This month, Colorado House lawmakers passed a bill that would make cyberbullying a misdemeanor harassment charge. After being approved by the House, the proposal is now on its way to the Senate for consideration.
If the bill is passed, bullying on social media sites and other forms of technology may be penalized with up to six months of jail time and up to $750 in fines. Supporters of the bill maintain that it can help protect young children from offensive and emotionally damaging online harassment.
Aurora Democrat representative Rhonda Field sponsored the bill, urging legislators, “We need to stop this cycle of harassment and hate on the Internet. When you bully someone on the Internet what you say goes around the world within seconds and has real-world consequences. Now is the time for us to address this very serious issue and protect our kids from cyberbullying once and for all.”
However, opponents argue that the new law could infringe on our freedom of speech. In addition, the legislation could be interpreted broadly and criminalize the online activities of young people too eagerly, as reporters from the Coloradoan noted in their article on the bill.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of behaviors that involve bullying, threatening, embarrassing, or harassing a person via the internet, mobile phones, video game systems, and other technologies.
Typically, children, preteens, and teenagers are both the perpetrators and victims of cyberbullying.Click To Tweet Cyberbullying crimes generally target classmates, peers, and other acquaintances.
Under the new law, many different types of youth online behaviors could be criminalized, including:
Malicious messages. If you send a classmate or other internet user threatening emails, instant messages, or texts, you could be charged with cyberbullying.
Revealing embarrassing information online. Revealing embarrassing or sensitive information about your peers via email or a social media posting is another example of what could be construed as a cyberbullying crime.
Hacking into personal accounts. Breaking into someone else’s email, Facebook, or other social media account to pose as that person could constitute a cyberbullying crime under the proposed law.
Flaming. This type of cyberbullying occurs when you use vulgar or abusive language with the intention of starting a fight with a classmate or other online user.
Internet polling. Creating an internet poll that allows fellow classmates or peers to rate each other online in categories such as “hotness” or promiscuity could be considered cyberbullying.
Abusive websites. If you create a website that ridicules someone else—such as a classmate or teacher—you could be found guilty of cyberbullying.
Sending degrading photographs. There have been cases of youths distributing mass texts, emails, or messages that include nude or embarrassing pictures of their peers. If you engage in this type of behavior, you could be charged with cyberbullying if the new law passes.
Online world hostility. This type of cyberstalking frequently occurs among gamers. If you intentionally create a hostile environment in an online world or game, or repeatedly do mean things to someone’s character in an online world, this could constitute cyberbullying.
Spamming. This type of cyberbullying crime may occur when you sign someone else up for pornography sites or other emailing sites with explicit content, or if you repeatedly send someone viruses, Trojan horses, worms, or forms of spyware.
Cyberbullying by proxy. In some cases, a cyberbully will pose as their victim on a site such as Craigslist, posting advertisements for sex with their victim’s contact information. This type of behavior can cause serious physical harm to victims, and could land you in big trouble with the law.
Cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is already considered a very grave offense in Colorado. This type of crime involves behaviors such as repeatedly sending messages to frighten or threaten another person.
Regardless of whether the bill passes, Colorado law enforcers are already taking a very close look at internet and cybercrimes, and doling out harsh punishments. As the internet becomes a more essential part of our daily lives, new laws have been created to address crimes committed on the internet, computers, and other forms of technology.
Today, Colorado has laws against cyberstalking, internet luring, and possession or distribution of child pornography. If you or your child is facing internet crime charges, it’s essential to enlist the aid of an attorney who is up-to-date with the latest developments in this very new, ever-changing area of the law.
As the proposed legislation draws the public’s eye to cyberbullying and other internet crimes, local authorities are beginning to crack down on these types of cases with aggression and determination. Don’t let a cyberbullying or other internet crime accusation affect you or your child’s future—contact a Colorado criminal defense attorney today.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing atThe Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.