In the beginning, internet abuse laws were drafted to protect internet users from fraud and other types of cybercrime. Laws and policies designed to protect internet users are drafted and enforced by the FCC, or Federal Communications Commission.
As the internet gained popularity, the number of reported cyberbullying cases increased dramatically. When the first cases began to appear, there were little law enforcement officers could do to punish the offender or protect the victim.
In the case of Megan Meier, no charges were ever filed against the bullies who harassed her. The mother and daughter who initiated the ruse created a fictitious MySpace profile for a young man. They convinced Megan that “Josh” liked her and wanted to be her boyfriend. After a few weeks, Megan was told that Josh no longer wanted to talk to her.
The constant barrage of negative comments and veiled threats pushed Megan over the edge. Two weeks short of her 14th birthday, committed suicide. The two perpetrators knew that Megan struggled with depression and took medication to control her condition.
Internet Abuse Laws
According to law enforcement officers who investigated the incident, for whatever crime they committed, could not be charged because there was no documented charge on the books for what they had done. No charge existed that fit the description of what they had done. That eventually changed when the Cyberbullying Protection Law was drafted into legislation.
The Cyberbullying Protection Law made it a crime to harass, stalk and bully another person, over the internet. Other pieces of legislation soon followed. Cyberstalking laws were drafted and enacted in every state of the union. Federal legislation was also enacted to protect internet users from being stalked and harassed. Special laws were also passed that were designed to specifically protect minors. Each state was responsible for drafting, approving, and enforcing its own versions of the federal Internet laws.
Various Types of Internet Abuse
Internet abuse takes many forms. With the introduction of new forms of technology, the number of fraud and identity theft cases skyrocketed in a few short years. In addition to major financial crimes, the internet created the perfect medium for the production and sale of child pornography. The inclusion of the internet in public schools taught children how to navigate the world wide web.
As students became more proficient in the use of computers, bullies began to use the internet to stalk and harass their victims. For a bully, the internet was the perfect medium in which to operate. They could come and go as they pleased without leaving any physical evidence. The best part about them was that they could remain completely anonymous.
Internet Abuse Laws: Cyberbullying
Internet abuse laws designed to deal with cyberbullying must be drafted in great detail to be effective. In Megan Meier’s case, the legislation came too late. However, the Foundation that bears Megan’s name continues to push for new and improved legislation that will hold cyberbullies accountable for their actions. Members of the foundation have been advocates of change to make sure with each law that gets passed, no more victims will fall through the cracks. It is their goal that every victim has the guarantee that their bully will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Cyberbullying laws cover a variety of activities that are now considered to be illegal. The following activities are included in many pieces of legislation:
- Stalking using any type of communications device
- Sending threatening texts or emails over cell phones, texts, instant messaging, etc.
- Harassing an individual with repeated attempts at contact either through phone calls or texts, emails, instant messaging, etc.
- Soliciting sexual favours
- Sending or receiving pornographic images of minors
- Interacting with a minor in a sexual manner using any type of device governed by the FCC
Cyberbullying has become one of the fastest-growing crimes in history. Before the internet, a bully could only harass those that were close to their location. Now with the internet as a starting point, they can threaten, harass and stalk individuals who are half a world away. There are few boundaries they can’t cross and they can do it all from the security of their own home.
Individuals who are technologically savvy can hide their tracks fairly well leaving behind few traces for investigators to follow. Those who are exceptionally skilled at hacking and programming can create shields and firewalls that are difficult to crack, even with the advanced systems law enforcement agencies have access to.
Internet Abuse Statistics
Statistics that detail how extensive cyberbullying really is create an incredible picture of just how widespread the problem is. Internet stalking and harassment reports increase daily and from the looks of the numbers, there is no end in sight.
- Over 80 percent of students think that cyberbullies choose to use the internet because they can remain anonymous and it is much easier for them to get away with the crime
- Over two-thirds of the teens surveyed believe that cyberbullying is becoming a serious problem that needed to be investigated further
- Over 40 percent of students admit to having been bullied at least once and out of those numbers at least 1 in 4 claims that it has happened more than once
- Statistics have proven that girls are targeted by cyberbullies twice as often as boys
- The majority of girls who are stalked online are white
- Statistics state that a person who is bullied online is 9 times more likely to contemplate suicide than individuals who aren’t bullied
- Statistics show that only 1 out of every 10 children who are bullied online will report the incident to a parent, teacher or another person in a position of authority.
- Cell phones are increasingly common among middle and high school students. It is estimated that almost 80 percent of students use a cell phone or other electronic device on a daily basis
- Statistics show that almost 90 percent of teens have seen or experienced bullying on a social media site such as Facebook and Twitter
Internet abuse laws target individuals who attempt to use the internet as their own personal playground. Cyberbullying and internet stalking have reached epidemic proportions, causing schools, libraries, and other public places to implement anti-bullying programs to raise awareness about the dangers of surfing the internet without taking adequate precautions.
Anti-bullying programs attempt to teach both parents and children safe ways to navigate the internet without becoming vulnerable to predators and cyberbullies who are capable of hacking into personal computers and other electronic devices. Programs designed to help students remain safe while surfing the web offer tips to the public to help them learn what types of online behaviour is acceptable and what should be avoided.
Anti-virus programs are designed to prevent hackers from installing spyware and malware on computers. Hackers attach files to emails and websites so that when a person opens the attachment or clicks on the website the malicious software is downloaded directly to their computer. These programs can take over manual operations of a laptop’s camera or install keyloggers that track the user’s every move. This allows the hacker to retrieve passwords, codes, confidential banking information as well as a variety of other types of private and personal information.
Catching internet hackers and cyberbullies has proven to be more difficult than originally expected. Once they are finally apprehended, they can be effectively prosecuted since the new and improved cyberbullying and internet protection laws have been drafted into law. Internet crimes can fall into several categories. Those that involve children and the interstate trafficking of child pornography are considered to be the most serious of offences and fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.