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What is cyberbullying, and is it a crime?

There have always been bullies, and the invention of the internet has not slowed them down. It has made it much easier for individuals to harass, discriminate, intimidate and cause harm to other people. Bullying is not a new problem. Cyberbullying is.

What is the difference?

The main difference is that cyberbullying may only take place online or through technological means.

Cyberbullying takes place when an individual harasses or intimidates the victim through the internet, cellphone messaging services, emails or other technology. It is much more severe than the typical bullying of the past. Instead of having a single incident that is only seen by one or two people, a cyberbullying incident exposes the victim to potentially hundreds or thousands of people online. What goes up on the Internet is extremely difficult to remove. For example, if a short video of a person throwing up in class goes up online, other users can copy that video and spread or share it to many others. Even if the original file is removed, it would be extremely difficult to remove all related content. That student may be made fun of or harassed perpetually, even if he or she transfers to a new school.

It wasn't until recently that the courts began to recognize cyberbullying. Despite that, there are laws that allow for the prosecution of those who harass or intimidate others.

If you have harassed someone and posted about it online or have shared cruel images between coworkers through email or phone messages, you can be accused of cyberbullying. Penalties for cyberbullying vary significantly from fines and community service to jail time for severe situations. It's important to talk to your attorney about what to expect and what you can do to help alleviate the situation.

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