What is cyberbullying and how to prevent it?

What is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is a crime in which someone harasses or stalks a victim using electronic or digital means, such as social media, email, instant messaging (IM), or messages posted on a discussion group or forum. Cyberbullies take advantage of the anonymity offered by the Internet to stalk or harass their victims, sometimes without being caught, punished, or even detected.

What is cyberbullying?

The terms cyberstalking and cyberbullying are often used interchangeably. However, cyberbullying is actually a form of cyberbullying that, along with cybersquatting and cyberterrorism, is among the growing number of computer and Internet-related crimes, collectively referred to as cybercrime.

Although cyberstalking is a general term for online bullying, it can take many forms, including slander, defamation, false accusations, trolling, and even outright threats. In many cases, especially when both the harasser and the victim are people, the reason may be the following:

  • monitor the online and, in some cases, offline activities of the victim;
  • track victim’s locations and follow them online or offline;
  • disturb the victim;
  • intimidate, scare, control or blackmail the victim;
  • reveal private information about the victim, a practice known as doxing attack; either
  • collect more information about the victim in order to steal their identity or perpetrate other real-world crimes, such as theft or stalking.

Cyberbullies often start small. At first, they may send some strange or somewhat unpleasant messages to their intended victim. Then later, they can dismiss these messages as funny, annoying, or slightly weird and ignore them without taking any action.

Over time, the messages can become systematic, sustained, and repetitive, becoming increasingly intimidating or frightening in tone.

Direct and indirect cyberstalking

Cyberbullying can be direct or indirect.

The perpetrators can send emails directly to their victims or flood their inboxes with emails. Or they may harass you through instant messaging, voice mail, text messages, or other forms of electronic communications. They may use technologies to monitor or track their victims or continually view their pages, often without their knowledge.

Sometimes cyberbullies may send obscene, vulgar, or offensive comments, social media follower or friend requests, or even outright threats. Bullies may attack victims, which can make them distressed, or cause them to fear for their safety and well-being. They may also attack the family or friends of their victims to expand their stalking sphere of influence.

In indirect cyberstalking attacks, the perpetrators can damage the victim’s device. They can do this by infecting you with ransomware to lock your files and then force you to pay a ransom to unlock them. Or they can install a virus or keylogger that monitors the victim’s digital behavior and/or steals data from the device.

A particular type of spyware called a stalker can run on a victim’s digital device with Internet access and collect user actions on these devices, including emails, text messages, photos, and keystrokes.

In other indirect attacks, perpetrators may post false or malicious information about their victims online to damage their social standing or professional reputation, a form of cyberspace – or set up a fake forum or social media account in their victims’ names. to impersonate them and post material online on their behalf.

Cyberstalking: victims and criminals

Cyberbullies often haunt their victims for a long period of time. An overwhelming majority of cyberbullies are men, while the victims are often women. However, cases of cyberbullying in which women were the perpetrators are not unknown. For example, following the 2006 Megan Meier suicide case in Missouri, a female cyberstalker was charged and convicted in 2008 of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Occasionally, men have been victims in some cases of cyberbullying.

Victims of cyberbullying could be individuals (mature adults, young adults, and children are all susceptible) or groups, organizations, or even governments. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, children and adults are particularly vulnerable to a particular type of cyberbullying: sextortion.

This occurs when harassers threaten a victim with the disclosure of private or sensitive information unless the latter can satisfy the former’s demands for sexual favors, nude photos, etc.

Consequences of cyberbullying

As part of a cyber bullying campaign, a bully may harass a victim with content that is simply annoying or inappropriate and more annoying than anything else. In more serious cases, victims may have to deal with disturbing, traumatizing, or threatening content. They may face serious forms of harassment online, including sexual harassment and physical threats.

In almost all cases of cyberbullying, victims are upset at best and fearful at worst. Confusion, anger, and anxiety are common among victims. Some may also experience insomnia or suffer from physical ailments, such as headaches, acid reflux, or stomach ulcers, or mental ailments, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In extreme cases, they can become suicidal.

Is cyberbullying a crime?

Cyberbullying is a crime in many countries, including the United States. However, legislation to prevent cyber bullying and punish arrested cyber bullies varies from country to country and, in the case of the US, even from state to state.

California was the first US state to pass a cyber bullying law in 1999. Other US states with at least some form of cyber bullying legislation include the following:

  • Alabama
  • NY
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • Florida

Missouri’s cyberbullying law, intended to criminalize using the Internet to harass someone, was written after the aforementioned Megan Meier case.

Since 2000, US federal law specifically addresses cyberbullying under the Violence Against Women Act. Punishment for cyber bullying ranges from monetary fines to jail time.

Other countries that have legislation against cyberbullying are the following:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Philippines
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Nigeria
  • Singapore
  • South Africa

In the UK, cyberbullying is an actionable offense under the Protection Against Bullying Act 1997 or the Malicious Communications Act 1988. Some countries, such as Singapore, also have laws to prosecute internet trolls.

The practice of doxing, the online publication of a user’s personal and identification data, is considered a violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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