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Cyber-bullying in Western Australia is a Crime

Cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon and it is more indirect than the usual bullying techniques.

Generally, bullying is designed to hurt an individual or a group. It is normally repetitive behaviour carried out with the aim of threatening or intimidating an individual or a group in some way. Cyber bullying has the characteristic of taking place either through the use of a mobile phone or online.

Devices used include SMS, emails or harassment and abuse through the use of social networking sites.

Cyber bullying can be called a crime

In WA and throughout Australia cyber bullying can be a crime when a phone or the Internet is used to threaten or harass.

This could include:

  • making threats;
  • stalking someone which includes messaging them in order to harm them or scare them;
  • going into without permission another person’s Internet accounts;
  • defaming an individual or group through the use of lies to damage a person’s reputation;
  • suggesting that someone should commit suicide.

It is considered to be a crime if a phone or the use of the internet threatens, harasses or seriously offends somebody particularly if it is going to instil outrage, anger, disgust or humiliation. The current maximum penalty for this type of behaviour is a 3 year jail term.

Hate Messaging

As the Internet and text messaging are relatively new communication devices establishing and determining how offensive their use can be has to be determined.

There was a case of a young man in 2011 that sent hate messages through Facebook to his old girlfriend and her newly acquired boyfriend. His behaviour, with the relevant evidence, was reported to the Police. He was subsequently found guilty of making use of the phone and Internet services in a frightening and offensive manner and was put on probation and had to attend counselling sessions.

Threatening to kill someone through online or phone messaging

If you use your phone to send text messages, or send emails or use other online posts as a way of threatening to kill a person you could serve up to 10 years in prison. Additionally, any form of race hate that is sent by a person via phone messaging or the Internet that person can be charged and convicted using race hate legislation.

Online or Phone Stalking is a crime

Stalking someone in a frightening way whether through undesirable repeated phone calls, emailing or posting messages on social media sites can lead to a 3 year jail term. If threatening to use a weapon to bring about harm is used in the messaging then there are more severe penalties awaiting the perpetrator. Additionally, intentionally logging in to another person’s online accounts without asking permission is covered by both national and state laws and attracts a penalty of up to 2 years behind bars.

Defaming a person is an illegal activity

In WA it is illegal to publish information about someone which is untrue and could damage their reputation and such an act could attract up to 3 years in prison.

Encouraging a person to commit suicide

Life imprisonment is the possible penalty if someone uses cyber bullying either in WA or nationally to persuade someone to commit suicide.

Overall, cyber bullying is an unacceptable activity and penalties do apply in WA.

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