Cyberbullying is a threat that is often underestimated and misunderstood. Dealing with bullies on the Internet is very frustrating, and has cost many lives over the past few years. Over in the UK, the government is finally taking action against these practices. Cyberbullies may find themselves facing jail time for ruining someone’s life.
Although cyberbullying is a threat that transcends national borders, very few local governments have plans to address these issues right now. This is quite surprising, considering how more and more reports regarding cyberbullying are surfacing every year. Over in the United Kingdom a new regulation has been drafted to address online bullying and make it punishable by jail time.
Social media has made it increasingly easy to personally attack others with few repercussions. Facebook and Twitter are great platforms, but they can also be used to make people’s lives a living hell. Moreover, social media makes it easier for others to jump in on the conversation and gang up against individuals.
The new guidelines focus on social media specifically. Anyone who encourages others to partake in online harassment campaigns may be subject to jail penalties. These charges would be based on promoting an offense under Serious Crime Act 2007. These soon-to-be-illegal activities include doxing and creating derogatory hashtags. This is a big step towards ending cyberbullying, although it remains to be seen how often these new guidelines will be enforced.
But there is more to these guidelines, as new sections have been included that are related to women and girl violence. Hate crime is also becoming a more worrisome trend on social media as of late. Addressing these issues with strong regulatory measure may be the best course of action for now.
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, stated:
“Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten, but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass. Ignorance is not a defense and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted.”
It will all come down to the context of cyberbullying in real-life situations. Individual connotations or intents do not translate well over the Internet. It is not unlikely that these new guidelines will be abused at some point, something which should be avoided at all costs. One topic of debate is what qualifies as sexting, since youngsters tend to send explicit photos to one another for “legitimate reasons”.
Taking more drastic action against cyberbullying is a positive development. It is a difficult problem to address with legal matters, as some people have lower thresholds towards online abuse than others. Then again, a foundation has to be established some how, and the United Kingdom seems to be taking charge regarding these matters.
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