Cyberbullying and the Law

Image of scales of justice with internet screen in backgroundIn some cases, cyberbullying is illegal and may lead to criminal prosecution. Knowing the laws and how they apply can help you decide what steps to take next. The law, though, isn't always clear when it comes to what is considered cyberbullying and what, if any, charges can be laid.

What are the legal consequences of cyberbullying?

In Canada, it is illegal to share intimate images of a person without consent. This law may not always be easy to enforce, and if charges are laid it may not always be easy to convict the perpetrator. If convicted, the legal consequences are serious, and could include the following:

  • going to prison for up to five years;
  • having your computer, cellphone, or other devices seized;
  • paying victim’s costs to have the intimate image removed from the internet. 

There are other federal laws in Canada that deal with bullying – including cyberbullying – such as criminal harassment, uttering threats, intimidation, mischief in relation to data, unauthorized use of a computer, extortion, defamatory libel, and others. 

Encouraging and empowering youth to think critically about their online presence; to be mindful of what they are posting, the messages they are sending, and the photos and content they share will give them with the tools necessary for them to be good digital citizens. Begin with open and honest communication, and by modelling your behaviour as an adult. 

Recommended resources on Cyberbullying and the Law

Talking about the consequences of cyberbullying, including the legal consequences, is important. Ensuring there is a mutual  understanding about cyberbullying, its emotional impacts, and the fact that in some instances it is illegal can help but may not prevent cyberbullying from happening. Knowing that a trusted adult is available to talk with is an important first step in getting help.