Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying And Cyber Harassment are crimes in Pennsylvania. What exactly are these crimes? Cyberstalking and Cyber Harassment refer to a Pennsylvania criminal offenses in which individuals use electronic communications devices to stalk an individual on the internet. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs usually on social media and through text messaging and is generally committed by minors against other minors.
Cyberstalking – 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2709.1
Pennsylvania law defines the crime of “Stalking” as when a person demonstrates intent to cause substantial emotional distress or placing someone in reasonable fear of bodily injury. It may be done by a course of conduct that includes repeated acts or communications. It may also be done using the Internet and social media.
Cyber Harassment – 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2709
Unlike stalking or cyberstalking, this crime may involve criminal liability for more specific acts like following the victim, using lewd and obscene language orally or in written communication, engaging in conduct that serves no legitimate purpose, making anonymous contact, making contact at late hours, or any other types of repeated communications. It also involves acts that involve physical contact and violence, or attempts and threats of the same.
Cyber Harassment of a Child – 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2709(a.1)
Cyber harassment of a child involves the specific use of electronic means or publication via social media of seriously disparaging statements or opinions as well as threats to inflict harm. A perpetrator under this statute must commit the underlying acts with an intent to harass, annoy or alarm the minor. A “seriously disparaging statement or opinion” is defined as a statement or opinion which is intended, and under the circumstances reasonably likely, to cause substantial emotional distress to a child of the victim’s age and which produces some physical manifestation of the distress.
All three of the above criminal statutes define “communicates” as conveying “a message without intent of legitimate communication or address by oral, nonverbal, written or electronic means, including telephone, electronic mail, Internet, facsimile, telex, wireless communication or similar transmission.” (emphasis added). Thus, any use of social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram via computer, mobile phone or iPad qualifies as an actionable communication under the statute.
Under the statute, “bullying” means an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act, or a series of acts, directed at another student or students, which occurs in a school setting, that is severe, persistent or pervasive, and has the effect of doing any of the following: (i) substantially interfering with a student’s education; (ii) creating a threatening environment; or (iii) substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school. The statute includes bullying by electronic means in its general bullying definition.
If you or your child has been the victim of any type of conduct which resembles cyber harassment, cyberstalking, or cyberbullying, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win.