Cyber bullying is a crime - there is punishment:
Comparison to traditional bullying
Certain characteristics inherent in online technologies increase the likelihood that they will be exploited for deviant purposes. Unlike physical bullying, electronic bullies can remain virtually anonymous using temporary email accounts, pseudonyms in chat rooms, instant messaging programs, cell-phone text messaging, and other Internet venues to mask their identity; this perhaps frees them from normative and social constraints on their behavior.
Additionally, electronic forums often lack supervision. While chat hosts regularly observe the dialog in some chat rooms in an effort to police conversations and evict offensive individuals, personal messages sent between users (such as electronic mail or text messages) are viewable only by the sender and the recipient, thereby outside the regulatory reach of such authorities. In addition, when teenagers know more about computers and cellular phones than their parents or guardians, they are therefore able to operate the technologies without concern that a parent will discover their experience with bullying (whether as a victim or offender).
Another factor is the inseparability of a cellular phone from its owner, making that person a perpetual target for victimization. Users often need to keep their phone turned on for legitimate purposes, which provides the opportunity for those with malicious intentions to engage in persistent unwelcome behavior such as harassing telephone calls or threatening and insulting statements via the cellular phone’s text messaging capabilities. Cyberbullying thus penetrates the walls of a home, traditionally a place where victims could seek refuge from other forms of bullying. Compounding this infiltration into the home life of the cyberbully victim is the unique way in which the internet can "create simultaneous sensations of exposure (the whole world is watching) and alienation (no one understands)." For youth who experience shame or self-hatred, this effect is dangerous because it can lead to extreme self isolation.
Moreover, bullies can gang up on their victims on electronic pages more efficiently than they do in traditional bullying, since there is no limit to the number of people who can join in, following a bullying statement.
One possible advantage for victims of cyberbullying over traditional bullying is that they may sometimes be able to avoid it simply by avoiding the site/chat room in question. Email addresses and phone numbers can be changed; in addition, most e-mail accounts now offer services that will automatically filter out messages from certain senders before they even reach the inbox, and phones offer similar caller ID functions.
However, this does not protect against all forms of cyberbullying; publishing of defamatory material about a person on the internet is extremely difficult to prevent and once it is posted, millions of people can potentially download it before it is removed. Some perpetrators may post victims' photos, or victims' edited photos like defaming captions or pasting victims' faces on nude bodies. Examples of famous forums for disclosing personal data or photos to "punish" the "enemies" include the Hong Kong Golden Forum, Live Journal, and more recently JuicyCampus. Despite policies that describe cyberbullying as a violation of the terms of service, many social networking Web sites have been used to that end.
Legislation against cyberbullying
Main article: Cyberstalking legislation
Legislation geared at penalizing cyberbullying has been introduced in a number of U.S. states including New York, Missouri, Rhode Island and Maryland. At least seven states passed laws against digital harassment in 2007. Dardenne Prairie of Springfield, Missouri, passed a city ordinance making online harassment a misdemeanor. The city of St. Charles, Missouri has passed a similar ordinance. Missouri is among other states where lawmakers are pursuing state legislation, with a task forces expected to have “cyberbullying” laws drafted and implemented. In June, 2008, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) proposed a federal law that would criminalize acts of cyberbullying.
Lawmakers are seeking to address cyberbullying with new legislation because there's currently no specific law on the books that deals with it. A fairly new federal cyberstalking law might address such acts, according to Parry Aftab, but no one has been prosecuted under it yet. The proposed federal law would make it illegal to use electronic means to "coerce, intimidate, harass or cause other substantial emotional distress."
In August 2008, the California state legislature passed one of the first laws in the country to deal directly with cyberbullying. The legislation, Assembly Bill 86 2008, gives school administrators the authority to discipline students for bullying others offline or online. This law took effect, January 1, 2009.
A recent ruling first seen in the UK determined that it is possible for an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to be liable for the content of sites which it hosts, setting a precedent that any ISP should treat a notice of complaint seriously and investigate it immediately.
18 U.S.C. § 875(c) criminalizes the making of threats via Internet.
Research had demonstrated a number of serious consequences of cyberbullying victimization. For example, victims have lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and a variety of emotional responses, retaliating, being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed.
One of the most damaging effects is that a victim begins to avoid friends and activities, often the very intention of the cyber-bully.
Cyberbullying campaigns are sometimes so damaging that victims have committed suicide. There are at least four examples in the United States where cyber-bullying has been linked to the suicide of a teenager. The suicide of Megan Meier is a recent example that led to the conviction of the adult perpetrator of the attacks.
Intimidation, emotional damage, suicide
The reluctance youth have in telling an authority figure about instances of cyberbullying has led to fatal outcomes. At least three children between the ages of 12 and 13 have committed suicide due to depression brought on by cyberbullying, according to reports by USA Today and the Baltimore Examiner. These would include the suicide of Ryan Halligan and the suicide of Megan Meier, the latter of which resulted in United States v. Lori Drew.
Lost revenue, threatened earnings, defamation
Studies are being conducted by large companies to gauge loss of revenue through malicious false postings. Cyberstalkers seek to damage their victim's earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. A 2008 High Court ruling determined that, generally speaking, slander is when a defamatory statement has been made orally without justification. Libelous statements are those that are recorded with some degree of permanence. This would include statements made by email or on online bulletin boards.
Adults and the workplace
Cyberbullying is not limited to personal attacks or children. Cyberharassment, referred to as cyberstalking when involving adults, takes place in the workplace or on company web sites, blogs or product reviews.
A survey of 1,072 workers by the Dignity and Work Partnership found that one in five had been bullied at work by e-mail and research has revealed 1 in 10 UK employees believes cyberbullying is a problem in their workplace.
Cyberbullying can occur in product reviews along with other consumer-generated data are being more closely monitored and flagged for content that is deemed malicious and biased as these sites have become tools to cyberbully by way of malicious requests for deletion of articles, vandalism, abuse of administrative positions, and ganging up on products to post "false" reviews and vote products down.
Cyberstalkers use posts, forums, journals and other online means to present a victim in a false and unflattering light. The question of liability for harassment and character assassination is particularly salient to legislative protection since the original authors of the offending material are, more often than not, not only anonymous, but untraceable. Nevertheless, abuse should be consistently brought to company staffers' attention.
Recognition of adult and workplace cyberbullying tactics
Common tactics used by cyberstalkers is to vandalize a search engine or encyclopedia, to threaten a victim's earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. Various companies provide cases of cyber-stalking (involving adults) follow the pattern of repeated actions against a target. While motives vary, whether romantic, a business conflict of interest, or personal dislike, the target is commonly someone whose life the stalker sees or senses elements lacking in his or her own life. Web-based products or services leveraged against cyberstalkers in the harassment or defamation of their victims.
The source of the defamation seems to come from four types of online information purveyors: Weblogs, industry forums or boards, and commercial Web sites. Studies reveal that while some motives are personal dislike, there is often direct economic motivation by the cyberstalker, including conflict of interest, and investigations reveal the responsible party is an affiliate or supplier of a competitor, or the competitor itself.