Lea (not her real name) had been divorced for three years. In this time she had only seen her ex-husband a handful of times. Lea remarried and now has a good life with a wonderful husband. She has a successful business, a fulfilling social life and her relationships with her grown children have never been better, even though she moved to another state when she got married again and most of the time they can only communicate over the phone or online.
Unfortunately things had not gone so well for Lea’s ex-husband. For many reasons he had become a burden not only to her but also her children. She became very frustrated and vented on her personal Facebook page a bit. She never mentioned names but told her Facebook friends how frustrating it is to her when people take advantage of others. She also posted an innocent picture with a slogan about how much she loved her children.
It was then that the attacks started. The new family (he was on the verge of getting married again) and friends of her ex-husband started harassing her not only by sending mean messages to both her and her new husband’s inboxes on Facebook but by also writing derogatory comments on her wall. She thought after the first encounter that it would stop, but it just continued. Blocking them did not help because they just opened another Facebook account or used another family member’s to harass her and her husband. Reporting these people to Facebook, did not do much good.
Fortunately, Lea had her husband and her friends to lean on during this difficult period. And being older, she had the emotional strength to get through it. Everybody is not so lucky.
Amanda Cummings, a 15-year-old girl from Staten Island, New York, died when she commit suicide by jumping in front of a bus on 27 December 2011. She left a tale of how cyber bullying can lead to tragedy. Amanda was often bullied by her peers mainly because of a relationship she had with a 19-year-old boy. She started leaving tell-tale signs of being depressed by posting Facebook messages about wanting to die and being distressed. After her death, even a Facebook page in Amanda’s name, made for grieving friends and family, became a playing field for cyber bullies when an anonymous group attacked her page. These Trolls posted distorted images, videos and even pornography to mock her death and those she left behind. They also commented on posts by real mourners causing long-running and disturbing online fighting.
Many people do not know that there is an answer to cyber bullying. Many countries have started legislating what happens online and if you are being attacked or threatened online in any way, you can take it to the authorities and they will deal with these bullies.
In the UK, Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 deals with most variants of cyber crime. In Canada, Lea’s ex-husband and his cronies would have been charged under Section 246(1) of the Criminal Code: Criminal Harassment. In Australia the primary legislation for computer offences is the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, 1935 (CLCA). A great article was recently published on Naked Security which outlines exactly which steps victims of computer crime in different countries can take.
These laws and those in other countries are not merely for bringing hackers to justice anymore. Nobody has the right to bully anyone else, whether it is online or in day-to-day life and if they do, you have the right to lay charges. In fact, it is not only your right but your responsibility to have them brought to justice. It is time that cyber bullying stops before there are many more tragic cases like Amanda’s.