Lawsuits Resulting From Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying Lawyer Voorhees, NJIf you think back to your public-school days, then you can probably remember at least one school bully that frequently tormented other children. This age-old behavior has continued and possibly worsened due to the increase in technological advancements like the internet and mobile phones. Cyberbullying through social media or text message has become a new trend, and the effects are devastating. Cyberbullying-related suicides have been increasing nationwide. Laws against such reckless internet bullying behavior are still evolving in most states, but many victims have successfully attempted to seek compensation in civil court against their offenders.

What is Cyberbullying?

The Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberbullying as the intentional, willful act of inflicting harm on another person by utilizing technology like cell phones, computer or other electronic devices. In addition, the actions must reflect a pattern of repeated behavior. An isolated incident wouldn’t be considered cyberbullying, but ongoing and repetitive acts that cause harm to the victim fall under the definition of bullying. The nature of social media and the internet make it easier for bullies to cause repeated harm with a singular action. For instance, a cyberbully may post an embarrassing, compromising image of another only once. The isolated incident alone wouldn’t constitute cyberbullying, but the singular action can cause repeated and ongoing harm when other individuals repeatedly view, comment and share the original post.

Stopbullying.gov lists the most common places where cyberbullying is likely to occur. Social media, instant messages, text messages, and emails are the most frequent forums for this type of abuse. Technological advancements have made it possible for communication to occur 24 hours a day instantaneously, so some victims have trouble finding relief from persistent cyberbullying. Additionally, digital technology makes cyberbullying incidents a permanent and often public record of the abuse. It can be permanently damaging to one’s online reputation, and sometimes an online reputation can affect real-life opportunities as well.

Cyberbullying Statistics

Cyberbullying is increasingly common among adolescents and teenagers. Statistics from Bullyingstatistics.org indicate that at least one in four teens has reported being bullied through the internet or their cell phone. Shockingly, over half of teens have admitted to engaging in cyberbullying themselves. Typically, younger adults won’t inform their parents or teachers about cyberbullying incidents. Statistics gathered from the Hartford County Examiner reveal that fewer than one in five cyberbullying incidents are ever reported to law enforcement.

Effects of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying causes direct psychological, emotional and physical stress for victims. This type of abuse is known to increase a victim’s risk of developing anxiety or depression-like symptoms. Student’s grades may suffer, and they may even complain of physical ailments that don’t stem from any medical condition. Increased feelings of sadness can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. The Cyberbullying Research Center explains how 20 percent of victims say cyberbullying led them to have suicidal thoughts. Victims of cyberbullying may feel like there is no real escape from the abuse because the internet and technology are so ubiquitous in our modern-day lives. The mainstream media has reported on several high-profile and unforgettable cyberbullying cases that have resulted in suicide. Ryan Halligan, a victim of cyberbullying, took his life in 2003 after years of harassment through AOL messenger. His father, John Halligan, believes that bullies have weaponized technology to carry out more effective bullying campaigns in modern times. Cyberbullying can also indirectly cause financial losses when victims are forced to get new phones, purchase new computers or create new online accounts.

Is Cyberbullying Against the Law?

While federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion, there are no specific federal laws regarding cyberbullying. If bullying and discrimination overlap, then the school is required to resolve the harassment. Otherwise, there are no federal laws specific to cyberbullying. All states have some form of law regarding bullying, and nearly all of the states specifically include electronic harassment. Only about 18 of these states punish cyberbullies with criminal sanctions, and the penalties for offenses vary. Schools are often held accountable for these types of incidents. When cyberbullying occurs, the school is required to conduct a full investigation and resolve the situation.

Society has grown and changed in many ways because of the widespread availability of the internet and hand-held connected devices. Laws have continued to develop to include criminal or financial sanctions for people’s use of cell phones, the internet and other technology to commit crimes on the world wide web. In 2011, New Jersey passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Acts that set guidelines for schools dealing with cyberbullying. Most of the time, the bully is not subject to criminal sanctions. In extreme cases, the police may pursue cyber-harassment charges which is a fourth-degree crime in New Jersey. This serious crime can result in 18 months in jail and up to a 10,000 fine for minors. It’s crucial that parents hire an experienced attorney when their juvenile is charged with this serious offense.

Past Lawsuits Involving Cyberbullying

Some cyberbullying victims have pursued lawsuits against their bullies. To file a personal injury lawsuit, a cyberbully victim will need to prove that the defendant owed a duty to them, the defendant acted recklessly, the breach caused injury and the injury caused damages. Victims may also pursue lawsuits alleging libel, harassment, defamation or emotional distress. Depending on the circumstances, parents may be held accountable for a child’s cyberbullying. One case that reached the Georgia Court of Appeals held parents liable for their child’s fake Facebook account because they didn’t make him delete it when they became aware of it. Ultimately, parents can be held accountable when they haven’t efficiently supervised their child or minimized the damage they caused upon discovering the behavior. In some situations, a child’s school may be held liable when they failed to take steps to resolve a known cyberbullying issue. Similar cyberbullying lawsuits have been filed in Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana and other states.

The prevalence of cyberbullying amongst younger adolescents is startling, and statistics clearly indicate the very real dangers victim’s face due to this societal issue. Most states rely on schools to manage cyberbullying, so criminal sanctions are not always pursed for this serious crime. Some victims have taken out lawsuits against their abusers in an attempt to bring attention to the tragic consequences of this reckless childhood behavior. It’s clear that more needs to be done to address this problem among our school-aged children.

Can You Be Committing a Crime Online?

Internet Crimes Attorney Morristown, NJWhile many people who are involved in felony level cybercrimes have a clear knowledge about the behavior involved in these violations of the law, many people don’t have the proper understanding of the broad range of online crimes that could lead to criminal charges whether at the misdemeanor or the felony level. Knowing about these crimes can help you avoid an unfortunate situation when you are called into the police or accused of violating a crime. There is a broad range of types of computer crimes that can be alleged against an individual and the complexity of this area of the law is increasing in recent years as technology improves.

Online crimes are more prevalent than ever, including the number of victims coming forward with concerns about privacy and the use of online avenues to carry out illegal activity.

The government is now working harder than ever to try to stop these crimes before they start and also making an example out of anyone who is convicted of such a crime.

Since the technology and the laws surrounding it are changing so quickly, it makes it a better chance than ever that you could be accused of committing a crime online. Users of any and all technology have to educate themselves about this complex area of the law and stay mindful of any updates that make it easier for government authorities to track what you’re doing or to investigate you if you’re suspected of committing a crime.

The evidence collected may include mistakes that tie you to a crime you never committed. In any of these situations, lack of knowledge about the law is not a good defense. This could help the prosecution land a conviction.

Federal Computer Crimes

Many traditional crimes can be carried out with the help of a computer. Other crimes, however, exist only on the internet. Some of the most commonly prosecuted cybercrimes that are categorized at the federal level include:

  • Identify theft: such as taking someone’s identifying information for personal use or for sale. This can include, phishing or hacking.
  • Fraud: Any type of fraudulent scam or scheme that is carried out over the internet can be pursued as a federal cyber-crime.
  • Hacking: Accessing a network or computer without permission is categorized as criminal hacking. Related crimes include destroying data, using a virus to attack a system or stealing data.
  • Blackmail: Blackmail schemes may use illegally obtained data or illicit materials.

No matter, how the alleged crime is identified, a person who is accused of such a crime needs to be familiar with their rights and responsibilities. Criminal laws in New Jersey, for example, do not distinguish between misdemeanors and felonies. Rather they classify crimes by degrees and there are a number of different types of criminal allegations that fall under this category. Whether or not someone is being accused under federal or state violations, a computer crime is a serious matter.

What You Need to Know About Investigations of Internet Crimes

The authorities accusing someone of an internet crime will often only do so after they have gathered evidence that seems to indicate that a person was carrying out some type of crime using the internet. This does not necessarily mean that the entirety of the crime was committed online.

Rather it may also include allegations of other crimes, in addition to the commission of a cybercrime because the internet was in some way used to carry out misdemeanor or felony behavior. Knowing the accusations levied against you can help you to figure out the type of crime being alleged and the type of defenses that may be available. It is also important for someone to know that the law enforcement cannot suggest that you commit a crime that you otherwise had no intention of committing.

This could constitute entrapment. All of these details should be recorded in a written fashion in the event that you may be accused of a crime in the future. Sometimes people do not even realize that a behavior or action that they are carrying out online is actually against the law. One such example is spoofing or phishing. This refers to unlawful accessing a computer without authorization and sending emails, falsifying header information in numerous email messages or resending numerous commercial email messages with the purpose of deceiving a recipient. This element of deceit can be difficult for the prosecution to prove but it can also be hard for a defendant to fight back if they are not familiar with their rights.

Accessing stored communication is another common internet crime that many people may not realize they have committed. This crime requires intentionally accessing a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided, without authorization. Again, the prosecution will bear the burden of proof for showing that this person intentionally accessed this material. A first-time offender could be facing serious consequences, however.

Although gambling inside a casino is legal, engaging in the business of betting on a sporting event over the internet is illegal. Using the internet to bet on sports is a federal crime that can be punished as long as two years in prison. Cybercrimes can also carry over into personal relationships. One such example is stalking or electronic harassment. Anyone who uses the internet to abuse, annoy, threaten, or harass a person who receives a communication could lead to criminal consequences upon conviction.

You might not even realize until there’s a police officer at your door or until you’ve been asked to come in and help with an investigation that there are possible charges against you. In these cases, it’s easier for authorities to develop all the information they need without you even realizing what’s happening until you’re charged with an online crime.

As most people know, crimes can be committed in person, online, or even over a mobile device. As more people are using technology to carry out crimes, the government is using all the tools within their power to ferret out these situations. This means that you could end up facing criminal charges even if you believe you didn’t do anything wrong.

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