By: Habib M Abbas, CISSP, CISM
Cyberbullying in general refers to harassment that happens through digital devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing of negative, malicious, or false content about another person, which may cause embarrassment or humiliation to the victim.
Studies show that seven out of 10 children are victims of cyberbullying, and thirty-seven of them suffer from cyberbullying frequently. The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are electronic games and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Snape Chat, and Instagram.
Some online bullying techniques include: posting embarrassing or harmful comments or rumors about someone else; threatening to injure someone else or instructing another person to kill him/herself; publishing someone else’s personal photos or videos for the purpose of embarrassing and harming them; or posing as a false personality in order to spread false information about someone else.
The risk of online harassment should never be underestimated because of the psychological harm it may cause to those exposed to such harassment. There were many cases of suicide committed by children who have been subjected to various types of cyberbullying. Some of the popular examples include the stories of Majen Mayer and Ryan Haligen, who committed suicide in their teenage ages because of rude text messages that led them to a state of despair and then suicide. Unfortunately, due to the lack of laws that regulated cyberbullying in the past, the cyberbullies in these cases were acquitted. .
The good news is that the State of Michigan has recently passed a new law that aims to prohibit cyberbullying and depending on the type, and consequences of the cyberbullying harassments, the violator can be changed with misdemeanor or a felony.
According to the new law as stated in the Michigan Legislature website:
(1) A person shall not cyberbully another person.
(2) A person who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
(3) A person who violates subsection (1), and who has a prior conviction for a violation of subsection (1), is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
(4) A person who violates subsection (1) in a manner that involves a continued pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior and by that violation causes serious injury to the victim is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both. As used in this subsection, “serious injury” means permanent, serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of a bodily function of a person.
(5) A person who violates subsection (1) in a manner that involves a continued pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior and by that violation causes the death of the victim is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.