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Florida to Take On Sexual Cyberbullying and Harassment

When growing up, we were taught to respond to any teasing and taunting with the well-known adage “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” As we’ve grown up, and as technology has advanced, we find that the old adage no longer applies and what used to be “boys will be boys” has now translated into cyberbullying and cyber harassment. The law has been slow to change, but it is has started to make a legal space where cyber bullying, cyber harassment, and sexual cyber harassment can find a way to be dealt with either through civil or criminal means.

Pew Research Center Statistics on Cyberbullying

In a recent Pew Research Center study published in October 2014, cyber bullying and harassment was evaluated, and the extent to which the average adult has been a victim of these behaviors is astounding. According to the study, 73 percent of all adults have witnessed online bullying and harassment, and 40 percent have been the victim of this type of threatening behavior. Online harassment was broken down into six categories: offensive name calling, purposeful embarrassment, physical threats, continual harassment over a period of time, sexual harassment, and stalking.

The first two (offensive name calling and purposeful embarrassment) have been established as “less severe”, while the remaining categories have been categorized as “more severe” types of harassment. Men are more likely, according to the study, to be victim to first type of harassment, while young women are more likely to experience the second type of harassment, in particular sexual harassment and stalking. The young women, aged 18-24, disproportionately experience severe levels of harassment, where 26 percent have been stalked, while 25 percent have been the subject of sexual harassment.

The Legislative Reaction to Cyberbullying

With the pervasiveness of cyber bullying and harassment, the state legislatures are attempting to keep up with the increasing threat of online harassment with the drafting and passing of bills aimed directly at dealing with these types of confrontation. The major issues that limit the effectiveness of these bills, however, are due largely to the right to free speech and the extent of anonymity found online.

Civil and Criminal Actions: Do They Work?

The Atlantic published a piece recently about the extent to which the law can and cannot deal with online harassment. Though civil mechanisms have been put into place, many find that these methods are not cost-effective, nor have many been able to successfully establish the torts of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and/or public disclosure of private fact.

What has been successful with regards to nude photos in the civil court deal with copyright infringement, where a copyright is held by the photographer and any use of the photo not by the photographer him/herself is an infringement. This works effectively where the nude photo was taken by the nude subject of the photo.

Florida’s Attack on Sexual Cyberharassment

Florida is in the process of passing significant legislation dealing with sexual cyberharassment, more colloquially known as “revenge porn.” The bill not only provides for civil and criminal penalties as a result of the publishing online of a sexual explicit image without the consent of the person and with the intent of causing that person distress, but also permits a law enforcement officer the right to arrest, without a warrant, any person that he or she has probable cause to believe has committed sexual cyberharassment outlined within the bill.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

This is just one of the many steps that Florida has taken with respect to counteracting cyberbullying and other means of online harassment. What must be taken into consideration is the balancing act that comes with ensuring the right of freedom of speech along with the right to protect those from harmful actions of abuse, threatening behavior and cyberbullying. If you or a loved one has been arrested for allegedly violating the new cyberbullying/harassment laws, it is important to seek counsel immediately. Contact Kevin J. Kulik, an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney, today for a free and confidential consultation.

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