Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: Legal Recourse for Victims

Introduction

In today’s interconnected world, the rise of digital communication has unfortunately led to an increase in cyberbullying and online harassment. Cyberbullying refers to the use of electronic means to intimidate, threaten, or humiliate an individual. This can take many forms, including abusive messages, spreading false rumours, or sharing personal information without consent. 

Online harassment extends to any unwelcome conduct performed via digital platforms, from social media applications and websites, to email and forums. If you or someone you know is a victim of cyberbullying, it is important to know your legal rights in order to take action.

Legal Options for Victims of Cyberbullying

Victims of cyberbullying in New South Wales (NSW) have several avenues for legal recourse. It is essential for victims to understand these options in order to take appropriate action and safeguard their rights.

Overview of Laws and Regulations Addressing Cyberbullying and Online Harassment in Australia

In Australia, cyberbullying and online harassment are addressed through multiple legislative measures. The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015, for instance, empowers the eSafety Commissioner to demand the removal of harmful content, particularly targeting the safety of children online.

Furthermore, under the Criminal Code Act 1995, using a carriage service to menace, harass, or cause offence, is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 also provides for Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) to protect individuals from harassment and stalking, including online forms.

Legal Avenues for Victims

Reporting to Platforms

Most social media platforms and websites have protocols to report and remove abusive content. Victims should leverage these reporting mechanisms to help ensure harmful material is taken down.

Seeking Restraining Orders

Victims can apply for an AVO if they face continuous cyberbullying. This order can prevent the perpetrator from contacting the victim via digital means.

Pursuing Civil Remedies

In cases where false and damaging statements are made online, victims may pursue civil action for defamation to restore their reputation and seek compensation.

Digital Evidence and Building a Case

Proper documentation and preservation of evidence are vital for both reporting incidents to platforms and for any ensuing legal proceedings. This means it is essential that digital evidence is preserved to help build a strong case against a cyberbully. Where possible, victims should attempt to attain evidence via:

Screenshots and Messages

Take and securely store screenshots of all abusive messages, posts, and any other relevant communications.

Online Interactions

Keep a detailed record of all interactions with the perpetrator, noting the context and frequency of the harassment

Third-Party Witnesses

Collect statements from witnesses who have observed the abusive behaviour online, as their testimonies can support the case.

Conclusion

Cyberbullying and online harassment are significant concerns that can cause profound emotional and psychological distress. In NSW, there are comprehensive legal frameworks and remedies available to assist victims in seeking justice. Understanding these options and meticulously preserving digital evidence empowers victims to take decisive action.

If you or someone you know is experiencing cyberbullying, seeking legal advice promptly is crucial. Maguire & McInerney is dedicated to helping victims navigate these challenges and protecting their rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and explore your options.