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Is Cyberbullying a Criminal Offence?

Cyberbullying is the deliberate, intentional, hostile, and repeated conduct, with the intent to slander, harm, or embarrass another individual utilizing various electronic communication methods. Thanks to technology and the increase in social media usage on sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and so on, as well as text and video messaging, blogging, and other such Internet and cellular communications, there has been an increase in the prevalence of cyberbullying.

The law considers certain forms of cyberbullying to be Criminal Harassment. To determine whether cyberbullying is a criminal offence, it requires reviewing the evidence and facts of each alleged case. Even though cyberbullying is easy to find because most cyberbullies post publically, they tend to do so anonymously. This makes it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to find, identify, and bring charges against those, who have committed this offence.

Another form of cyberbullying, which has been made illegal, as of March 2015, is distributing intimate images of another person online or through other electronic means, if that person did not consent to having their intimate images distributed. Additionally, a person could be charged with this form of cyberbullying if they were reckless in regards to whether consent was actually given about the disbursement of the images. The law defines “reckless” as the person, who distributes the images, knew the other person might not have given their consent, but the accused simply did not care.

In some cases, cyberbullying may be considered defamatory in nature. The Criminal Code of Canada makes it illegal to publish defamatory materials, which are likely to hurt the reputation of another, and could expose them to ridicule, hate, contempt, or insults, without any lawful excuse or justification. Being charged for criminal defamations does not occur that often. Civil defamation cases are much more common, and is where the victim files charges against the suspect in Civil Court.

What Happens If a Person Is Criminally Charged?

The Crown will bring charges against a suspect, if they have sufficient evidence to support a criminal harassment offence or a distributing intimate images without consent offence. At that point, the prosecution will determine the seriousness of the offence and decide whether to proceed by summary conviction or indictment.

If convicted and found guilty by indictment, the maximum jail sentence is five years for distributing intimate images and ten years for criminal harassment. If convicted and found guilty by summary judgement, the maximum penalty for either offence is up to 6 months in jail or a fine, or both a fine and jail time.

DISCLAIMER: The above information is for reference purposes only and should not be used as actual legal advice. If you or someone you care about, has been charged with criminal harassment, it is in your best interests to schedule a no-obligation consultation appointment with experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg by calling 416-428-7360 today.