Cyberbullying means bullying a person using technology, such as social networks, email, forums, blogs or text messages. It can be devastating for the victims. This is why the law makes some kinds of behaviour illegal.
Is Cyberbullying a Crime?
Cyberbullying can be a crime, depending on the situation and the type of bullying. Here are a few examples of when cyberbullying might be a crime:
- Someone sent you dozens of mean emails. This person is harassing you, and you are afraid for your safety. This behaviour can be considered criminal harassment.
- A student is spreading lies about a teacher to ridicule him and ruin his reputation. Since it is on Facebook, all of the students can read it. This behaviour can be a crime known as defamatory libel.
- A student receives a text message saying that she will be in danger if she goes to the end-of-year school party. The message said, "We’ll break your legs if you show up!" This behaviour can be considered a criminal threat. It can also be considered extorsion if the threat is being made in order to obtain money or something else from the victim.
- A student sends a classmate an email strongly suggesting that she commit suicide. This behaviour could be the crime of encouraging a person to commit suicide.
- A student took a picture of a classmate showering in the school locker room. She sent it to all the boys at the school. This could be the crime of distribution of intimate images. When the pictures are of a minor (a person under 18), this could be the crime of distributing child pornography.
Did you know?
As of age 12, people can be arrested, charged with a crime and have to go to youth court.
There can be Serious Consequences for the Cyberbully too . . .
A cyberbully can be arrested and face criminal charges. A youth, aged 12 or older, can be charged with a crime in youth court.
In addition to facing criminal charges, a cyberbully can be sued in a civil court and ordered to pay damages (money) to the victim.
For example, if you post pictures of someone without their agreement, you are violating their right to control images of themselves and their right to privacy. A court can order you to pay damages to the victim.
Also, some forms of cyberbullying can be discriminatory harassment. This refers to harassment based on someone’s personal characteristics, such as ethnic origin, colour, sex, physical condition, religion or sexual orientation. Sending someone emails making fun of a physical handicap is an example of discriminatory harassment. The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (human rights and youth commission) handles complaints from victims of discriminatory harassment.
If you are a victim of cyberbullying
- Young persons can talk to an adult they trust (for example, a parent, teacher, older brother or sister). Remember that a school has a duty to act, even if the bullying takes place in cyberspace.
- Contact one of these organizations:
- Tel-jeunes – telephone and online support
- Kids Help Phone - telephone and online support
- Log in to the Positive - tools to prevent bullying in schools and online
- Need Help Now – support and advice to stop the spread of sexual pictures or videos
- Suicide Action – someone to talk to if you’re considering suicide or know someone who is
- Cybertip.ca - advice on internet safety and to report online sexual abuse of children
- File a complaint with the police.
Did you know?
25% of young Internet users report having received hateful documents by email.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.