Legal Aspects of Cyberbullying

The legal aspects of cyberbullying could be understood as a direct consequence of the crime committed. Harassment in itself is a sustained and repeated aggression in time that usually takes place between one or several people against another generally defenseless. When talking about cyberbullying, new technologies mediate.

In this way, we would be talking about the psychological aggressions carried out through the Internet. SMS messages, email, chats, blogs, or in general social networks can also be included as a means of communication.

The author or authors of the aggression are intended to cause feelings of emotional distress, discredit or humiliation to the offended. These are never legitimate behaviors that can cause a lot of pain.

Characteristics of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying and cyberbullying are terms that can lead to confusion. This is because there must be minors at both ends of the attack for it to be considered cyberbullying.

In the Study on safe habits in the use of ICT by minors published by INTECO, in March 2009, cyberbullying is defined as peer harassment in the ICT environment; including acts of blackmail, humiliation and insults from children to other children. The attack towards the offended one tends to provoke in it a feeling of threat and shame.

If there is an adult, then we are facing another type of cyberbullying. The differentiation is relevant, since, if the aggressor is not a minor, but the victim is, we would be talking about cyberstlking. When the aggressor presents sexual purposes, the crime is called cybergrooming.

Why is it a crime? Against what rights is it threatened?

It is essential to understand that what is illegal in real life is also illegal on the Internet. In this way, the aggressions, even though they have occurred through the web, continue to constitute a crime.

The seriousness of cyberbullying, moreover, is based on the fact that everything is recorded on the internet. This becomes a greater diffusion of the humiliations, which can suppose an addition to the moral damage of the victim.

An example can be the sending of images of the victim, intimate or not, to other people, without authorization. Also the impersonation of the identity of the victim, leaving it in situations that undermine its image and reputation. The legal aspects of Cyberbullying refer to the protection against these situations.

In Cyberbullying, three different situations can occur. The victim may see his right to honor attacked, as well as his right to privacy and the right to his own image. These three rights may be affected independently and also, frequently, jointly, given their obvious proximity.

Injury of the right to honor

Spanish courts define esteem as the positive consideration that each person has of himself. It is also the consideration that others have of us, this is what is generally known as reputation.

Injury of the right to privacy

The right to privacy is linked to the most reserved sphere of persons. It deals with certain aspects that the person wishes to keep hidden from others just because they belong to their more private sphere, linked to the dignity and the free development of the personality.

Injury of the right to one’s own image

By right to the own image it is understood the right of the subject to dispose on the graphic representation of himself. Its protection is based on ensuring a certain external image.

Legal aspects of cyberbullying: how are the rights of the victim protected?

It is worth mentioning that, as of today in Spain, there is no law that regulates cyberbullying. This is because the different criminal figures that could be committed through crime are already regulated. They are found in different laws to which one must go according to the case in question.

There are several ways to go to protect the rights of victims. First, there is the Penal Code. The penalties contained therein are usually custodial, although they may also impose fines. To this, the corresponding compensation should be added.

Another possibility would be to go to the civil route. With this you could get compensation for the damage caused, both psychological and economic or moral. Finally, if appropriate, you could appear before the Spanish Agency for Data Protection. In this case, no type of compensation would be received, but it is possible that an important fine is imposed on the offender.

When cases of cyberbullying occur, the affected person usually suffers serious emotional consequences. Above all, in the case of minors who are forging their personality.

Therefore, before having to face the consequences of a damage produced, it is important to understand that the basis to avoid, in particular, these situations, is found in education.

“To educate in respect and tolerance is to combat violence.”

-Benjamin Franklin, physicist and philosopher, 1706-1790-

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