk and bully another person, over the internet. Other pieces of internet bullying law soon followed. More than one internet bullying law was drafted and enacted in every state of the union. Federal legislation was also enacted to protect internet users from being stalked and harassed. A special internet bullying law was passed that was designed to specifically protect minors. Each state was responsible for drafting, approving and enforcing their own versions of this internet bullying law.
If we are to effectively reduce the incidence and impact of Cyber bullying, we need to better engage with young people, both in and out of school, and utilize their own agency to assail online bullying with cyberbullying laws.
In October, 2014, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that Internet trolls and cyber bullies might face up to two years in jail under new laws protecting users against cyber threats, cyber bullying, internet trolling and cyber blackmail. This came after the case of TV presenter Chloe Madeley who suffered from a long damaging wave of cyber bullying and online abuse for defending her mother’s opinion on Twitter.
Grayling said “These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life.” Adding, “No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence.”
It is important for parents and educators to understand that they can’t do all the work on their own, they must press for harsher internet bullying laws today. Those cyber bully laws are essential in protecting innocent children from falling prey to child predators online.
If you don’t have cyber bully laws, we sincerely encourage you to ask around about cyber bully laws campaigns and if there aren’t any cyber bully laws campaigns available. Create your own cyber bully laws campaign with members of your own community.
It is essential to remember that seeking laws of cyberbullying in your area is not a luxury, it is important for your children’s welfare. Seek laws of cyberbullying with your legislator today!
Laws against cyber bullying are not a privilege, they are a necessity in today’s world. Ask for laws against cyber bullying in your community now!