index of GLOBAL LAWS
See below for a comprehensive list of the global laws on Cyber Abuse. >> Submit more countries or updates from local insights or request laws on a specific country.
Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) s 439
Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 529
Criminal Code 1983 (NT) s 204
Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) s 365
Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) s 257
Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas) s 196
Criminal Code 1913 (WA) s 345
Algeria’s internet access is just under 20%, with nearly 8 million internet users.
Algeria has criminal defamation laws set out in their criminal code, also the focus is more on offending the State or its individuals, which is a greater crime than to offend a private citizens (Article 298).
Article 42 punishes anyone who, without direct involvement in the offense, has knowingly aided or assisted by any means the author or authors in the action of infringement of the law.
Article 145 punishes any denouncement to the public authorities of an offense that is known not to exist, or the production of false evidence relating to an imaginary offense.
Article 284 punishes any writing (whether anonymous or signed), picture, symbol or emblem of murder, imprisonment or any other attack against people which would be punishable by death or life imprisonment, with imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of up to DZD 5,000 (approximately USD 45).
Article 296 defines defamation as “any allegation or imputation of an act which offends the honor or the consideration of the persons or the body to which the act is imputed”.
Article 297 clarifies that, any offensive expression, term of contempt or invective not containing an allegation of fact, is an insult.
Article 298 punishes defamation of private individuals with a fine of up to DZD 50,000 (approximately USD 430) and/or up to six months in prison. Defamation with the intent to incite intolerance toward members of racial or religious groups is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to DZD 100,000 (approximately USD 870). The article also states that the forgiveness of the victim ends the prosecution.
Article 300 punishes any slanderous denunciation against one or more individuals to officers of justice or to the superiors or employers of the denounced, with imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of up to DZD 15,000 (approximately USD 130). The court may also order the insertion of its decision in one or more newspapers and at the expense of the convicted person.
Article 303 states that for any person who is found to be capturing, recording or transmitting without the authorization or consent of the author, communications, words spoken privately or confidentially is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and up to DZD 300,000 (approximately USD 2,600).
Algeria has an inconsistent reputation on human rights, attracting criticism regarding media freedom and the right to peaceful protest. Unelected civilian and military groups are considered to have a large degree of influence over how the country is run.
In 2009, Algeria adopted a cybercrime law that gives the authorities the right to block websites deemed “contrary to the public order or decency.”
A case occurred in April 2009 where by a man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for writing “threatening content” on Rachad’s Internet Forums.
A number of sentences for defamation were handed down during the year of 2001, involving both fines and prison time. In March 2010, a correspondent of El Bilad received a two-month prison sentence for the 2009 publication of an article criticizing a senator for corruption. In a separate case in March, Algerian courts fined the publisher of Ennahar El Djadid for defamation.
Journalist Manseur Si Mohamed was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 dinars (approx. 500 euros) for “libellous comments”. The article, headlined: “Council of State – What Is It For?” was written as a criticism of the Council of State penalizing public authorities.
Angola’s internet access is at 23%, with nearly 6 million internet users.
Angola enacted legislation on cybercrime via its Penal Code, which specifies that if defamation is carried out through any form of media, the penalty will be increased by half. Current penalties are 1 year imprisonment for insult, 18 months for defamation and 2 years for Slander.
A new set of laws were passed in December 2015, giving control of the media to the Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body (ERCA) that can enforce media outlets and individuals to comply with ‘professional journalistic ethics and standards’. The new laws regulate social media and the work of journalists.
Angola has been criticised for its restrictive media environment. These laws came into place after a number of court cases involving activists and journalists convicted of ‘rebelling’ against the government, and in one high profile case where a human rights activist was sentenced to six years in prison for an “attack on the sovereignty of the Angolan state”.
Azerbaijan’s internet access is at 61%, with nearly 6 million internet users.
Internet access in Bahrain is 91%, with over 1 million Internet users.
Article 363: Up to 1 year prison or a fine of up to BHD 100 (USD 250) for “any person who threatens another with committing a crime, if such threat is made in writing or verbally through another person. The punishment shall be a prison sentence, if the offender threatens with committing a felony against a human life, property or with divulging or alleging matters affecting honor.
Article 364: Up to 2 years prison or a fine of up to BHD 200 (USD 500) for “any person who by any method of publication accuses another of having committed a certain occurrence rendering him liable for penalty or subject to contempt.”
Article 365: Up to 2 years prison or a fine of up to BHD 100 (USD 250) for “any person who slanders another by any method of publication so as to affect his honor or integrity without making a specific accusation against him.”
Article 366: Up to 6 months’ prison or a fine of up to BHD 50 (USD 130) “if the libel or slander is committed through the telephone or without provocation against the victim and the presence of a third party.“
Article 138: Slander - punishable from 6 months up to 2 years and a fine.
Article 139: Defamation - damaging someone’s reputation by claiming facts to be true, carries a punishment of one year imprisonment and a fine.
Article 140: Insult - offending the dignity of another or, knowing the slander to be false, ‘propagating it or divulging it’ to another - carries a sentence of maximum six months. This includes attributing a criminal offence to someone, also known as ‘swatting’, and slandering the deceased.
Article 146 and 147: Coercing someone to do something they don’t want to do or threatening someone to cause harm by word, written or other means, can be prosecuted by up to six months (Article 147) or up to a year (Article 146) imprisonment.
no one shall be submitted to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment
prohibition of cruel treatment
manifestation of thought is free, but anonymity is forbidden
the right of reply is assured, in proportion to the offense, as well as compensation for pecuniary or moral damages or damages to reputation
right to protect one's reputation
personal intimacy, private life, honor and reputation are inviolable, guaranteeing the right to compensation for pecuniary or moral damages resulting from the violation thereof
Canada’s internet access is at 89%, with nearly 23 million internet users.
In Canada, cyber abuse causing the victim to feel threatened is punishable as harassment under the Criminal Code, with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Cyber abuse may also amount to defamatory libel, also covered under the Criminal Code and punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Employers and educational institutions have duty of care to provide a safe environment and can be held responsible by the courts if they fail to do so.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed under civil law via a private court action in defamation.
Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. Section 7 guarantees the right to “life, liberty and security of the person”.
The Liberal Government are trying to pass an anti-workplace-harassment bill, Bill C-65, that would amend current legislation to hold workplaces responsible for investigating any “occurrences of harassment or violence” made known to the employer. Workplaces must also “take the prescribed measures to prevent and protect against harassment and violence in the workplace, respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace and offer support to employees affected by harassment and violence in the workplace”. The Liberal Party have said that this will include instances that occur online.
Certain Canadian provinces have specific laws addressing cyber abuse.
Nova Scotia, Canada
In Nova Scotia, a Cyber Safety Act was passed in 2013, which specifically defined cyberbullying and its penalties, including protection orders, restrictions on trolls’ online communications and a discontinuation of Internet service.
Victims could also sue the troll (or the troll’s parent) in civil court for a damages payment.
In 2015, the law was dissolved, based on concerns regarding freedom of expression.
The CyberSCAN investigative unit established under the repealed law had the power to take steps against trolls, for example attending the troll’s home to take away their ‘keyboard courage’ and articulate the seriousness of the behavior and the harm it causes. The unit could initiate court action to limit trolls’ use of technology, remove computers, mobile devices and internet services, refusal to comply with which could have led to fines of up to CAD5,000 and/or a 6 month prison sentence.
The unit remains active, with a much-reduced scope, focusing now on education, public awareness, and advising victims of cyber abuse.
In June 2017 following multiple teenage suicides at Cape Breton School, Education Ministers, Mental Health Experts and Health Ministers in the province voiced the immediate need and importance of reintroducing the Cyber Safety Act, promising that legislation would be put in place to address cyberbullying this Autumn.
On October 5th 2017 the Government introduced the ‘Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act’, to “help address the issues with the original act and help victims by providing options for dealing with the people who want to harm them” (Justice Minister). Bill 27 would allow “a victim, or parents, to go to court for a protective order for alleged offenders to stop, take down a webpage or prohibit further contact with the victim, a referral to dispute resolution and an order to pay damages. It also gives the CyberSCAN unit authority to support and help victims resolve disputes”. The Bill is currently under debate and won’t be passed into law until early-mid 2018. Some lawyers and politicians who spoke against the previous Cyber Safety Act feel that the new Bill will make it too difficult for a victim to access justice by making them initiate a civil lawsuit in the Supreme Court.
Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, was gang raped and pictures of her rape were released online which resulted in her being harassed online; she eventually hung herself, leaving her in a coma with her life support being switched off. This inspired the movement in creating the legislation to prevent these incidences again.
In March 2017, Bill 202 was introduced, entitled the ‘Intimate Image Protection Act’, as a measure to help combat online abuse. The bill looks to allow those who have had private intimate images shared without their consent to pursue damages from the distributor, and also sets out protective measures against this activity for students.
Scott Cyr the MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake was talking to his 11 year old daughter about how easily intimate images can be spread across the internet which inspired him to start the movement in creating Bill 202. During his conversation his daughter asked why images were allowed to be shared. This inspired the MLA to see what he could do legislatively to combat this.
Internet access in Columbia is 56.9%, with over 27 million Internet users
Violence offline is considered to be common in Colombia and online communication reflects this. But there is no specific legislation that mentions technology-related violence and abuse, such as cyber harassment and cyberstalking.
Nonetheless, there are no government restrictions on access to the internet, and freedom of expression on the internet is protected in accordance with the Colombian Constitution. The Colombian Constitutional Court stresses the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, which states “freedom of expression applies to the internet, as it does to all means of communication,” and “restrictions on freedom of expression on the internet are only acceptable if they comply with established international standards”.
Whilst there are no specific laws directly addressing abusive online speech and behaviour, defamation is a criminal offence in Colombia under the Penal Law. Articles 220-223 on “crimes against moral integrity” carry punishment for libel and slander of up to 4 years imprisonment and 1,000 times the monthly legal salary. Article 223 provides for punishments to be increased by 1/6th to a half if the behaviours are “committed using any means of social communication or other means of collective disclosure”.
In a country marred by ongoing armed conflict for over a quarter of a century and a culture of violence against women, the focus continues to be offline violence and any attention given to online abuse typically relates to laws that which addresses the propagation of rebel activity, the excitation of civil unrest and slander of the government. According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index, when it comes to crime or abuse of any sort, “crime without punishment” in Colombia is the norm.
Threats, insults and defamation are punishable by fines and prison sentences and these can be executed by “insulting words or actions”, and ”other communications”.
Causing someone to commit suicide carries a 3 year prison sentence (section 240).
Unjustifiably transmitting private “notices or images” including those relating to “another person's personal relationship” carries a 6 month prison sentence (section 264d).
Producing fear in another for his or her life, health or welfare or threatening to commit a criminal offense, carries a 2 year prison sentence (section 266).
Communicating a threat or degradation due to race, colour, nationality, belief or sexual orientation, carries a 2 year prison sentence (266b).
Defamation, partly defined as “violat[ing] the honor of an enemy by insulting words or actions” is punishable by up to four months imprisonment or a fine (Section 267). Publication of defamatory statements are punishable by up to 2 years’ prison (section 268) and may be punishable even if it is true, in the event that the defamation is ‘improperly abusive’.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Internet access in DRC is 7.5%, with just over 350,000 Internet users.
The population of Africa’s second largest country is gradually starting to use information and communications technology (ICT), but in a country struggling with staggering rates of sexual violence and torture, online abuse is not a priority and most laws governing the regulation of digital communication remain in draft form.
In 2017, the Congolese Government put before Parliament the Telecommunications and ICT Bill, which would update existing legislation - the Framework Law 013/2002 on Telecommunications, the e-Transactions Bill and the Framework Law 014/2002 which established the regulator - the Authority of the Post and Telecommunications of Congo (ARPTC).
Regional concerns have been raised about the lack of consultation with both civil society and private sector stakeholders on laws in this area. The concerns focus on state protectionism via increasing powers of surveillance and censorship of digital content and the lack of focus on protection of citizen expression and privacy online. DRC law provides little to no access to government information by the public.
Drawing on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Congolese Constitution of 2006 reaffirms the DRC’s support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Constitution is considered the supreme law of the DRC, constitutionally guaranteeing such things as freedom of speech, the treatment of women as equal citizens and the prohibition of enforced labour. Whilst Article 12 asserts: “All Congolese are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection under it”, the reality is that criminalisation of defamation, usually towards the state, arbitrary arrests and the impunity of sex and slavery crimes with women, girls and boys by rebel groups, severely undermines confidence in the DRC judicial system and just application of Congolese laws such as the Penal Code.
The DRC is marred by ongoing political violence, unreliable public administration and a high degree of corruption in the judicial system, reflected in its ranking at 156th out of 176 countries surveyed in the Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index and the presence of the largest United Nations peacekeeping force in the world. In recent years there have been government initiated interruptions to online communication, for example shutting down SMS communications and blocking of social media access by the telecom operators, each in the context of political elections.
Internet access in Egypt is 33%, with nearly 31 million Internet users.
In May 2016 the Egyptian Parliament began work on the country’s first Cybercrime Bill. The focus of the Bill is to protect national security and safeguard society. It has been criticised for its vague language and focus on allowing for greater government surveillance. Parliament is yet to approve the Bill.
Sexual harassment and stalking are established criminal offences in Egypt. The Presidential Decree No. 50 of 2014 that modified the Egyptian Criminal Code 1937, Article 306(a) and 306(b) specifically addressed online sexual harassment and stalking.
Article 306(bis)(a) was amended and replaced with: individuals who carry out sexual or obscene gestures in any manner, including by modern means of communication, will be punished with a term of imprisonment of no less than 6 months or a fine of EGP 3000 (USD170). And if the act is repeated by the same individual, the punishment of imprisonment will be increased to one year and the fine to EGP 5,000-10,000 (USD280- USD560)
Whoever threatens another, in writing, with committing a crime against one's soul or property which is punishable with execution or permanent or temporary hard labor, or with divulging issues or attributing matters outraging one's honor, and the threat is accompanied with a demand or instruction for something, shall be punished with imprisonment.
If the threat comes without demand for anything, then the punishment is detention. If the threat is verbal, via another person, the punishment is detention for up to two years or a fine of up to EGP500 (USD28), regardless of whether or not a demand accompanied it.
In addition, Law No. 10 of 2003 Telecommunication Regulation Law (Article 76) provides that “any person ….[who] intentionally disturbs or harasses others by misusing of telecommunication devices shall be punished by imprisonment or a fine”, with the punishment being prison or up to EGP 20,000 (USD 1,100).
The Telecommunication Regulation Law was used as the legal basis for the general communication cuts during the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011 and there have been calls for an urgent review of the Law to bring it into line with the adoption of the 2014 Egyptian post Revolution Constitution. The Cybercrime Bill has also attracted controversy for ‘incriminating’ internet users.
Sexual harassment of women offline has been an historic problem, with a 2013 UN report revealing 99.3% of women get sexually harassed in Egypt. However, in 2014, the year the new sexual harassment laws were introduced, seven men were sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted rape, murder and torture, which may indicate a greater focus following the change in law. Nonetheless, the current focus of the legislation is offline abuse.
Finland’s internet access is 92.5% with 5.1 million users.
There are a number of sections in Finland’s Criminal Code under which acts of cyber abuse can be punished. This includes ‘ethnic agitation’, harassment, defamation and stalking.
Finnish law applies to anyone inside Finland, to a Finnish person anywhere in the world and also to any act affecting a Finnish person, including from outside the country.
Under Section 10 of ‘War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity’, ‘ethnic agitation’ is defined as the public sharing of content that insults, threatens or defames a certain group “on the basis of its race, skin colour, birth status, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability or a comparable basis” and has a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.
Chapter 24 covers “Offences against privacy, public peace and personal reputation”.
Section 1(a) outlines penalties for harassment via communications. “A person who, with intent to disturb, repeatedly sends messages or calls another so that the act is conducive to causing said other person considerable disturbance or harm” will face a penalty of up to six months imprisonment or a fine.
Section 8 covers unlawfully disseminating information about the private life of someone through the mass media or otherwise to many persons is punishable by a fine, however when this causes considerable harm it is known as ‘aggravated dissemination’ and carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or a fine. (Section 8a)
For Defamation, there are offences outlined in the criminal code:
Section 9 outlines defamation as publishing false information about someone that causes suffering or is intended to subject that person to contempt. An offender is liable to a fine. Section 9(1)(3) makes it clear that criticism does not constitute defamation if it does not “obviously exceed the limits of propriety”. Section 9(1)(4) also provides that expression ‘in the consideration of a matter of general importance’ will not be defamation if it ‘does not clearly exceed what can be deemed acceptable’.
Section 10 ‘aggravated defamation’ is when the act of defamation outlined in section 9 causes “considerable suffering or particularly significant damage”, and the offender can be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment or a fine.
Chapter 24 of the Penal Code covers ‘Offences against personal liberty’ and includes a section on Stalking. Stalking carries a maximum penalty of a fine or two years imprisonment if “a person... repeatedly threatens, observes, contacts or in another comparable manner unjustifiably stalks another so that this is conducive towards instilling fear or anxiety in the person being stalked”.
Section 5 of the Penal Code covers ‘Violation of Political Freedom’, whereby someone who does or tries by violence or threat of serious injury to the well-being of another to prevent them from expressing his or her opinion of public affairs, in the media or otherwise publicly (or forces or tries to force them to express their opinion), shall be sentenced for violation of political freedom to a fine or to imprisonment for up to two years.
Corporations can be considered liable where their employees commit certain offences e.g. aggravated defamation.
Finland has an anti-bullying campaign called ‘KiVa’; a school based program which has a curriculum of lessons to deliver to students about bullying and its effects, as well as training and actions to use when bullying has taken place. Many schools have a KiVa team of three teachers who are given training and address bullying within the school. According to a study conducted in schools, “98% of victims involved in discussions with the schools' KiVa teams felt that their situation improved”. The program ties in to the ethos of the Finnish education system as explained in a 2014 interview with Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Education Chief, where children are considered of a huge priority for the country.
France’s Internet Access is 86.4%, with 55.9 million users.
Cyber abuse is not specifically defined by French law, however France is considered to have stringent laws on defamation and privacy. The following are applicable:
- Article 222-17 of the Penal Code makes it an offense to threaten a person, with a prison sentence of 6 months and EUR7,5000, which increases to 3 years’ jail and up to EUR45,000 for a death threat. This increases to up to 5 years jail and EUR75,000 fine where that threat is made ‘together with an order to fulfil a condition’. Threats of rape or harassment linked to sexuality or race are specifically addressed.
- Article 223-13 prohibits incitement to commit suicide, which attracts 3 years’ jail time and a EUR45,000 fine. If the victim is under 15, the punishment increases to a 5 year jail sentence and a EUR75,000 fine.
- The Moral Harassment Law, Article 222-33-2 was introduced in 2013 to address bullying. It makes it an offense to harass someone, by ‘repeated conduct which is designed to or which leads to a deterioration of his conditions of work liable to harm his rights and his dignity, to damage his physical or mental health or compromise his career prospects’. The harassment can be in a public setting (e.g. published online) or private (e.g. a direct message). Workplace bullying is commonly actioned as ‘moral harassment’ and under France’s labour laws, employers have an obligation to provide a working environment safe from abuse that affects workers’ physical and mental wellbeing. The offence of harassment is punishable by up to 1 year's imprisonment and a fine of €15,000.
- The Law of 29 July 1881 on Freedom of the Press covers:
- Any communications via ‘speeches, cries or threats made in public places or meetings, or by writings, prints, drawings, engravings, paintings, emblems, images or any other sold or distributed, offered for sale or exhibited in public places or meetings, either by placards or posters exposed to the public, or by any means of communication to the public by electronic means’.
- Outlined in Article 29, defamation comprises ‘any allegation or imputation of an act which infringes the honor or consideration of the person or body to which the act is attributed’.
- Outlined in Article 29, insults comprise ‘any outrageous expression, contempt or invective, which does not contain the imputation of any fact’.
- Defamation and insult carry a fine of EUR12,000 or up to EUR45,000 if they relate to ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender etc.
- Outlined in Article 24, “discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or a group of persons on account of their origin or membership, or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion” or on account of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity or their disability, is punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment and/or a €45,000 fine.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed via breach of privacy laws in France, which carry criminal sanctions, as well as under the French Act for Confidence in Digital Economy which also contain some specific provisions relating to Hate speech (in particular an obligation to promptly inform the authorities in case of such illegal activities that are notified to them and an obligation to implement a visible and easy to access abuse reporting system). There is additionally an obligation to render public the means that online companies have in place to fight hate speech. Besides the French administration can request the blocking of online services making hateful content available.
Internet access in Germany is at 88% with 71 million users.
Germany has specific laws relating to criminal online content and the policing of social media. Cyber abuse can also be addressed under existing laws, including as criminal offences under the following parts of the Criminal Code: ‘using threats or force to cause a person to do, suffer or omit an act’ (sec. 240), ‘threatening the commission of a felony’ (sec. 241), ‘insult’ (sec. 185) or (intentional) ‘defamation’ (sec. 186), all of which carry a sentence of up to 2 years prison and a fine.
In early 2017, the German Ministry of Justice approved plans to fine social media companies up to EUR 50million under new laws if they fail quickly to remove hate speech, content covered by the Criminal Code as referenced above, or fake news. This law came into effect on the 1st October 2017, and under the legislation social media sites must have clear rules and complaint procedures, clearly illegal material must be removed within 24 hours and other questionable illegal material must be deleted or blocked in 7 days. The law also provides a mechanism for victims to obtain access to information identifying otherwise anonymous trolls.
Employers and educational institutions have duty of care to provide a safe environment and can be held responsible by the courts if they fail to do so, including in respect of ‘taking all possible measures’ to prevent what is called ‘mobbing’ whereby employees abuse an employee.
A study on bullying and cyberbullying among adults showed that 8% of adults in Germany have been subject to cyberbullying. With a further question showing that 72% of all bullying incidents with adults happen in the workplace. This results in an estimated extra 5-6 days off work due to illness per person being bullied. The economic impact of this on the German economy in 2001 is thought to be between 15 and 20 billion EUR per year.
Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory and it’s constitutional matters are managed by Denmark, although domestic affairs are dealt with by various councils within the country. Focus has increased in recent years on human rights in Greenland. The legislation in Greenland follows a similar framework to Denmark, as it is part of the Kingdom. (See Denmark).
Internet access in Hong Kong 74%, with nearly 5.5 million Internet users.
There is no specific statute law in Hong Kong addressing cyber abuse. The government’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data makes clear that different branches of existing law may be used to address the varying ways in which cyber abuse impacts citizens.
Crimes Ordinance Section 24 provides for intimidation to be punishable by a fine of HKD2000 (USD1460) and imprisonment for up to 5 years where there is a threat of injury to person or property or reputation and where there is intent to create alarm or to cause a criminal offence.
Theft Ordinance Section 23 Blackmail, does not state the means by which blackmail is conducted and can apply to instances of blackmail via digital means. Crimes Ordinance Section 119 makes provision for the prosecution of the unlawful procurement of sexual acts by threat or intimidation, with a prison sentence of up to 14 years. An example of the use of Section 119 in relation to cyber abuse include HKSAR v Wong Dawa Norbu Ching Shan, where under threat of publishing nude photographs on Facebook and YouTube and sending them to her boyfriend, the victim had non-consensual sex with the defendant.
Victims of cyber abuse can also pursue a civil case in defamation, an area governed by the common law Defamation Ordinance, modelled on English legislation dating back to the 19th century.
In addition, if the cyber abuse involves a breach of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance or the Data Protection Principles, the Privacy Commissioner can serve an enforcement notice and impose significant fines, as well as imprisonment for persistent offenders.
Hong Kong is has been historically resistant to introducing legislation specific to cyber abuse, in favour of the right to free speech, protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law: “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication…”
Historically, Hong Kong records a relatively low rate of cyber abuse, with only 4 cases of cyber abuse registered with Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data between 2008 and 2012, only 1 of which had sufficient evidence to proceed, increasing to 34 cases reported by 2014.
Unique to the region, Hong Kong authorities have had to address the phenomenon of ‘human flesh search engine’, a term originating in China. A type of online vigilantism or trial by mob justice, thousands of internet users at a time can respond to a call to expose someone accused of social delinquency, on or offline, to the public by publishing personal identifying data online. Cases vary from animal cruelty, infidelity to political censorship and blaming people for the suicide of a partner. Humiliation is common, and online threats can and do spill over to offline threats.
Iceland’s internet access is close to 100%, with 332,000 users.
Iceland’s laws are outlined in the ‘General Penal Code’. There is no specific legislation relating to cyber abuse or bullying, however threats and insults are criminalised under the legislation.
Article 233 states that threatening to commit an offence in a way that would generally insight fear in the addressee for his, her or others’ safety, welfare or health, is punishable by a fine, or up to two years’ imprisonment.
Article 233.a criminalises the “ridicule, culmination, insult, threat or otherwise assault” of another based on their nationality, colour, sexual orientation, religion or gender by means of harassment, threats or insults, and is punishable by fines or up to two years imprisonment.
Defamation, spreading rumours and other actions that may negatively impact someone’s honour, reputation or respect is punishable by fines and/or up to 2 years’ imprisonment, covered by Articles 234 and 235.
Article 229 also makes it a criminal offence to disclose the private affairs of another without justification, dealt with by imprisonment for up to 1 year.
The Icelandic Constitution prevents censorship and provides that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression “but shall also be liable to answer for them in court” and that such right may only be restricted for the protection of health or morals and the protection fo the rights or reputation of others. It also provides for the right to freedom from interference with privacy, home, and family life.
Internet access in India is at 34%, with 462 million internet users.
There are no specific laws addressing cyber abuse, however Articles 66A, 66E, and 67A of the Information Technology Act 2000, make provisions for punishment of crimes conducted electronically in the following areas:
66A. Punishment of up to 3 years prison and a fine, for sending offensive or menacing messages through communication service or information known to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, intimidation or insult or to deceive
66E. Punishment of up to 3 years prison and a fine for violation of privacy.
67. Punishment of up to 3 year prison and a fine for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
67A. Punishment of up to 5 years prison (or 7 for a second conviction) and a fine for publishing or transmitting of material containing a sexually explicit act
On 24 March 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A, declaring it as unconstitutional in its entirety. The court said that Section 66A of the IT Act 2000 is "arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech" provided under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India.
The Indian government maintains that this does not mean that anyone sending abusive messages via digital means is exempt from conviction, pointing out that Article 67 of the IT Act 2000, Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code and state-enacted provisions that criminalize harassment are sufficient to handle cyber abuse.
The Indian Government refers the public to its Central Citizen Portal, to register complaints relating to online criminal activity, including cyber stalking.
The 2008 Amendment to the INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT 2000, was a response to the 2003 Ritu Kohli cyberstalking case. In only a few years, targets of cyberstalking that were previously predominantly women, today have risen to around 50-50 women to men. The courts turn to Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code in cases relating to cyberstalking, which is proving problematic given the wording of the section refers only to male perpetrators and does not recognise female perpetrators of cyberstalking.
Indonesia’s internet access is at 20%, with nearly 53 million internet users.
Article 27 of the Electronic Information and Transaction Act (2008) criminalizes online insult and communications containing frightening information or violence. Cyber abuse is now also considered a form of harassment under Article 45(b) of the Act, where it involves (1) threats of violence or frightening information and (2) causing physical, mental and/or financial damages. The maximum penalty is 4 years’ imprisonment or a fine of IDR 750 million (approx GBP 45,000).
Defamation is covered by Indonesia’s penal code in considerable depth. Articles 310-321 define defamation and provide that intentionally harming someone’s reputation or honour carries a maximum sentence of nine months imprisonment or a fine up to IDR 300 (USD 0.02). If this takes place through writing or ‘portraits disseminated’, maximum imprisonment increases to 1 year. ‘Calumny’ and making known false allegations to harm the reputation of another can carry a penalty of up to 4 years imprisonment, as does making false claims to authorities that could harm someone’s reputation.
Indonesia has it’s own Police Cyber Crime Unit. In 2016 hate speech was the most frequently reported Internet crime, and 199 cases were dealt with by the police out of all those reported.
Under the Electronic Information and Transaction Act, actions such as creating offensive memes, texts or images with the intention of inciting fear and publishing these on social media can be penalised. Citizens of Indonesia have called for the Act to be revoked and it has been met with much criticism because of it’s implications on freedom of speech and ‘harsh punishments’.
Internet access in Iran is 48.9%, with 39 million Internet users.
Iran has in place laws addressing cyber crime, though none make explicit reference to cyber abuse.
The Computer Crimes Law 2009/2010
Chapter 4- Crimes against Public Morality and Chastity [Decency] - Art. 15 ascribes a prison sentence of up to 1 year or a fine of up to IRR 20 million (USD 600) for acts via computer or telecommunications systems which provoke, encourage, threaten or deceive people into committing crimes “against chastity, using narcotic or psychedelic drugs, suicide, sexual deviations, or violation”.
Chapter 5 - Aspersion of Dignity and Issuing of Lies - Art. 18- ascribes a prison sentence of up to 2 years or a fine of up to IRR 40 million (USD 1,200) for acts via computer or telecommunications systems which are intended to damage a person or cause distress for anyone who “makes accessible any lies; or, with the very same intent, explicitly or implicitly, in person or by quotation attributes unreal acts to a legal or real person- whether any moral or economic loss is delivered to the committee or not”. Article 18 also requires the offender to ‘re establishing [the victim’s] dignity, if possible.”
Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran – Book Five – 1996
Chapter 15, Article 609 provides for anyone insulting officials or heads of state to receive a sentence of 74 lashes or a fine of up to IRR 1 million (USD 30).
Chapter 18, Article 641 provides for those disturbing others via telecommunication devices to be sentenced to 6 months prison, in addition to the enforcement of special regulations of the Telecommunication Company, which presumably may include termination of telecommunications services.
The Computer Crimes Law has been criticised as violating International Human Rights in relation to freedom of speech and expression. In particular, Chapters 4 and 5, listing crimes against ‘public morality and chastity’ and ‘aspersion of dignity and issuing of lies’, are seen to be vague and ambiguous and there is no inclusion of a public interest defence.
Ireland’s internet access is at 81%, with 6 million internet users.
Online assaults, threats and harassment can be penalized under the 1997 Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
Under section 2 of the Act, assault covers the direct or indirect application of force against someone, or in any way causing them to believe ‘on reasonable grounds that he or she is likely immediately to be subjected to any such force or impact without… consent’. Section 5 states that anyone making a threat ‘by any means’ intending that the subject will believe its sincerity shall be guilty of an offence.
Harassment is outlined in section 10: ‘Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means …, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence’.
In 2016, the Irish stalking laws were amended to include emails, SMS messages and communications on social networking sites under the definition of unwanted communications.
The Irish Law Reform Commission has consulted on ‘cyber-crime affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation including cyber bullying’ and produced an extensive report proposing legislative changes. The proposals include:
- strengthened and consolidated legislation to ensure the law is fit for purpose in respect of developments in behaviours and technology regarding cyber abuse
- the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner similar to the Australian and New Zealand model, to oversee compliance
- a statutory content ‘take-down’ process to augment the take-down processes of the social media platforms
- measures to enable victims more easily to identify trolls
- recommendations regarding ‘extra-territoriality’ of laws to address the global nature of the internet
The Law Reform Commission and the Minister for Justice have prepared a bill to address “revenge pornography” and the publication of voyeuristic material without consent, which will attract an unlimited fine and/or a 7 year prison sentence. Less serious cases will attract a fine of EUR5,000 and/or 12 months in prison. The updated criminal offences are expected to come into force in late 2017.
The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill was written in 2017 and has been proposed by the Labour Party to “bring existing regulation up to date by broadening the legal definition of communication, so it covers all electronic, written and spoken word, including for example, an iMessage, Whatsapp or Facebook message, and a tweet or social media post”. The status of the Bill can be found here - it was at the second stage of the legislative process at the time of writing.
The Bill covers:
- Harassment: Persistently, in person or by via technology, communicating with someone which causes a disruption to their peace, privacy or causes alarm, distress or harm. The maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine, or on conviction on indictment this is increased to 7 years imprisonment.
- Distributing Intimate Images without Consent: anyone who “records, distributes or publishes, or threatens to record, distribute or publish, an intimate image of another person without the other person’s consent” causing disruption to their privacy or causing alarm, distress etc., can be punished with up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine, or on conviction on indictment up to 7 years imprisonment. This section criminalises the cyber abuse offence ‘upskirting’ whereby photographs of someone’s genitals are taken using a phone or camera and published online (or ‘downblousing’ when taken of a woman’s breasts), as well as pornography and the recording of any inappropriate regions of a person, covered by underwear or bare.
- Threatening Messages: anyone who “persistently distributes or publishes a threatening, false, indecent or obscene message to or about the other person” with the intent of causing distress or harm, or being reckless about the impact on that person, is guilty of a crime with a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment or on conviction on indictment up to 7 years.
Employers and educational institutions also have duty of care to provide a safe environment and can be held responsible by the courts if they fail to do so.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed under civil law via a private court action in defamation.
Israel has almost 6 million Internet users, with 72.5% penetration.
In May 2017, the Ministry of Public Security launched a new program called, “The Network for the Prevention of Violence and Internet Crime Against Minors (NPVICAM)”, a cyberbullying and online abuse prevention plan set up to protect minors against these behaviours working within Lahav 433, the Israel Police’s crime fighting unit. NPVICAM:
- Provides immediate support and response to cases of cyberbullying and online violence against minors.
- Operates a 24/7 call centre where Internet abuse related crimes (affecting minors) can be reported by calling the 105 hotline. This is manned by police officers and experts on child welfare, who can offer advice and consult on issues ranging from paedophilia or sexual harassment, to bullying and shaming which are considered non-criminal offenses.
- Due to launch a prevention unit to increase cyberbullying awareness as well as education about how to keep young people safe from sexual harassment and abuse online.
This scheme, also known as the ‘MA’OR Program’ has received a budget/grant of over NIS 45 million and has well as 130 police positions, and government positions within the Public Security, Education, Justice and Welfare Ministries. This is set to go live in the summer of 2017.
Cyber abuse in the form of online defamation published to third parties, may be addressed under Israel’s Defamation Law (in the Penal Code), which was updated to extend it beyond its original applicability only to press publications.
Internet access in Italy is at 66%, with 39 million internet users.
In February 2017, the Italian Senate approved an anti-bullying law to protect minors, with an almost unanimous vote. The law has been adopted as of May 2017.
The law defines cyber abuse and introduces new regulations whereby owners of any website, including personal blogging sites or social media accounts, must remove any offensive content within 48 hours when directly contacted by anyone over the age of 14 years old or parents of younger children. If this is not done, Italy’s privacy regulator has the power to fine the site hosting the content and intervene with the site’s management within 48 hours.
Trolls can be charged with a prison sentence of up to six years.
Cyber abuse can be prosecuted under existing offences in the Italian criminal codes. ‘Cyber abuses’ are defined as offenses and threats committed using electronic means. In Italy, victims can recover civil damages for compensation within criminal claims. Relevant offences are:
Slander, s.368 of the Criminal Code: from 2 to 6 years jail sentence
Impersonation, s.494 of the Criminal Code: up to one year jail sentence
Insult, s.594 of the Criminal Code, from 6 to 12 months jail sentence and/or a fine from 516 to 1,032 euros
Defamation, s.595 of the Criminal Code: from 12 to 24 months jail sentence and/or a fine from 1,032 to 2,065 euros
Domestic violence, s.610 of the Criminal Code: up to 4 years jail sentence
Stalking, s.612 of the Criminal Code: from 6 months to 4 years jail sentence. The sanction is higher if the crime is committed against a minor, a pregnant woman or a person with disabilities
Extortion, s.629 of the Criminal Code: from 5 to 10 years jail sentence and/or a fine from 1,000 to 4,000 euros
Computer fraud, s.640 of the Criminal Code: from 6 months to 6 years jail sentence and/or a fine from 51 to 3,000 Euro
Harassment, s.660 of the Criminal Code: up to 6 months jail sentence and/or a fine up to 516 euros.
The bill was first drawn up in 2015 in response to devastating teenage suicides that had occurred as a result of cyber abuse. A 14-year-old girl called Carolina Picchio committed suicide after a video of her at a party was shared on social media and this was followed by a stream of online abuse from her peers, which was not removed by Facebook on request by her friends and family.
Japan’s internet access is at 91%, with 115 million internet users.
In Japan’s penal code sections 230 & 231 specify defamation and insults are punishable when someone is insulted ‘in public’. It is currently untested as to whether online insults are considered ‘in public’.
Stalking and harassment laws in Japan were revised in 2016, to better tackle online harassment and cases involving social media. The revised law expands upon what was previously classed as a ‘stalking act’, now incorporating sending repeated messages on social networking sites and persistent postings on individual blogs. The maximum penalty for stalking was also increased from 6 months to a year, and no longer do authorities have to issue ‘warnings’ before they order suspected stalkers to stop contacting victims.
A Japanese pop idol was attacked and almost stabbed to death by a supposed fan after she had repeatedly spoken to police about the online harassment she was experiencing from the attacker. This was a high profile case that inspired the changes to current stalking legislation in Japan.
There are also laws forbidding bullying (online and offline) in schools that leads to serious physical or mental trauma. The school must report cases to the education ministry and local government for investigation, who must also monitor online abuse and work with the police.
Internet access in Jordan is 46%, with nearly 3.5 million Internet users.
The Constitution of Jordan 1952 (amended 2016) makes provision for the protection of freedom of speech, within the limits of the law:
Article 15 (1) states: “The State shall guarantee freedom of opinion; and every Jordanian shall freely express his opinion by speech, writing, photography and the other means of expression, provided that he does not go beyond the limits of the law.”
Article 18 states: “All postal and telegraphic correspondence, telephonic communications, and the other communications means shall be regarded as secret and shall not be subject to censorship, viewing, suspension or confiscation except by a judicial order in accordance with the provision of the law."
Article 7 states: “Personal freedom shall be guaranteed. Every infringement on rights and public freedoms or the inviolability of the private life of Jordanians is a crime punishable by law.”
Beyond Constitutional law there appear to be nine laws that can relate to the internet:
- Penal Code 1960 (amended 2011)
- Protection of State Secrets and Documents Law 1971
- Civil Code 1976
- Copyright Law 1992
- Press and Publication Law 1998 (amended 2012)
- Anti-terrorism Law 2006
- Access Information Law 2007
- Information Systems Crime Law 2010 (amended 2015)
Four of these laws relate to the regulation of online content:
Penal Code 1960 (amended 2011)
The penal code’s definition of defamation and libel includes making false accusations about or treating a person disrespectfully via speech, writing, drawings, and other forms of communication. Libel and defamation penalties extend to three years’ imprisonment.
Article 118 provides that anyone who engages in acts, writings, or speech not approved by the government, that would subject Jordan to the danger of violent acts or disturb its relations with a foreign state, can be punished with a minimum of five years’ imprisonment.
Article 122 provides that anyone who insults a foreign state or head of state, can be punished with up to two years’ imprisonment.
Article 150 provides that every writing, speech or action intended to or resulting in raising sectarian or racial discrimination shall be punished by a term of imprisonment of no less than six months to three years and a fine not exceeding JOD500 (USD705).
Article 191 provides that committing libel against the parliament, or any of its members or against official institutions shall result in imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years.
Article 195 criminalizes anyone who proves audacity to insult his Majesty the King [or royal family] or sends a text, audio or electronic message, or image or caricature of his Majesty the King in a way that undermines the dignity of his Majesty, or makes an untrue statement, punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment.
Information Systems Cyber Crime Law 2010 was introduced to address the limitations of the Electronic Transactions Act 2001 which did not deal with criminal activity online.
Press and Publication Law 1998 (amended 2012)
Whilst related to journalists and media publications, this law also governs ‘social media journalists’ and prohibits contempt, slander, defamation and content affecting personal freedom (Article 38).
Note, unlike in other markets such as the EU and US, Jordan does not currently protect intermediaries for the acts of those on their platforms or networks. It is available, therefore, for the courts to hold social media platforms liable for cyber abuse happening on their networks.
National security appears to be the primary concern in Jordan’s approach to addressing criminal activity online. Legal action for cyber abuse is prioritised for matters of state security, highlighted in the following 2 examples:
- Jordanian journalist, Nahed Hattar was being tried on charges of “offending religion” and “inflaming religious feelings” under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, after he shared a satirical cartoon on social media deemed to be offensive to Islam. He was shot to death by a gunman outside a court in Amman on 25 September 2016.
- Professor Eyad Qunaibi served one year of an initial 2 year prison sentence issued by the State Security Council, a quasi-military court, for incitement against the political regime under article 149 of the Penal Code, because he made a Facebook post criticising Jordan’s ties with Israel and the “westernisation of Jordanian society” in 2015.
In early 2017, the Jordanian government’s Legislation and Opinion Bureau was drafting a law to address defamation and hate speech on social media. The law, which is yet to be passed, was designed to stop those who use social media to spread hate speech, sedition, incitement and to disturb public order and put the responsibility on the telecommunication companies to identify the owners of abusive accounts and to intercept them.
Kazakhstan’s internet access is 55.8% with almost 10 million users.
Kazakhstan has no specific laws relating to cyber abuse.
The Kazakhstan Criminal Code contains various applicable prohibitions on criminal offences relevant in the context of cyber abuse.
Article 130: Defamation is a crime defined as publishing and/or distributing knowingly false information about an individual and undermining their ‘honour and dignity’ and carries a maximum fine of one thousand ‘monthly calculated indicators’ (MCIs), corrective labour or imprisonment of maximum one year. 1 ‘MCI’ is currently KZT2,405 or USD7. The same act executed through mass media or telecommunications networks has a maximum fine of two thousand monthly indicators, corrective labour of the same value or imprisonment of maximum two years. When this act has ‘grave consequences’ this increases to three thousand monthly indicators and three years imprisonment.
Article 131: The crime of insult, which is ‘humiliation of honor and dignity of another person, expressed in an indecent form’, is punishable by a fine of up to one hundred MCIs, or correctional labor in the same amount, or by ‘attraction to public works’ for up to one hundred and twenty hours.
Article 145: ‘Direct or indirect restriction of the rights and freedoms of a person on grounds of origin, social, official or property status, sex, race, nationality, language, attitude to religion, beliefs, place of residence, membership in public associations or for any other reason’ is prohibited. The punishment is a fine of up to three hundred MCIs or correctional labor in the same amount, or by involving in public works for up to two hundred and forty hours, or by prison for up to seventy-five days.
Article 115: Threats resulting in fear of murder or infliction of serious harm or violence against a person or destruction of property are prohibited. The punishment is a fine of up to two hundred MCIs or correctional labor in the same amount, or by bringing to public works for up to one hundred and eighty hours, or by arrest for up to sixty days.
Article 147: Illegal collection of information about the private life of a person without consent or in a way which causes significant harm to the rights and legitimate interests of a person, is a crime punishable with a fine of up to five thousand monthly calculated indices, or corrective labor in the same amount, or restriction of freedom for a term of up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period. Dissemination of such information carries a 5 year prison sentence, increasing to 7 years of that information is published or displayed publicly in the media or using telecommunication networks.
Article 274: Distribution of knowingly false information that creates the danger of disturbing public order or causing significant harm to the rights and legitimate interests of citizens or organizations or the interests of society or the state, carries punishment of a fine of up to one thousand monthly calculated indicators, or corrective labor in the same amount, or by restraint of liberty for a term of up to one year, or by imprisonment for the same period, increasing to five thousands MCIs or prison for up to 5 years if it is committed by a group of people by ‘prior agreement’ or using mass media or telecommunications networks.
Article 313: In addition to pornography laws, the distribution of works propagating the cult of cruelty and violence is illegal and carries a fine of up to two thousand monthly calculated indices, or corrective labor in the same amount, or with imprisonment for a term of up to two years, with or without confiscation of property.
Kazakhstan law provides that criminality will be considered intentional if the person was aware of the public danger of their actions or foresaw the possibility of ‘socially dangerous consequences’, where even if they did not necessarily want those consequences, they ignored them or consciously allowed their onset.
Criminality will be considered committed by negligence if it is ‘committed by arrogance’, if the person foresaw the possibility of the socially dangerous consequences, but without sufficient grounds, thought lightly of preventing those consequences and/or if they did not foresee the possibility of the consequences, but would have foreseen them if they had applied due diligence and foresight.
In the case of criminal offences that cause grave consequences such as death or serious harm, negligence will be sufficient to recognise the crime as intentional.
The "Internet Association of Kazakhstan" provides a hotline and reporting mechanism where messages, pictures, videos and other content that are deemed ‘unacceptable and offensive to human dignity’ can be submitted by anyone through their website. The Association promises to review the material and contact the owner of the relevant website or forum to take measures to remove content if it meets these criteria.
In 2009 the ‘Internet Association of Kazakhstan’ was established with the aim to transform “the Republic of Kazakhstan into a full and respected member of the global Internet community”. All major service providers in Kazakhstan since 2010 have signed the ‘Declaration About Safe Internet’ which outlines their responsibility in relation to safety and security and their interaction with the Internet Association.
Internet access in Kenya is at 45%, with 21 million internet users.
Kenya introduced the Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill to address cyber issues including cyber abuse. The bill made it a criminal offence individually or with other people, willfully and repeatedly to communicate with other people, either directly or indirectly, if they know or ought to know that their conduct:
- is likely to cause those persons apprehension or fear of violence to them or damage or loss to that person's’ property; or
- detrimentally affects that person.
The crime is punishable by a fine of up to 20 million shillings and/or 10 years’ prison.
Various other legislations can also be deployed in relation to cyber abuse in Kenya:
- The 2010 Constitution (section 33.2), which makes it clear that freedom of speech does not extend to incitement of violence, hate speech, advocacy of discrimination or disrespect for the rights and reputation of others.
- The Penal Code (sections 138, 181, 194), which outlaw ‘uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings’; publication of obscene material; publication of material with the intent to defame another.
- The National Cohesion and Integration Act (sections 13 and 62).
- Broadcasting regulation e.g. the Kenya Information Communications (Amendment) Act (2013) (section 29), whereby it is an offence, by means of a licensed telecommunication system, to send a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or that is known to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person.
Hate crime and inflammatory speech in the context of ethnic origin came to the fore during political elections in Kenya and ethnic violence stoked by political incitement has caused many deaths in the country. Social media has also been linked to an increase in gender-based violence against women.
Internet access in Lebanon is 75.9%, with over 4.5 million Internet users.
There are a number laws that provide for the prosecution of speech offences in general and have been used in cases of online speech. The courts most often impose fines, but the laws do provide for punishment by imprisonment.
The Lebanese Constitution (adopted 1926, with amendments 1995) seeks to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and privacy with the following:
Preamble C “Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.”
Article 13 “The freedom to express one's opinion orally or in writing, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association shall be guaranteed within the limits established by law.”
The Lebanese Penal Code makes libel and defamation a criminal offence, both in cases toward the state (President, public authorities and the army) and the general public.
Article 383 Defamation of speech, movements or threats to employees via writing, drawing or telegram is punishable with up to 6 months imprisonment, or up to one year imprisonment if the employee works for a government authority.
Article 384 Insults to the President, national flag or emblem are punishable with up to 2 years imprisonment.
Article 385 Acts of expression that put into question the honour or dignity of another can incur punishment by imprisonment in accordance with Article 383.
Articles 386 and 388 Defamation of public officials and public entities can incur a fine of up to 100,000 LBP (USD 66) and/or punishment of up to 1 year imprisonment.
The Military Justice Code prohibits defamation directed at military institutions and its officers.
Article 157 Defamation/tarnishing the reputation of the military establishment, its officers and the national flag can be punishable with up to 3 years imprisonment.
As a regulator, the focus of Lebanon’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is on cyber security and not online expression, though it does make mention of Online Protection for Consumers and children, focussing on youth and parents.
Lebanon`s Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau was established in 2015 to to deal with developments in cybercrime and online communications, though there has been some debate about its approach and legitimacy, citing its main activity as its crackdown on social media posts on the political and corporate elite in Lebanon.
In October 2017, Major Suzan Hajj Hobeiche, Head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau, seen as the most powerful woman in Lebanon at the time, was sacked for liking a tweet that ridiculed the Saudi Royal Decree that removed the ban on women driving.
In 2016, lawyer and human rights activist, Nabil al-Halabi, was arrested for criticising government officials via Facebook posts under the Lebanese Penal Code. He was later released some 3 days later after signing a ‘document of submission’. Civilians and children can be charged before the Military Court, an exceptional judicial system, governed by the Ministry of Defense. Its jurisdiction is broad, encompassing any interaction with the military that could be considered criminal, which although not directly referenced in law, can include online expression. Critics argue that these laws regulating speech are not in place to protect the public from abuse online for example, but to protect the reputation of state heads and institutions.
Internet access in Libya 21%, with over 1.3 million Internet users.
There are no specific laws directly related to cyber abuse in Libya. Since the fall of former dictator Qadhafi, Libya remains marred by a general lack of law enforcement and weak rule of law. National insecurity and political instability led to the collapse of Libya’s criminal justice system and continue to obstruct the prospect of justice for even the most extreme cases of human rights abuse. Deep political divisions have resulted in Supreme Court failing to issue judgments on cases heard before it, and courts remain closed or are operating at reduced levels large parts of the country. ISIS controls certain areas of the country and implements their own laws and enforcement.
When the courts are in operation, examples of how the Criminal Code of Libya that can provide for potential prosecution of cyber abuse are as follows:
Article 438 Insult – the violation of honour or reputation of another committed via telephone, documents or pictures addressed to the person is punishable by detention for up to 6 months or a fine of LYD25 (USD18)
Article 439 Defamation – violating the honour or reputation of another by defamation by means of newspapers, other means of publicity or public document is punishable by detention for up to 6 months or a fine of up to LYD100 (USD73)
Article 5 Offences Committed Abroad - this covers anyone committing an act outside Libya that would make him a principal or accessory to an offence committed inside Libya, which would allow for cross border cyber abuse to be addressed.
Attempts are being made to update The Libyan Constitution, which would include enshrining the right to “personal, physical, and mental safety” and “security and tranquillity” and the “sanctity of private life”. The proposed language includes “The State shall take the necessary measures to protect private life and prohibit incitement to hatred, violence, and racism based on ethnicity, color, language, gender, birth, political opinion, disability, origin, geographic affiliation, or any other reason whatsoever. Accusations of unbelief (takfir) and imposition of opinions by force shall also be prohibited.” (Article 38)
The Libyan government’s action regarding inappropriate online content has focussed more on government as opposed to civic protection.
Internet access in Malta is at 79.6%, with 334 thousand internet users.
There are various laws applicable to cyber abuse in Malta.
Defamation is a criminal offence in Malta under the Criminal Code, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine, or up to 1 year if the defamation is “committed by means of writings, effigies or drawings, divulged or exhibited to the public”. The punishment is limited to those “established for contraventions” if the defamation consists “in vague expressions or indeterminate reproaches, or in words or acts which are merely indecent” (Article 252).
In the Criminal Code:
Articles 255 states that prosecutions for defamation are only at the behest of the offended party. If the party is deceased then immediate relatives can make the complaint. Article 255 provides that family members can file a claim for defamation when “the offence is committed against the memory of a deceased person”.
Article 256 of the Criminal Code states that defamation committed by means of the media is subject to the terms of the Press Act.
Article 249 states that by any means of writing (anonymously/a fictitious name/their own name) threatens to commision any crime whatsoever is punishable by 6 months in prison
Article 251 (3) punishes any use of fear of violence with 6 months in prison.
Article 251A states that even if the offender ought to know their actions amount to harassment they will still be guilty under Article 249.
Article 251A also punishes any of the above crimes to one degree higher if they are committed against the spouse, brother or sister, natural ascendant or descendant, a person having or had a child with the offender within a period of one year preceding the offence, a person who is or had been formally or informally engaged with a view to get married, or, a person who is related to the offender up to the third degree inclusively.
In the Press Act:
Article 11 of the Press Act states that defamatory libel is punished with a fine. However, Article 12 provides that if a person seeks to prove the truth of the allegation, and cannot do so, a prison sentence of up to six months may be imposed.
Article 7 of the Press Act punishes “obscene libel” – the use of expressions harming “public morals or decency” – with up to three months in prison and/or a fine.
The Criminal Code also provides:
Article 249: threats by any means of writing, whether in his own name, fictitious our anonymous, shall we punished by up to 6 months prison.
Article 251A: harassment where the person ought to know that their course of conduct amounts to harassment, if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment, punishable by up to 6 months’ prison and a EUR 5,000 fine.
Article 251AA: stalking, which includes harassment and contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means, publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person or originate from them, punishable by up to 1 year prison and a EUR 10,000 fine, increasing to 5 years prison and EUR 30,000 if the person, as a result of the stalking, on at least 2 occasions, feared violence against them or were seriously alarmed or distressed in a way which had a substantial adverse effect on their day to day activities.
Article 337E states that If any act is committed outside Malta which, had it been committed in Malta, would have constituted an offence, it shall, if linked or connected to a computer in Malta, be deemed to have been committed in Malta.
Malta repealed its criminal blasphemy provisions in 2016. Previously, vilifying or offending the Roman Catholic Church or any object of worship thereof was a criminal offence under Article 163 of the Maltese Criminal Code. Offenders faced a prison sentence of between one and six months and one to three months for vilifying or offending any other religion “tolerated by law”.
In February 2017, the Maltese government announced plans to repeal criminal libel and have been in discussions on this subject with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, which is a watchdog on media developments in the EU. The OSCE RFoM encourage the decriminalisation of defamation and have inputted into the draft Maltese Media and Defamation Act, with a focus on protecting journalistic work If passed, the Media and Defamation Act will replace the current Press Act.
There have been several criminal libel actions in the context of the media in Malta, including against independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was recently murdered. Galizia had previously been fined over a 2003 article critical of a politician, with the court finding she had practiced “militant journalism” with the intent to harm the politician’s reputation. A later court judgement in a different matter found that the allegedly defamatory statements were backed up by strong evidence and were the result of a careful investigation on Caruana Galizia’s part.
In 2011, Saviour Balzan, managing editor of MediaToday, instituted criminal libel proceedings against Steve Mallia, editor of The Sunday Times, after Mallia in an editorial accused Balzan of using his opinion column to target clients who refused to advertise with MediaToday. Balzan later dropped the case after the two reportedly agreed that refraining from attacking one another was in the best interest of their readers and media organisations, and they issued a joint call for the decriminalisation of defamation.
In 2011, editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera were acquitted of violating Criminal Code Article 208 (distributing pornographic or obscene material) after publishing a sexually explicit story in student newspaper Realtà. The judge ruled that simply because the piece was shocking and evoked disgust in readers did not mean that it could be qualified as obscene and pornographic. Malta’s criminal obscenity laws were later reformed in 2016.
Mexico has over 58 million Internet Users, with 45.1% of the population having access.
Article 7 of the Constitution of Mexico 1917 states that no law or authority may establish censorship or prohibit freedom of printing, however this can be limited “only by the respect due to private life, morals and public peace”.
In 2007 defamation was repealed from the Federal Civil Code and is no longer considered a criminal offence. However, defamation remains a criminal offence at state law level, with 9 out of the 23 Mexican states in 2016 still making legal provision to criminalise defamation.
The state of Nuevo Leon passed a law in 2013 to directly address the rapidly rising spread of cyberbullying, effectively making damaging another’s reputation a felony. Article 345 states: “It will ... be considered defamation if anyone uses any electronic means to spread, reveal, yield or transmit one or several images, audiovisual recordings or text to cause the dishonor, prejudice or exposure of another person or group.” The law provides for 2 years imprisonment for anyone found posting images or messages on a social website that “[causes] harm, dishonour, discredit to a person, or exposes him or her to contempt”. The law also requires host sites to reveal the identity of the person making the post, and if they refuse they risk being sanctioned.
The law has since faced local and international criticism from defenders of free speech, concerned it has the potential to be used to limit freedom of speech online and a violation of privacy.
Introduced in 2014, the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Act of Mexico (articles 189 and 190) gives authority for the government to retain personal information of internet users and shutdown telecommunications services where needed to prevent cybercrime. Widely criticised as an attack on civil liberties such as freedom of expression and privacy, the Telecom Law nicknamed ‘Stalker Law’ was upheld by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice in 2016 as not violating the nation’s constitution.
Mexico has the unfortunate reputation for being the ‘bully of bullies’ and its reputation in cyberbullying is merely seen as an extension of this online. Whilst online abuse is said to only reflect a fraction of offline abuse in the country, Microsoft’s Digital Civility Index rated Mexico as one of the worst countries for civility, safety and online interactions, categorised under behaviour, intrusive, reputation and sexual, second only to South Africa.
Mexico is infamous for organized ‘troll gangs’ that spread misinformation and abuse online. An alarming trend that has escalated dramatically since 2012, these gangs are allegedly paid to fabricate stories that go viral on social media sites like Twitter, harassment that includes threats of death in order to discredit individuals, including journalists, politicians and public officials.
Internet access in Mongolia is at 35.6%, with over a million internet users.
The following articles are from the 2004 Criminal Code. When the new draft from 2017 is released our text will be updated.
Article 110 punishes the willful humiliation of an individual’s honor or dignity expressed by means of mass media by a fine of up to 50 ‘amounts of minimum salary’ or by up to 3 months imprisonment.
Article 111 punishes the spreading of knowingly false fabrications defaming another individual by a fine of up to 50 amounts of minimum salary or by up to 3 months imprisonment. If the spreading is carried out by mass media the punishment goes up to 150 amounts of minimum salary amount or by up to 6 months imprisonment. If the fabrications are connected with a serious or grave crime the punishment goes up to 250 amounts of minimum salary amount or by up to 5 years imprisonment.
Article 123 Punishes the preparation, dissemination, sale, display to the public literature, films, video tapes and other items advertising pornography by a fine of up to 50 amounts of minimum salary or up o 3 months imprisonment.
Article 140 Punishes illegal reproduction or dissemination, sale of somebody else’s work or forcing to co-authorship, or other appropriation of a copyright for such work that has caused to the author damage in a large amount by a fine of up to 250 amounts of minimum salary amount or by up to 6 months imprisonment.
Article 143 states that discrimination, oppression or restriction of one’s rights in other forms on the religious ground shall be punishable by a fine of up to 50 amounts of minimum salary or by up to 3 months imprisonment.
It is understood that in 2016, Mongolian courts heard a total of 12 civil cases and one criminal defamation case. Compared to 2015, the number of civil cases increased from 10 to 12, while criminal cases decreased from 5 to 1.
Internet access in Morocco 57.6%, with over 20 million Internet users.
Morocco has made considerable amendments to key governing codes and laws in recent years. These include what many consider liberalising reforms to the Constitution 2011 and the Press and Publications Code 2016, along with the 2016 reforms to the Penal Code in accordance with changes to the Constitution.
Of relevance to the handling of cyber abuse:
Morocco’s Constitution 2011
Article 25 establishes all Moroccan citizens are equals before the law, providing that ‘The freedoms of thought, of opinion and of expression under all their forms[,] are guaranteed.’
Article 22 provides that ‘The physical or moral integrity of anyone may not be infringed, in whatever circumstance that may be, and by any party that may be, public or private. No one may inflict on others, under whatever pretext there may be, cruel, inhuman, [or] degrading treatments or infringements of human dignity.’
Article 24 provides that ‘Any person has the right to the protection of their private life. Private communications, under whatever form that may be, are secret. Only justice can authorize…access to their content...’
Press and Publications Code 2016
Reforms to the code in 2016 removed prison sentences for speech, but continues to reserve harshest treatment for the locally so called ‘red line’ offences of speech - those toward the monarchy, religion and state:
Articles 76 and 77 impose up to MAD200,000 (USD20,000) for publication of offensive content about the monarchy, Islam, and territorial integrity.
Article 72 imposes fines of up to MAD500,000 (USD50,000) if incitement to hatred or discrimination impacts on the discipline or morale of the armies.
In the cases of abuse to individuals:
Article 83 notes that defamation and Insult can be by means of speeches, cries, threats, written or printed materials or posters, published, reproduced or broadcasted.
Article 84 punishes with fines up to MAD200,000 (USD20,000) for defamation toward public officials.
Article 85 punishes with fines up to MAD100,000 (USD10,000) for defamation and MAD50,000 for insult toward individuals.
Article 87 states: ‘Anyone who believes that he or she is the victim of defamation, insult, invasion of privacy or image rights by direct publication or by reproduction, as long as it is identifiable by expressions used in the relevant writing or electronic journal, including audiovisual content and who has suffered damage may claim compensation under the terms and conditions provided by the legislation in force’.
Article 89 states an invasion of privacy via the reproduction of photographic or videos displaying intimate information about a person, or in relation to their private life, is punishable by fines up to MAD100,000 (USD10,000) for defamation and MAD50,000 (USD5,000).
Penal Code 2016
The revised code maintains prison sentences for speech that is considered insulting, discriminating, and denigrating, with steepest fines and imprisonment terms reserved for red line offenses. The Code includes references to offenses conducted by electronic means.
Article 179 punishes with fines up to MAD 200,000 and imprisonment of up to 2 years for defamation, insult or offense towards the Monarchy.
Article 267-2 makes liable to imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to MAD200,000 (USD20,000) anyone who insults the Kingdom via speeches, cries or threats made in public places, or displayed to the public by different means of audiovisual and electronic information.
Article 308-5 punishes with up to six months imprisonment and fines of up to MAD10,000(USD1,000) whoever incites hatred or discrimination based on race, religion, national or social origin, color, sex, family status, state of health, disability, political opinion, trade union membership.
Whilst sexual harassment in cyberspace continues to rise, there are questions as to whether the reach of Morocco’s recent legislative reforms are sufficient to address this online abuse. The new code includes an article that is open to but does not specifically refer to online harassment:
Article 503-1 makes guilty of sexual harassment and punished by imprisonment from one year to two years and a fine of up to MAD50,000 (USD5,000), whoever, by abusing the authority which gives him his functions, harassing others by using orders, threats, restraints or any other means, with the aim of obtaining favors of a sexual nature.
Morocco is considered, by Arab standards, relatively progressive regarding gender equality and freedom of speech, as reflected in the Constitution of 2011 and the Press and Publications Code 2016, but reforms are undercut by what is considered insufficient treatment of sexual harassment and abuse conducted specifically through online means, and a focus on criminalization of all speech that ‘abuses the King, Islam or territorial integrity’. Notably, the judiciary is not independent of the Palace.
Internet access in New Zealand is at 89.4% with 4 million users.
In 2015, the Harmful Digital Communications Act was passed, specifically to address cyber abuse. Under this law, intentionally causing deliberate harm through media or digital communications is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of NZ$50,000.
It is also an offence to encourage someone to commit suicide, whether or not that person in fact attempts to take their life.
NetSafe is the ‘approved agency’ responsible for dealing with cyber abuse issues and in 2016 the government allocated NZ$16.4 million of funding to support the Act and operation of the agency. Under the Act, NetSafe can approach social media companies to address abuse, including requiring content removal and can also contact the people making abusive comments. Matters that cannot be resolved through a civil route are referred to the court, which may result in orders for content to be removed and failure to comply is a criminal offence, punishable by 6 months’ prison or up to NZ$20,000 fine.
Nationwide in the year ending September 2016, police quoted that 154 offenders were charged for causing harm through digital communications, including 7 jail sentences, 3 home detentions and 10 community work sentences prosecuted under the new Act.
The Act includes 10 ‘communication principles’, including not disclosing sensitive personal facts about an individual, not threatening or harassing or making false allegations or breaching confidence.
Employers and educational institutions have duty of care to provide a safe environment and can be held responsible by the courts if they fail to do so.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed under civil law via a private court action in defamation or privacy.
The focus to put in place tighter cyber bullying and harassment laws was accelerated after the high profile ‘Roast Busters’ case in NZ, where a group of teenage boys who called themselves this name made claims on social media about having sexual relations with intoxicated, underage girls. This initiated a national outcry about police inaction and year long investigation into sexual harassment in New Zealand. 116 MPs voted in favor of the new 2015 law and 5 voted against.
The Ministry of Justice have also commented that the Act fills a gap in existing legislation, and was put in place to acknowledge the devastating impacts cyber abuse and these modern forms of harassment can have on the public.
Internet access in Nigeria is 46.1% with 86.2 million users.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act 2015 defines ‘cyberstalking’ under Section 24 as:
Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that - (a) is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or (b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent.
The maximum penalties for this form of cyberstalking are N7,000,000.00 (USD22,000) or imprisonment up to 3 years. However, there are higher fines and penalties for being involved in the transmission of communications that put others in fear of bodily harm, death, violence or are threats of kidnapping or harm to someone’s property/business.
This bill also sets out penalties for child pornography, racist and xenophobic offenses, cyber terrorism and other cyber crimes.
Internet access in Norway is at 98%, with 5 million internet users.
The Norwegian Constitution (Articles 100 and 102) enshrines the right to respect for privacy and prescribes that “clearly defined limitations” may be imposed when particularly weighty considerations so justify” in relation to freedom of expression.
Norway has no dedicated laws criminalising cyber abuse. However, the Norwegian Penal Code of 2005 (that took effect from 1st October 2015) and certain other existing laws can be used to address forms of cyber abuse, such as cyber harassment and revenge porn. For example:
Section 219 refers to the prosecution of threats made to a spouse, implicating up to 6 years’ prison. This section can cover revenge porn.
Section 390 punishes the violation of a person’s privacy with up to 3 months’ prison. A law referred to by the lobby seeking greater legislative responsiveness to revenge porn.
Section 390a punishes with up to 2 years’ imprisonment ‘frightening and annoying behaviour or inconsiderate conduct [that] violates another person’s right to be left in peace’.
Section 135a makes it a criminal offence attracting a fine or prison, willfully or with gross negligence to make a discriminatory or hateful (race, colour, sexuality, ethnic origin, lifestyle) ‘public utterance’, including one that is likely to reach a large number of persons. Use of a symbol is included in the definition and those aiding and abetting are considered in scope.
Section 227 provides for a fine or 3 year prison sentence for anyone threatening (or helping) to commit a criminal act by word or deed that is likely to cause serious fear.
Section 236 makes provision for the same penalty for homicide or gross bodily harm, to be made in the case of aiding or abetting another person to commit suicide or self-harm.
Section 246 and 247 makes defamation a criminal offence with punishment of a fine and up to 1 year in prison and also references causing damage to reputation or exposing another to hatred and contempt. Defamation committed in print, media or ‘otherwise’ or carries an increased sentence of a fine and up to 2 years’ prison and increased punishments are also allowed for in ‘especially extenuating’ circumstances.
The Anti-Discrimination Act 2005 (section 5) prohibits direct and indirect harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, descent, skin colour, language, religion or belief and emphasizes the prohibition of statements that are ‘offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating effect, or which are intended to have such an effect.’ The law also requires employers to seek to prevent such harassment.
Pakistan’s internet access is 17.8% with 34.3 million users.
In 2016 Pakistan passed the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act’. This Act outlines punishments for Hate Speech, Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Stalking, as well as other crimes such as Spamming and Child Pornography.
- Section 10A. Hate Speech is defined as preparing or disseminating information “through any information system or device that advances or is likely to advance inter-faith, sectarian or racial hatred”, and carries a maximum punishment of seven years imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Section 10. Cyber Terrorism can be executed through the interference of data, unauthorised transmission of critical information or the glorification of offences to incite fear in the Government or public, or advance inter-faith or ethnic based hatred. Cyber Terrorism has a maximum punishment of fourteen years imprisonment and/or a fine equivalent to USD 769,942.
- Section 21. Cyber Stalking is outlined as monitoring, attempting to make repeated contact with, spying or taking non-consensual videos or photos of a person with the intent to intimidate or harass them. The maximum punishment for cyber stalking is three years imprisonment and/or a fine of USD 15,399. If the victim is a minor, this increases to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of USD 153,988.
- Section 18. “Offences against dignity” are also provided for, prohibiting the intentional display of information the offender knows to be false and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of another, with a punishment of 3 years in prison or a fine of up to USD 9,000.
- Section 19. “Offences against modesty” for revenge, to create hatred or blackmail are also prohibited and include publishing sexually explicit content of someone or superimposing the face of a person onto sexually explicit content or inducing them to engage in a sexually explicit act. These offences attract a 5 year prison sentence and/or a fine of up to USD 45,000 or double this for a repeat offence.
- A victim of these 2 latter offences may apply to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to enforce the removal of this information.
The law applies to any citizen of Pakistan, anywhere in the world, to any person inside Pakistan and to any person committing an act outside of Pakistan that affects a person, property, information system or data located in Pakistan (Section 1).
The law also makes it clear offences shall not be denied legal recognition or enforcement because of them being committed through an information system (Section 24).
Pakistan’s penal code also outlines criminal punishments for:
- Section 499: defamation - “intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that [their actions] will harm, the reputation [of another person]”. The maximum penalty for defamation is two years imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Section 503: criminal intimidation - “[threatening] another with any injury to his person, reputation or property or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person”. The penalty is two years imprisonment and/or a fine, plus another fine and 2 year’s imprison if they commit the offence by anonymous communication.
- Section 509: insulting modesty or causing sexual harassment - including “intending to insult the modesty of any woman... or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman” and “sexual advances … or uses verbal or non-verbal communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature which intends to annoy, insult, intimidate or threaten the other person”. This offence attracts a 3 year prison sentence and/or a fine.
Pakistan’s Government expressed that the new Prevention of Electronic Crimes law was needed to tackle increased cyber security threats and terrorism. Freedom of speech and pro-democracy activists have expressed concern that the law will result in unfair prosecutions with “harsh penalties”. During an investigation, authorised officers are granted access to unlock any mobile phone, computer or device, and it is believed by some activists that this breaches human rights.
Internet access in the State of Palestine is 63.2%, with over 3 million Internet users.
Palestine’s Basic Law was enacted to serve as an interim Constitution until “the establishment of an independent state and a permanent constitution for Palestine can be achieved”. The law provides as follows, for freedom of expression and access to justice:
Article 19 “Freedom of opinion may not be prejudiced. Every person shall have the right to express his opinion and to circulate it orally, in writing or in any form of expression or art, with due consideration to the provisions of the law.”
Article 9 provides for all to be equal before the law, regardless of race, sex, color, religion, political views or disability.
Published in July 2017, Palestine’s new Cybercrime Law 2017 regulates social media networking sites, media websites and online transactions and an electronic crimes unit has been set up. Punishment for criminal activity online, including inciting hatred and threats to commit immoral acts can include the imposition of fines and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
“1. Anyone who uses the Internet or an information technology device to threaten or blackmail another person to carry out an act or to refrain from doing so, even if such an act or omission is lawful, shall be punished by imprisonment or by a fine of… no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000) or by a combination of both punishments.
2. If a person threatens to commit a felony or an immoral act, they shall be punished by temporary hard labor and by a fine of…no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000)…”
“1. Anyone who has produced any material that infringes upon public morals, or has arranged, prepared, sent or stored it for the purpose of exploiting, distributing or presenting it to others through an electronic network, an information technology platform, or an animation shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of no less than one year or by a fine of…no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000) or by both penalties.
2. Any person who creates a website, an application or an electronic account, or who publishes information on the Internet or on another information technology platform in order to facilitate programs and ideas that infringe upon public morality shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year or by a fine of…no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000) or by a combination of both punishments.”
“Anyone who creates a website, an application or an electronic account, or disseminates information on the Internet or an information technology device with the intention of offending or violating a sacred or religious rite or belief shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year or by a fine of no less than two thousand Jordanian dinars and no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000) or by a combination of both punishments.”
“Anyone who creates a website, an application, or an electronic account, or publishes information on the Internet or an information technology device with the intent to attack any family principles or values relating to the inviolability of private and family life, whether directly or indirectly, by publishing news, photos, audio or video recordings in order to defame others and harm them, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least two years or by a fine of…no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (USD7,000) or by a combination of both punishments”.
“Anyone who creates a website, an application or an electronic account, or who publishes information through a computer network or any other information technology platform for the purpose of publishing and disseminating information that incites racial hatred, provokes racial discrimination against a particular group, or threatens aggression against someone because of their ethnic or sectarian affiliation, skin-color, looks or disability, shall be sentenced to temporary hard labor and a fine of….no more than 10,000 Jordanian dinars (USD14,000)…”
“Anyone who creates a website, application, electronic account, or who publishes information through a computer network or any information technology platform that justifies or incites committing acts of genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined under the international covenants, shall be punished by temporary hard labor for a period of at least ten years.”
“If any of the offenses set out in this resolution are committed for the purpose of disturbing public order, endangering the safety and security of the community, endangering the lives of the citizens, preventing or obstructing the exercise of public works by the public authorities or obstructing the provisions of the Constitution, the Basic Law, or with the intention of harming national unity, social peace, contempt of religion, or that violate the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution or the Basic Law, the penalty shall be hard labor or temporary hard labor.”
Reports indicate that the Palestinian government brought the Cyber Crime Law 2017 in response to a significant rise in cases of cyber crime in recent years in the Palestinian Territories. Concerns have been expressed that the law enables the government to impose restrictions on online speech and access.
The Palestinian Working Women's Association for Development has reported that electronic harassment of children and girls is widespread and that one out of every four girls is harassed through social networking sites, telephone or chat.
Peru’s internet access is 41% with 13.0 million users.
Peru does not have specific laws relating to cyber abuse, however acts of cyber abuse could be punished under articles in Peru’s Criminal Code.
Articles 130, 131 and 132 cover Libel, Slander and Defamation. Attributing a quality or event to a person that may damage their reputation or honour, through books, press or other media, has a punishment of one to three years imprisonment and up to 365 days fine (meaning the average daily income of the person according to their assets, remuneration, level of expenditure and other external signs of wealth - Article 41). Slander or libel cannot be said to be committed through literary, scientific or artistic reviews, or in the case of unfavourable political opinions.
Article 169 criminalises the unjust violation of freedom of expression, and states that, “The public official who, abusing his position, suspends or closes any means of social communication or prevents its circulation or dissemination, shall be punished by a custodial sentence of not less than three to six years and disqualification”.
Article 323, ‘Discrimination of People’ defines discrimination broadly based on “racial, ethnic, religious or sexual” grounds. The punishment is community service of a term between 30 and 60 days, or a “limitation of days off” (Article 35, where offenders must attend an institution on weekends and holidays) between 20 and 60 days. If the perpetrator is a civil servant the punishment is increased to community service of a term between 60 and 120 days, and a disqualification from office for three years.
Article 374, ‘Contempt’, criminalises activity that “threatens, insults or otherwise offends the dignity or decorum” public officials, and has a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment.
Article 442 states that “Whoever ill-treats another person without causing injury, shall be punished with community service of ten to twenty days”. There is no further description as to how this abuse is communicated, so online abuse may satisfy this criteria.
Within the code is also a prevention against Blackmail (Article 201), which carries a sentence of three to six years imprisonment and a fine of 60 to 180 days.
Internet access in the Philippines is at 44%, with 45 million internet users.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 put in place penalties for online crimes and for online abuse. It penalizes not only those who create or publish abusive content but also those who re-post it, share photos or videos relating to the incident or condone it in other ways. The maximum penalty is 12 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to PHP 1 million (approx. GBP 20,000).
The Philippine courts claim jurisdiction over violations (1) by any Filipino national, regardless of the place of commission of the offence (2) using a computer system even partly situated in the Philippines (3) causing damage to anyone in the Philippines.
The law specifies designated cybercrime courts and specially trained judges to handle cases.
A proposed Anti Cyberbullying Act of 2015 is under review by the Information Communication Technology Committee to encourage people to become responsible ‘netizens’ and make them accountable for their actions. The act addresses cyber abuse explicitly, with a punishment of up to six years imprisonment and/or a fine up to PHP 100,000 (approx. GBP 2,000) for:
- Sending repeated rude, insulting or offensive messages
- Distributing derogatory information
- Sharing offensive photographs of another
- Hacking into someone’s email or Internet profile for the intention of distributing embarrassing private information
- Sharing this information
- Sending repeated threats or engaging in online activities that may cause someone else to feel fearful or unsafe.
Cyber abuse is defined as any act of cruelty committed using the internet or any form of electronic media or technology that has the effect of stripping one’s dignity or causing reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm.
The ‘Tres Marias’ bills were filed by Senator Hontiveros introducing suggested legislation and consequences for those who publish misogynistic or homophobic abuse on social media, or who execute gender-based electronic violence (‘GBEV’), amongst other online offenses.
In the bill, GBEV is defined as, "acts involving use of any form of information and communications technology which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional or psychological distress or suffering to the female victim or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) victim, and tending to disparage the dignity and personhood of the same on account of his or her gender."
The first bill, SB 1251, penalizes online crimes such as unauthorised recording, reproduction or distribution of videos containing nudity, inappropriate video sharing, sending threatening messages over any electronic medium, harassment, cyber-stalking and exposing a victim to harassment, attack or damage to reputation.
The proposed punishment is a jail term of 5 to 10 years, or a fine of up to PHP 500,000 (approx. GBP 8,000).
The second bill, SB 1252, is set out to qualify video recording as an ‘aggravating circumstance’ of rape and to modernise the existing anti-rape laws.
The third bill, SB 1250, focuses on sexual harassment legislation and offences between peers and also those in a subordinate position (e.g. student, trainee) to their superiors (e.g. a teacher). It was noted that a lot of the victims of cyber abuse are young people, due to their strong presence on social media and the Internet.
A female protester had her photograph published on social media and it received tens of abusive comments from men such as "Let's gang bang her so she won't be able to bite... Let's tie her up” and "Come to papa, I'll fill your mouth, and your pockets, too”. The Senator mentioned this particular case and the woman joined her at a press conference when discussing the new bills.
A lawyer, Arnolfo Teves Jr. has filed a bill that suggests social networking services should require those wanting to set up accounts to provide valid identification numbers and/or barangay certificates in order to join the site in order to be ‘held accountable for their online interactions’.
The House Bill 4795, brought forward in May 2017 by Surigao del Sur representative Johnny Pimentel, aims to update and strengthen the existing legislation in the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Revised Penal Code in relation to online harassment, with the goal of ensuring ‘the protection of the right to free speech and expression in cyberspace without its abuse’.
The bill will address the following acts via social media and electronic communication and calls for punishment of not less than 5 years and not more than 10 year imprisonment or a fine of not less than P100,000 (USD 2,000) and not more than P500,000 (USD10,000) or both:
- Placing a person in fear of harm
- Causing emotional or psychological distress
- Sharing sexual contents that causes harassment
- Using a fake profile for the use of the above.
Internet access in Poland is 72.4%, with nearly 28 million users.
Poland’s Constitution outlines that no person shall be discriminated against based in their “political, social or economic life for any reason whatsoever”.
Poland’s Penal Code also outlines punishments for stalking and cyberstalking can be charged under the following provisions:
Article 190.a provides that threatening to commit an offence detrimental to a person or their next of kin that causes ‘justified fear’ that the offence will be carried out, is punishable by a fine or a restriction or deprivation of liberty of up to two years. The following addition was made in 2011 to the article: “The same penalty is for those who simulate another person, uses his/her image or other personal data in order to make a material or personal harm.” If either of these acts results in the victim attempting suicide, the maximum punishment is increased to 10 years prison.
Article 212 enables cyber abuse to also be punished under criminal defamation law or ‘offences against honour and personal inviolability’. Defamation is defined as imputing “to another person, a group of persons, an institution or organisational unit, conduct or characteristics that may discredit them in the face of public opinion or result in a loss of confidence necessary for a given position”, and is punishable by a fine or up to one year prison. For defamation published through ‘mass media’, the punishment increases to two years. Insult is also punishable under Article 216.. Whoever insults a person in their presence, in public or with the intention that the insult will reach that person can be subjected to a fine or prison. Through mass media the penalty increases to a restriction or deprivation of liberty up to a year. This penalty can be waived if the insult is reciprocated by the victim.
Internet access in Portugal is 67.3%, with almost 7 million users.
The Constitution of The Portuguese Republic lays out the foundations for freedom of speech and freedom from harm, stating in Article 26.1 that “Everyone is accorded the rights to personal identity, to the development of personality, to civil capacity, to citizenship, to a good name and reputation, to their image, to speak out, to protect the privacy of their personal and family life, and to legal protection against any form of discrimination”.
The Constitution also states that without consent or legal authorisation, information technology cannot be used to ‘treat data’ concerning the private lives, ethnicity, philosophical, political or religious information of anyone concerned.
The Portuguese Penal Code outlines penalties for Defamation and Injury. Under Injury, a case example is given in the penal code where the offender wrote “...is going to get anyone who fits you, f*ck you” in an SMS to the victim, which falls under the umbrella of Injury as it ‘places her in the animalistic forum of sexual intercourse’, offending her ‘consideration’ and ‘honour’.
Article 183 sets out that if defamation (Art.180), injury (Art.181) or ‘Matching’ (Art.182 - verbal defamation or slander) is carried out by means of social communications the offender can face up to 2 years imprisonment.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed via breach of privacy laws in Portugal.
Romania’s internet access is 58% with 11.2 million Internet users.
Romania has no specific criminal or civil laws relating to cyber abuse. However, acts of cyber abuse can be punished under existing legislation relating to harassment and blackmail.
Article 208 in Romania’s Criminal Code outlines the terms and punishment for Harassment, where repeated attempts to make contact with an individual and harass them, causing a state of panic, via telephone calls or ‘remote communication’ is punishable by imprisonment of between one and three months, and/or a fine.
Article 226 is titled ‘Violation of Privacy’; unlawfully recording video, sound or media of someone inside their house, a room or private conversation carries a penalty of one to six months imprisonment or a fine. Disclosing this media to another person or the general public has an increased punishment of three months to two years imprisonment, or a fine. Installing devices to record this media has a punishment of between one and five years imprisonment.
Romania also has Blackmailing and Child Pornography Laws, as outlined by articles 207 and 374 in their Criminal Code.
In 2017, Iulian Enache was sentenced to four years in prison by the Romanian Courts for using a fake profile to retrieve intimate images from a 17 year old living in Ireland, in order to blackmail the teenager for €3,000. Ronan Hughes (17) took his own life in 2015 after the images were shared on social media by Enache.
‘Save The Children’ have set up a hotline for reporting content of an ‘illegal or harmful nature’ for children in Romania, with aims to reduce the volume of pornographic and offensive material and they work with other parties to remove this content when it is reported. This charity also works with the Ministry of Education to deliver Internet safety training sessions and raise awareness on “children’s rights in the online environment in areas where the use internet is less favoured”.
Internet access in Russia is at 71%, with 102 million internet users.
In Russian criminal law, there is no distinction made between insults online and offline, and the courts will accept a notarized screenshot of comments or messages made through digital means as proof of such insults.
Sections of Russian law that can be interpreted for use in cases of cyber abuse are:
Civil Code of the Russian Federation
Chapter 8, Rule 150 – provides for the protection of ‘non-material values’ such as personal dignity and personal immunity, right of name and reputation, against insult and violation.
Chapter 8, Rule 152 – provides for the protection of “honour, dignity and business reputation”, making specific reference to ‘refuting’ false information, including where spread by mass media. If the perpetrator cannot be identified, the victim can ask the court to verify the information as false. When establishing appropriate compensation for ‘moral damage’, the code directs the court to ‘take into consideration the extent of the culprit's guilt and the other circumstances, worthy of attention [including] the depth of the physical and moral sufferings, connected with the individual features of the person, to whom the damage has been done’.
Criminal Code of the Russian Federation
Article 282 - provides for the punishment of actions that incite hatred or enmity on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, whether committed in public or via mass media, with up to 2 years labour or a fine of up to RUB 300,000 (USD 5,000) and other sanctions as appropriate (for example removal from office), with such sanctions increased in the event that the offence includes the threat of violence or occurs through an organised group.
Article 148 - violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion - The addition of paragraphs 1,2 and 4 provide for the punishment of an offence that is intentional, public and indecent, showing clear and obvious disrespect for society with the ‘intent to offend religious believers’ feelings’.
On 1st July 2013 the Law on offending religious feelings came into effect, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed federal law no. 136-03 (FZ), amending Article 148 of the Russian Criminal Code and 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offences. This, along with earlier amendments to the existing Criminal Code’s Article 282, allowing for charges to be made on the basis of insult that offended another’s religion, are widely believed to be responses to the Pussy Riot case. In March 2012, the Russian feminist punk rock band, Pussy Riot staged a performance in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow. Considered sacrilegious, members of the band were convicted of hooliganism in August 2012. But not before President Putin’s government proposed changes be made to the existing Criminal Code’s Article 282, that have since allowed for charges to be made on the basis of insult that offended another’s religion. These laws and their use have been widely criticized as an attempt to control, frighten and curb freedom of expression, specifically in relation to Russian traditional religious beliefs and political dissent, as opposed to protecting citizens from online abuse.
Cyber abuse is seen as coming late to Russia as an issue, due to slower uptake of internet usage in Russia than in Western countries.
Russia has also been implicated in political cyber abuse, for example in connection with the U.S. election.
Internet access in Saudi Arabia is 64%, with over 20.8 million Internet users
In 2007, Saudi Arabia enacted the Anti Cybercrime Law, 2007. Under Articles 3 and 6, this law includes provisions for up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of up to IRR 3 million (USD 800,000) for crimes relating to certain forms of cyber abuse, including “Defamation and infliction of damage upon others through the use of various information technology devices” and disseminating material crimes “impinging on public order… morals and privacy”.
In 2015, the Anti Cybercrime Law was used by the Criminal Court of Qatif, Saudi Arabia, to convict a woman on charges of defamation via Whatsapp. She was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, 70 lashes, and a fine of IRR 20,000 riyals (USD 5,000). The legal basis for including the imposition of punishment by lashing is not clear, as it was made in addition to the punishment provisions in the Anti Cybercrime Law.
Islamic (Shari’a) Law underpins modern law in Saudi Arabia and was established long before the rise of the Internet.
Internet access in South Africa is at 52% with 28.5 million users.
The Cybercrimes and Cyber Security Bill, released in February 2017, would criminalize malicious online communications, including revenge pornography and ‘harmful’ data messages, including those that:
- threaten damage to a person or group’s property
- violence against a person or group
- intimidate, encourage or harass a person to harm himself or another
- are false and aimed at causing mental, psychological, physical or economic harm to a person or group
The test for criminality is whether a reasonable person in possession of the same information would regard the message as harmful.
The offences carry maximum penalties of three years imprisonment and/or a fine and the bill not only covers crimes that happen in South Africa, but also crimes where the effect is felt by residents of South Africa or otherwise in the country.
A recent study on cyberbullying showed that 37% of young people had an experience with “cyber aggression”. It is estimated that the rate of cyber abuse will increase dramatically as South Africa develops, particularly as the internet penetration is rapidly getting higher and higher. The State Security Agency has also cited the rise in abuse online as part of its review of fake news and scams affecting the country.
Internet access in South Sudan is 17.1% with over 2.1 million users.
South Sudan has laws such as the Informatic Offences (Combating) Act 2007 (known as the IT Crime Act, or electronic crimes law) that criminalizes the establishment of websites that publishes defamatory material and content that disturbs public morality or public order. Violations involve fines and prison sentences between two to five years.
The South Sudan Penal Code makes provision for various crimes that can apply to cyber abuse, though physical conflict and famine are of far greater priority at the current time.
Section 432 punishes defamation of another with imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine and ‘injurious falsehood’ is also a crime carrying the same sentence (Section 433), defined as someone making or publishing “any false statement, intending to harm or knowing or having reason to believe that such false statement will harm the reputation of any person or class of persons”.
Section 437 punishes criminal intimidation with imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine; and, if the threat is to cause death or grievous hurt or to cause the destruction of any property by fire or to impute unchastity to a woman, is punishable with imprisonment for up to seven years and/or a fine.
Section 438 states that any person who conceals their “name or abode” whilst committing the offence in Section 437 is punished with an additional 2 years’ punishment.
Section 439 states that an intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace punishable by imprisonment of up to 2 years and/or a fine.
Section 440 states that anyone intending to “insult the modesty of any woman’ and “utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman” commits an offence punishable by two years prison and/or a fine.
It is reported that Sudanese women are regularly targeted for harassment and cyber abuse by both for their online activities and is has been suggested that state actors are involved in such activity. Throughout 2014-2015, numerous female bloggers received online threats for activities that ranged from sharing their views on wearing the hijab to writing feminist poetry.
The Sudanese government is public about blocking and filtering websites that it considers “immoral” and “blasphemous.” The National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) manages online filtering in the country through its Internet Service Control Unit and is somewhat transparent about the content it blocks, reporting that 95 percent of blocked material is related to pornography.
Internet access in Spain is at 82%, with 37.9 million internet users.
Cyber abuse-related crimes are specifically regulated by Spain’s Penal Code (Código Penal, Ley Orgánica 10/1995, BOE n. 281, Nov.24, 1995) as amended as of April 2015.
Article 147 makes it a criminal offence to cause another injury to their physical or mental health, with a penalty of up to three years’ prison. ‘Mistreatment’ is punishable by a fine or up to two months’ prison.
Article 169, 171 and 172 make it an offence to threaten or coerce another, with the penalty of imprisonment of up to 5 years or for lesser offences fines and community service.
Article 173 covers inflicting degrading treatment, seriously impairing moral integrity and harassment, which carries a penalty of up to 3 years’ prison.
Article 197 makes it an offence to ‘discover secrets’ or infringe the privacy of another, including disclosing images and materials to third parties, which carries a punishment of up to 5 years’. The offence is considered particularly egregious where the disclosure is of information relating to ideology, religion, beliefs, health, racial or sexual life, or where the victim is a minor or a person with a disability in need of special protection and sanctions can increase to 7 years’ prison.
In 2013 Luis Pineda was ordered to pay compensation in the amount of 4,000 EUR for defamatory tweets towards Rubén Sánchez and also ordered by the court to tweet the ruling every day for 30 days.
On 9 December 2009, the Spanish Supreme Court decided that an internet service provider, AI, was liable for hosting illegal information. The judgment looked beyond the requirements of actual knowledge and neutrality in the E-Commerce Act (based on the intermediary liability provisions of the EU E-Commerce Directive) and instead directly applied Article 14 and Recital 48 of the Directive, which state that ISPs are liable for the illegal information hosted if they are aware of facts or circumstances from which the illegal information is apparent.
In 2016 Spain was the only country in the EU in which cyber bullying was punishable by law. According to Spain’s definition there is no difference between bullying and cyber bullying apart from that cyber bullying happens on digital media.
Spain also implemented early warning systems in schools to allow teachers to easily spot cases and inform parents or guardians. Spain is 1 out of 6 of the EU28 countries that requires its teachers to oversee this process.
Although there is a lack of national statistics on cyber abuse in Spain the local authorities take it very seriously, with many having action plans in place to address the issue.
Internet access in Sweden is at 93%, with 9.1 million internet users.
In Sweden there is no special law in place to counter cyber abuse, though offences in the Penal Code can be applied, for example threat or unlawful coercion (chapter 4), defamation crimes (chapter 5), and sexual abuse (chapter 6).
- Chapter 5 section 1 prohibits anyone from ‘pointing out someone as being a criminal or as having a reprehensible way of living or otherwise furnishes information intended to cause exposure or the disrespect of others’. The sanction is a fine, unless the defamation is calculated to bring about serious damage, in which case it will be punishable as ‘gross’ with a fine of up to 2 years’ prison.
- Chapter 5 section 3 prohibits the vilification of another by an ”insulting epithet or accusation or by other infamous conduct”. If the crime is gross, the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months. .
- Chapter 16 section 5 prohibits enticement to commit criminal acts, excluding ‘petty acts’, i.e. those where there is only an ‘insignificant risk’ that the enticement would have an effect. The sanction is a fine or 6 months’ prison.
- Chapter 16 section 8 prohibits the dissemination of communications that threaten or express contempt for a national, ethnic or other such group of persons ‘with allusion to race, colour, national or ethnic origin or religious belief’. The sanction is a fine or up to 2 years’ prison.
- Chapter 6 section 2 prohibits the dissemination (or coercion to disseminate) depictions of extreme violence or sexual violence. The sanction is up to 2 years’ prison.
- Chapter 16 section 10b prohibits the dissemination of pictures depicting sexual violence or coercion. The sanction is a fine or imprisonment for at most 2 years’.
- Chapter 16, section 11 prohibits the exhibition of pornographic pictures in a manner which is apt to result in public annoyance. The sanction is up to 6 months’ prison.
Sweden is considered a leader in human rights and has strong privacy rights, including the Personal Data Act, under which personal data is protected in a similar way to EU laws. Infringement will be dealt with via civil remedies, unless breach is wilful or egregious, in which case criminal sanctions including fines and up to 2 years’ prison, may apply.
Cyber abuse cases have reached the Swedish courts in recent years.
On February 24, 2012, the Swedish Svea Court of Appeals (civil) upheld a District Court’s Decision ordering Asian Tribune Editor KT Rajasingham and the World Institute for Asian Studies to pay Norway journalist Nadarajah Sethurupan 125,000 SEK (or about 20,000 USD) plus interest from 2 November 2005. Such amount is considered the highest court sentence for defamation in Swedish history.
Another case is Carina Herrstedt, Vice-Chairperson of the Sweden Democrats. As of October 13, 2010, Ms. Herrstedt was ordered by the court to pay 5,000 kronor (753 USD) to Jan Jönsson, the former chairperson of the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP), for claims published on her blog that Mr. Jönsson had said that handicapped people had no right to exist and would be the “first target group for extermination camps that he would like to establish”.
Internet access in Turkey is 58%, with over 46,000 Internet users.
There are currently no laws in place to address cyber bullying, harassment, pornography of any sort or other forms of online abuse in Turkey’s Criminal Code, and within the code, the possibility is not specified that defamation or threats may occur by electronic means.
However, in April 2017 the Council Of Europe published their research findings of the pressures and violence journalists are subjected to across Europe, highlighting that Turkey had the highest rates of sexual harassment, psychological violence, physical assault and cyberbullying in the continent. 53% of Turkish Journalists interviewed reported that they had been victim to cyber harassment, and in response to the overall findings, the Council of Europe General Secretary said, “The responsibility for creating an environment in which journalists can work free from violence and threats belongs to national authorities”, calling for these authorities to take action.
Internet access in the UK is at 92.6% with 60 million users.
The UK has not legislated specifically for cyber abuse and no specific legal definition currently exists. However, cyber abuse can be addressed via a number of existing criminal laws:
- Offences Against the Person Act 1861 - Threatening to kill a person, with the intention that the person will fear that the given threat will be carried out, carries a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment.
- Protection From Harassment Act 1997 - Harassment carries a maximum sentence for perpetrators of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine. Causing another fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress on more than one occasion is liable on conviction on indictment of a prison sentence up to 10 years, or on summary a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. Stalking someone via any means of communication, such as contacting them, monitoring their Internet use or publishing any material relating to that person, can be punished with a maximum imprisonment of 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Malicious Communications Act 1988 - Sending a message that is indecent, grossly offensive, a threat or known to be false by the sender, is a crime with maximum punishment of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine on conviction on indictment, or 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine on summary conviction.
- Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 - disclosing private sexual photography without consent (revenge porn) is a crime punishable by up to 2 years jail. The UK Sentencing Council has released guidelines on such cases.
- Communications Act 2003 - sending grossly offensive, indecent or menacing messages, a message known to be false or persistently making use of a communications network to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is a crime with maximum penalties of six months imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 - Threatening or abusive behaviour towards others with the intention to cause fear or with reckless intentions that this behaviour may cause alarm, by any means of communication, can be punished with a maximum of five years imprisonment and/or a fine on conviction on indictment or 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine on summary conviction.
- Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 - racially aggravated harassment towards a person on at least two occasions has a maximum imprisonment term of seven years on conviction on indictment or six months on summary conviction, and/or a fine for either.
The Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidelines for prosecutors on cyber abuse cases and the Home Secretary recently announced a new national online hate crime hub will be brought into effect and run by specialist officers.
The Digital Economy Act became law on 27 April 2017. The Act brings in a number of measures in relation to the digital economy, including age verification requirements for access to online porn. The bill that preceded it was targeted at protecting young people in the UK, requiring social media sites to undertake and publish online safety impact assessments, have a code of practice, including mechanisms for reporting cyber bullying and enforcing privacy settings for minors, and immediately remove content “threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating children and young people.” Practical implementation of the Act may be delayed or hampered by the general election.
In March 2017 a petition was created, for online abuse to be a specific criminal offence. Petitions require 100,000 signatures to be considered for a debate. The petition closed in May 2017 with over 220,000 signatures. In response, the government stated “We recognise that behaviour that is not not tolerated offline is now common online. DCMS is working on an Internet Safety Strategy which aims to make the UK a safer place for young people to be online.”. The petition is awaiting a parliament debate date.
Employers and educational institutions have duty of care to provide a safe environment and can be held responsible by the courts if they fail to do so.
Cyber abuse can also be addressed under civil law via a private court action in defamation and privacy.
United Arab Emirates
Internet access in United Arab Emirates is 91%, with over 8.5 million Internet users.
In late 2012, the UAE introduced Cybercrime Law No.5 - On Combating Cybercrimes, it was at the time, the Middle East’s most comprehensive cyber crime law. Building upon the 2006 decree on cybercrime, the 2012 law signaled for the first time, the codifying of offences committed online and a list of their punishments.
‘Offense’ is defined as ‘every deliberate expression against any person or entity deemed by an ordinary person as insulting or afflicts the dignity or honour of that person or entity’.
Previously, under Federal Law No.1 of 2006, it was an offence to use the internet or a technology device to threaten another. Whilst the most severe penalties are reserved for the running of malware software, Law No.5 makes the insulting of another a crime. The punishment was imprisonment for up to 2 years and a fine up to AED50,000 (USD13,600) or either. If the threat caused defamation the penalty was imprisonment for up to 10 years. The financial penalties are now higher under the Cyber Crimes Law.
Article 17: punishes the transmission of pornographic material or whatever may afflict public morals, with imprisonment and a fine up to AED500,000 (USD136,000).
Article 20: makes it a criminal offence to insult a third party using an information network or an information technology tool, punishable with imprisonment and a fine up to AED500,000 (USD136,000).
Article 21: makes it a criminal offence to invade the privacy of another using an information network or an information technology tool by way of any of the following ways:
- Eavesdropping, interception, recording, transferring, transmitting or disclosure of conversations or communications, or audio or visual materials.
- Photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos.
- Publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true and correct.
Punishable by 6 months imprisonment and a fine of up to AED500,000 (USD136,000). In addition, the criminal offence of amending or processing a record, photo or scene for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or for attacking or invading his privacy via electronic or information technology means is punishable by at least one year imprisonment and a fine up to AED500,000 (USD136,000). Sharia law also provides for the offence of slander.
Article 29: punishes anyone who publishes information, news, statements or rumors on a website or any computer network or information technology means with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the State or any of its institutions or rulers, with a fine of not more than AED1million [USD272,000].
Article 42: Allows that the court is able to deport a foreigner who is condemned for any of the aforementioned crimes.
Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 On Combating Discrimination and Hatred
Whilst not distinguishing whether it was expressed online or offline, Chapter 2, Articles 4-14 provide for strict treatment of the crime of blasphemy or the provocation of hate speech or discrimination and its punishment. These crimes can be punished with imprisonment in excess of 10 years or more and a fine of up to AED2million [USD544,000].
The government of UAE sought to step up its commitment to address cyber abuse and harassment with the launch of Safer Internet Day in February 2018, and the launch of a year long campaign to raise awareness of safer internet usage. “Be the Change, Communicate Responsibly”. The focus is currently on youth.
Whilst access to the internet access appears relatively unencumbered to the average consumer, the government is said to tightly control media content and with it, expression on the internet. Cases have been reported of detention and other prosecution relating to media, journalists and news bloggers. Political dissent online is seen to be dealt with firmly, and the government makes use of laws that criminalise defamation. This could be said to run counter to the provisions for free speech in the UAE Constitution and that the laws that protect expression online, whether it be prosecuting or defending in cases of defamation, are primarily focussed on protection of government officials not citizens.
Venezuela’s internet access is 58% with 18.3 million users.
There are no laws in Venezuela relating specifically to cyber abuse, however certain acts can be addressed through other laws, for example defamation, and in 2017 they introduced an anti hate-speech act which criminalises online hate-speech and holds social media websites to account for facilitating and posting content of this nature.
Articles 444 and 445 of the Venezuelan Criminal Code states that sharing “a certain fact capable of exposing [someone] to contempt or public hatred, or offensive to his honor or reputation… committed in a public document or with writings, drawings disclosed or exposed to the public, or with other means of publicity” is a crime with a penalty between six to thirty months’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty will be higher where this occurs publicly, versus when defamatory material is shared face-to-face.
Article 446 outlines insult as offending the “honour, reputation or decorum” of another person and when executed through the mediums outlined in Article 444 (writings, drawings or other means of publicity), this carries a sentence of fifteen days to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of USD 15 to USD 150.
Article 509 makes it an offence to ‘publicly, by petulance or other vituperable motive’ ‘bother’ a person or disturb his peace of mind, which is punishable by a fine of up to USD 5 or eight days in prison.
Article 510 makes it an offence publicly to try ‘using any imposture’ to abuse the credulity of a person in a way as to cause them harm or cause a disturbance to public order, which is punishable by a fine of up to 15 days’ prison.
Potentially also applicable is Article 508, which makes it an offence to ‘shout or vociferate with the abuse of bells or other instruments or using noisy means’ and ‘disturb public meetings or the occupations or rest of the citizens’, punishable by a fine of up to USD 5, increasing to USD 10 if the act was committed in the early hours of the night.
Article 538 makes indecency a criminal offence, including words, chants, gestures, signs or other improper acts, punishable with a sentence of 1 month imprisonment or a fine of up to USD 30.
There is no crime per se in Venezuela of threat to life or violence. Threats are only referenced in the Penal Code in relation to other crimes, for example using a threat to extort money, or as a defence to a crime.
The ‘Organic Law for the Protection of the Child & Adolescent’ is an Act outlining provisions to ensure young people (under the age of 18 years old) can fully ‘enjoy’ their rights and are protected in full by Venezuelan legislation. The goal is to ensure a ‘wholesome’ environment for children online. Although again there is no specific legislation relating to cyber abuse, it includes the publishing and availability of material as follows:
Article 79 c) makes it a crime “to disseminate by any information or communications… programs, messages, advertising, publicity or promotions of any kind, that promote terror in children and adolescents, that constitute an assault on human co-existence or nationality, or that incite the deformation of language, disrespect for human dignity, indiscipline, hatred, discrimination or racism”.
In November 2017, Venezuela passed the “Constitutional Law against hatred, for peaceful coexistence and tolerance”, which criminalises online hate speech and holds social media companies accountable for allowing discriminatory content on their sites.
Anyone who publicises content that “promotes war or incites hatred of national, racial, ethnic, religious, political, social, ideological, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and any other nature that constitutes incitement to discrimination, intolerance or violence” can be charged with a sentence of imprisonment between 10 and 20 years.
The new legislation brings in tighter regulation of social media websites:
- Any media outlets who publish this kind of [discriminatory] information will be subject to “fines, closure or termination of their concession”, and the punishment is to be treated separately to the individual who initially wrote the message, who may also be charged.
- “Administrators of social networks and online media outlets must withdraw messages that contravene the law within a maximum period of six hours, or they will be sanctioned”
The state National Telecommunications Commission will be responsible for implementing these sanctions for media outlets.
The legislation also requires ‘public and private’ media to promote peaceful messages for 30 minutes per week online. It was designed by President Nicolas Maduro, in response to violent protests led by activists in Venezuela which have often been organised and encouraged over social media. Many people have objected to the legislation and say that it is part of the Government’s censorship regime to restrict freedom of expression.
Internet access in Zimbabwe is 21%, with over 3.3 million Internet users.
Zimbabwe is introducing a new Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill (2017), which will establish a new Cyber Security Committee and Cyber Security Centre that reports directly to the government. Its remit will include the operation of a ‘protection-assured whistle-blower system’ that will enable members of the public to confidentially report to the Committee cases of alleged cybercrime.
The Bill has been criticised for making its primary focus the protection of National Security, but it provides a substantial section (16) on the criminalisation of online harassment and cyber abuse - punishing the sending or posting of messages with the intent to a crime that could attract a jail sentence of up to 10 years (Part IV Offences Relating to Electronic Communications and Materials).
Part IV, Section 16 Cyber-bullying and harassment
“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system generates and sends any data message to another person, or posts on any material whatsoever on any electronic medium accessible by any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself or herself, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level ten 2,000,000ZWD (5,500USD) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Part IV, Sections 14, 15 and 17 address crimes of unlawful online communication that threatens or incites violence, and allows for punishment of up to 5 years imprisonment or fines up to level ten 2,000,000ZWD (5,500USD)
Section 14 Transmission of data message inciting violence or damage to property
Section 15 Sending threatening data message
Section 17 Transmission of false data message intending to cause harm
‘Revenge porn’ has been a growing problem in Zimbabwe, and the following section of the new Bill effectively outlaws it:
Part IV, Section 19 Transmission of intimate images without consent
“(1) Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes a data message containing any intimate image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned causing the humiliation or embarrassment of such person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level ten 2,000,000ZWD (5,500USD) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
(2) For the purposes of subsubsection (1) “intimate image” means a visual depiction of a person made by any means in which the person is nude, the genitalia or naked female breasts are exposed or sexual acts are displayed.”
Other elements of the new Bill include the criminalisation of the distribution of racist material and online language that lowers the reputation or feelings of another can attract a punishment under:
Part IV, Section 20 Production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material
“…shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level fourteen 5,000,000ZWD (19,000USD) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Regarding extradition for cyber crimes, should a foreign based Zimbabwean been found liable of causing harm in Zimbabwe using social media or any computer based system, Part X, Section 38 Jurisdiction allows for their extradition to or from Zimbabwe, so long as their conduct is criminal in both Zimbabwe and the other country.
In the absence of specific laws on internet rights or behaviour, existing legislation was used to address abuse in online communication. For example:
Criminal Law and Codification Act (CODE) is popularly known as the insult law, invoked primarily to quell criticism of the government particularly during the protests of 2016. Charges included criminal nuisance, insulting and undermining the president’s authority and issuance of treasonous communiqué.
Constitution of Zimbabwe whilst guaranteeing the right of freedom to expression in (Section 61), it states advocacy of hatred or hate speech as part of the limitations on freedom of expression.
Interception of Communications Act requires that ISPs and telecommunications service providers maintain records of users, including origin and destination of online communication.
Postal And Telecommunications Act
In early November 2017, Martha O’Donovan, an American national journalist working in Zimbabwe, was charged for posting a tweet that appeared to insult the President, Robert Mugabe. One such tweet cited by her lawyer included: We are being led by a selfish and sick man. Police reported the tweet was accompanied by a photo illustration of the President with a catheter. Ms O’Donovan could face up to 20 years imprisonment if found guilty of subversion and up to one year if found guilty of insulting the President.
This was shortly after the President appointed Zimbabwe’s first Cyber Security Minister to address the government’s concerns about the emerging threat to the state, founded on abuse and unlawful conduct. The remit for new Minister and his Ministry remit includes the policing of social media. Ms. O’Donovan’s is the first case following the appointment and currently faces two charges; undermining the authority of or insulting the President and plotting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government.
On 21 November 2017, President Mugabe resigned from office following a peaceful military intervention. These recent legal initiatives regarding prosecution under the new Cyber Crime Law were controversial for their focus on state protectionism, and may be subjected to change under the incoming government.
Most US states have state-specific laws covering cyber abuse, focused on the youth perspective. There is no federal-level law specifically.
Defamation cases are hard to make out in the US due to free speech laws.
Section 653.2 of the California Penal Code states that anyone who electronically harasses or shares personal information of another is liable to be prosecuted by the law.
Section 653m of the Code states that anyone using obscene language or threats through electronic communication is liable to be prosecuted by the law.
In January 2017, a new bill Bill 2536, which makes sexting and harassment a criminal offence and enables schools to suspend or expel a student from school due for cyber abuse.
Under Act 192 (12) delivered in 2012 it declares cyber bullying which includes actions such as harassment, incitement and alarming.
The punishment for cyberbullying/bullying is limited to any child of school age. With the perpetrators, the parents or legal guardian facing a fine of no more than $100 for each offense. However if the Act is violated on separate days they count as different offenses.
In the Hawaii penal code 711. Offenses against public order 711-1106 harassment. It declares in subsections 1c and 1d that abusive communications follows under the harassment code. Subsection 1d goes against anonymous communications and any disorderly/annoying communications.
Harassment is a petty misdemeanor which is a maximum fine of $1000 and 30 days in jail.
A proposed law was passed in April 2017 to criminalise cyber bullying of minors, including intending to cause harm or intimidation through online communication, the possession of indecent images and storing information of minors with no legitimate purpose. Objections to the legislature had included concern that it would bring back the ‘school to prison pipeline’ and too many teenagers would be convicted as criminals.
The maximum penalties are a fine of $1,000 and one year imprisonment.
In June 2017, Representative Katherine Clark proposed The Online Safety Modernization Act as a new law which would address ‘modern’ forms of online abuse such as ‘sextortion’ (manipulating someone to send explicit images of themselves and then using these for blackmail), ‘doxxing’ (sharing someone’s private details to cause harm) and alerting the emergency services falsely of someone committing a crime (‘swatting’). The bill proposes that as a minimum, 10 additional Federal Bureau of Investigation agents should be trained specifically to deal with cybercrimes such as these and ‘support the Criminal Division 7 of the Department of Justice in the investigation and coordination of cybercrimes against individuals’. Outlined in the bill there are a range of penalties and fines attached to these offences, dependent on their severity and consequence.
In April 2017, Governor Charlie Baker proposed a bill - Act Relative to the Harmful Distribution of Sexually Explicit Visual Material - to close a ‘revenge porn gap’ in Massachusetts’ law. The law also proposes to reduce the punishment for minors sharing images that would otherwise fall under child sexual exploitation laws. Commenting on the extent of the harm and consequences of revenge porn, the Governor said:
"We have laws punishing the non-consensual recording of sexually explicit images of unsuspecting people… Our laws do not address, however, when a person takes a sexually explicit image or recording that was lawfully obtained and then distributes it with the intent to harm the person depicted and without that person's consent.” And "This legislation closes the gap in our law by creating a new felony offense and empowering judges in criminal proceedings to issue appropriate orders to restrain or prevent the future commission of the new offense… Over thirty other states have taken similar steps to protect their citizens by criminalizing this conduct. The citizens of Massachusetts deserve the same of protections."
DECEMBER 2017 UPDATE: Members of Tasmania’s government have testified in favour of Mr. Baker’s proposed bill. The punishment for revenge pornography outlined in the Bill is a maximum of five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000 USD. Also covered by the Bill are new education guidelines to ensure young people are more aware of the severity of sharing explicit images. The Bill is now being reviewed by the Joint Committee on Education.
On September the 27th 2017, House Bill 5017 was submitted to the Committee on Law and Justice by Rep. Lucido, specifically defining ‘cyberbullying’ and proposing amendments to the Michigan Penal Code to ensure acts of ‘cyberbullying’ can be criminally charged. The new offences are triggered only the occurrence of physical harm and contain an intent requirement.
The Bill states that “A person shall not cyberbully another person”, and the introduced crimes are:
- If a person executes cyber abuse and as a result of that violation causes the victim to suffer from assault or battery by the perpetrator or any other person, the perpetrator is guilty of misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment and/or a fine of up to USD1,000.
- If a person executes cyber abuse and as a result this leads to the death of the victim, inclusive of the victim choosing to end their own life, then the perpetrator is guilty of a felony and can be prosecuted with punishments of up to 20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of USD5,000.
In the Bill the definition of ‘cyberbully’ includes the following:
- “Posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person if all of the following apply”: a) the message is intentionally false or misleading, b) a reasonable person would consider the message damaging to one’s reputation and c) it is posted with the intention to “intimidate, frighten or harass any other person or to cause emotional distress”.
- Posting in a public media forum where both of the following apply: a) the identity of the perpetrator is withheld to maintain anonymity or convince the victim that the message or statement has been written by another person and b) It is intended to “intimidate, frighten or harass any other person or to cause emotional distress”.
- “Posting a message or statement in a public media forum urging, recommending, or soliciting another person to injure or kill himself or herself, or urging another person to injure or kill the person the posting was made about, if any of the following apply”: a) a reasonable person can identify that a victim may injure or kill him or herself as a result of the abuse and the abuse is posted with this intention, b) a reasonable person can identify that the post would encourage another person to injure or kill the victim and the abuse is posted with this intention or c) the message is posted with the intent to “intimidate, frighten or harass any other person or to cause emotional distress”.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2017: The Bill has been introduced in the capital, Lansing, outlining new offences in relation to the online behaviour of both minors and adults, and is currently under review.
In March 2017 House Bill 263 was filed for review by government, tackling the 'report and review' process in schools when an instance of abuse occurs within their student body. The bill requires there to be an anti-bullying policy established in schools that includes measures to report and investigate bullying, a method to notify parents/guardians about an incident, intervention in response to the abuse and for there to be counselling options for both the victims and perpetrators. The bill looks to tackle cyber bullying as part of this.
Under Section 2C:33-4.1 of the NJ Criminal Code, cyber harassment law addresses any communication through the Internet or social media which has been published with the intent to harass, and/or threatens another in any of the following ways:
- Threat to inflict physical harm or injury to a person or property of any person
- Knowingly suggests or publishes any obscene content about another person with the intent to cause emotional harm or fear
- Threats of any crimes against a person or their property
Unless there is intent behind any offensive communication to harass or cause harm, then the abuse cannot be charged under this particular law, for example an obscene image could be shared between two people of a third party, if the sender had no intent for the third party to see the content.
Cyber harassment and stalking (fourth degree crimes) have maximum penalties of 18 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000. However more serious crimes (third degree) such as terroristic threats have higher penalties, such as $15,000 or an imprisonment term of three to five years. A person of 21 years or more impersonating a minor for the purpose of harassing another/other minors is also a fourth degree crime.
Senate Bill S2318A has recently been passed by the NY Senate and is waiting to be passed by the Assembly, which specifically addresses repeated cyberbullying of a minor. The Bill is an amendment of current education law, with the intention of continuing to keep public school children safe from bullying in New York.
The justification for the legislation is that, ‘Bullying is a long-standing problem among school-aged children. With increasing accessibility to electronic means of communication, bullying has transformed from a predominantly school-based issue to a broader societal problem. Bullying now goes beyond the classroom to bullying on the job, on athletic teams and through the Internet. One way to combat cyber-bullying is to maintain and enforce consistent policies against bullying and harassment, including cyber-bullying.”
A maximum fine of USD1000, up to one year’s prison sentence or both are the proposed punishments for knowingly engaging in the repeated act of cyberbullying a minor, set out by the Bill.
North Carolina had a series of laws addressing cyber abuse, particularly in the youth context, including:
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §14-458.1. - creating a fake user profile, harassing a minor, posing as a minor and posting images or information about minors or the minor’s parent.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §14-277.3A. – creating fear in the victim for their safety or that of a family member or friend, or fear of death, bodily harm or further harassment (where the troll knew or should have known they were creating fear).
In June 2016, North Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled North Carolina’s cyber abuse laws were unconstitutional and violated the first amendment of freedom of speech. The laws were also criticised for having no definition of the effects of intimidation and tormenting of minors through private, personal or sexual information and because it was conceivable that the defendant could be arrested without the victim even reading the message.
Texas has defined cyber abuse as a person using an electronic communication device to engage in bullying or intimidation.
The Texas Penal Code § 42.07 makes harassment a criminal offence where it involves intentional obscene proposals, annoyance, embarrassment and tormenting. Section 33.07 makes online impersonation of another a criminal offence, where the intent is to cause harm, distress and/or intimidate. Sending an electronic communication using a name, domain address, phone number or other person information without obtaining the other person's consent and with the intent to harm is also illegal.
In January 2017, the State Senator José Menédez and Representative Ina Minjarez proposed ‘David’s Law’ following David Molak’s suicide in December 2015 due to an online attack from his class peers. The law was unanimously passed by the Texas Senate in May 2017 and awaits the next stage before becoming law.
The law is focused on youth and would make it a crime to harass or bully anyone under 18 years through social media platforms, websites, text messages, apps, email. The law also requires school districts to have infrastructure enabling a child anonymously to report bullying and threats and also includes counselling for the victim and aggressor.
Additionally, David’s law will also make it a misdemeanor to harass or bully anyone under 18 years through social media platforms, websites, text messages, apps, email. The proposed bill provides focus on rehabilitation services to the victim and aggressor, mainly through counselling.
In June 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed the law and ‘David’s Law’ will take effect on 1 September 2017.
David Molak, 16, was attacked online relentlessly by his classmates with him receiving comments such as 'Let's put him in a body bag' and 'We're going to put him six feet under,”. This resulted in him moving school however the bullying followed to his next school where he was put in a private group chat and was tormented. This resulted in David hanging himself in his backyard.
Under the 2006 Code of Virginia section § 18.2-152.7:1, harassment by computer, the use of a computer or network to intimidate, harass and/or coerce through obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent language in guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
With a focus on youth cyber abuse, the Code of Virginia 2013 session section § 22.1-276.01 enforces that schools must ensure all school board employees are educated about bullying (physical, verbal and online) including, looking for signs of abuse and how to create a safe environment for their pupils. This is a major factor for the school counsellors as they are proposed to be the first line of action for the recognition of bullying, including mandatory reporting, similar to how teachers are required to report suspected child abuse. The other aspect of the new law is that schools must now inform parents within 5 days of becoming aware of bullying affecting their child. The bill also sets out requirements for schools to have certain policies in place e.g. outlawing ‘hazing’.