Bullying, a definition can be traced back as far as the 1530s (Harper, 2008) It involves at least two people, a bully (or intimidator) and a victim. The Bully can abuse the victim through physical or verbal means. The progression of technology has been often compared with the advancement of human societies. The modernisation of the internet has reformed the way people have interacted, the development has allowed the human race to explore and create greatness but also have allowed forms of transgression. This has become evident when looking at the current statistics of cyber bullying (Imran et al., 2016).
Some statistics according to (Patchin Ph.D, 2019) state that near 40% of young people between the ages of 12 & 17 have been bullied online, girls are more likely than boys to be the victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying and that 43% of Instagram users state that they have experienced some form of harassment on the platform.
Instagram was released on the 6th October 2010 to IOS and soon followed on Android. The platform for Instagram was to be a free, online photo-sharing application. This allows users to create and edit any photo they would like and release it to their ‘followers’. These photos could be tagged both by people included in them and via location. Instagram also has a feature that allows anyone to comment under the photo or to screenshot these photo’s (without the owners’ knowledge) and reproduce or edit them in any way (Instagram.com, 2019).
An inquiry into the adequacy of the existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal code of the state and territory criminal laws to capture cyber bulling was brought to the attention of the senate on the 7th September 2017. The laws in question were
a) the broadcasting of assaults and other crimes via social media platforms and
b) the application of section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code ‘Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence’, and the adequacy of the penalty, particularly where the victim of cyberbullying has self-harmed or taken their own life (Aph.gov.au, 2019).
According to the Law Council of Australia in regarding to the adequacy of the laws, they strongly support the efforts to better ensure the safety of children and adults online. There has been multiple reports of the significant psychological harm to victims (McLeod SC, 2019).
The issue in question is the current laws that are set in place and how they are able to be adapted towards the growth of technology and the rise of social media. It is felt that the current laws are not specific enough to use for the prosecution of cyber bullies, causing them to be able to get away with a slap on the wrist instead of a serious effect like jail time and therefor the growth of cyber bullying will continue to grow since there are very little consequences that are set in place.
The policies that are currently in place to help combat cyber bullying are extremely vague. As per the existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code above, children between the ages of 10 – 14 are classed as having very little responsibility and therefor the laws do not apply to them or if are to be applied, very minimal outcome will be implemented. This is an major issue as in today’s society and with the rapid growth of technology parents of these youth are not able to keep up with the different social media platforms and therefor are not able to control or supervise what messages/comments the youth are sending or receiving. There is also no law for parents to control what is seen over social media and the restrictions that should be implemented on these youths social media.
In 2018, the New South Wales government announced that the current laws that have been set in place to help penalise the perpetrators and protect people from cyberbullying will be strengthened. This is due to the continues update on technology and the growing concerns on social media. The laws will increase the maximum term of three years to five years for teenagers found guilty of cyber bullying. This should greatly decrease the rise in cyber bullying as the to-be bully may consider the serious consequences before deciding to write abusive comments or send threatening and hurtful comments
The stigma that surrounds mental health is to barrier to the help-seeking aspect. This leads to the misinterpretation in the community about what mental health is and how it effects the current youths. This misinterpretation is also the issues behind mental health and how something such as cyber bullying can play a huge effect on it (Groves, 2019).
The NICHD research studies presented that both the victim and the bullies will suffer the most serious effects of mental health, increase of substance abuse, academic problems and are prone to violence later on in life (Brennan, 2018). A report done by (Lindert, 2017) has concluded that the impact of cyber bullying on the rate of depression in the youth groups, the rise in anxiety and self-harming behaviour may have been underestimated greatly. In comparison from 2005 to 2015, there had been a noticeable increase of suicide of the persons between the ages of 15 – 24, statistically it was nearly double and over 41,000 youths have made an attempt at suicide.
It is difficult to track bullying-related litigation cases but a number of high-profile cases against state schools have resulted in payouts to the parents or guardian who’s children have been cyber-bullied by another student in the same school. (Kowalski, Limber and Agatston, 2008)
The case of Allem Halkic come into question upon talking about litigations. Mr Halkic was 17 years old upon taking his own life. He had received death threats online from a former friend. The former friend was then taken to court and charged and sentenced, the prosecutor stated that cyber-bullying had almost become a plague in the community and people who are the perpetrators of it will be punished to the full extent of the law. But in questioning it, if the perpetrator was to be under the age of 15 they are not considered an adult and will be let off with a lighter sentence.
There have been questions in the past where in the case of cyber bullying through Instagram should the victim, if chosen to sue be suing the social media company for allowing such acts or the perpetrators, As (Rolfe, 2018) published, Josh Bornstein from Maurice Blackburn stated publicly ‘Victims who have been targeted on social media should be able to sue the platform for allowing such comments to be posted’.
In considering the adequacy of the existing offences that are in the Criminal Code Act 1995 of the state and territory to capture cyber bullying. The appropriate action to take in ensuring the reduction of cyber bulling is to have Instagram have an algorithm in place where it detects key words upon a post being submitted and it can act on it. In relation to the laws that are put in place, due to the difficulty of the continued development of technology it is recommended that the government create a nationwide public awareness and education campaigns for adults and children about the prevention of cyber bullying, different aspects and methods of reducing and a way to respond to the bullying but by implementing this there must be a balance in the interest to ensure that any limitations on the rights of individual and free speech are to be reasonable and proportionate.
- Aph.gov.au. (2019). Adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying – Parliament of Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Cyberbullying [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Brennan, S. (2018). Safety Net: Cyberbullying’s impact on young people’s mental health. [online] Youngminds.org.uk. Available at: https://youngminds.org.uk/media/2189/pcr144b_social_media_cyberbullying_inquiry_full_report.pdf [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Groves, C. (2019). Taking the fight to cyberbullying. [online] Lens: Commentary, news & research stories by leading academics – Monash University. Available at: https://lens.monash.edu/@education/2018/01/18/1299375/no-one-size-fits-all-approach-in-tackling-cyberbullying [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Harper, D. (2008). Online ethmology dictionary. [online] etymonline.org. Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index. php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=bully&searchmode=none [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Imran, M., Rehman, C., Aslam, U. and Bilal, A. (2016). What’s organization knowledge management strategy for successful change implementation?. JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT, 29(7), pp.1097-1117.
- Instagram.com. (2019). About Us • Instagram. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/about/us/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Kowalski, R., Limber, S. and Agatston, P. (2008). Cyber Bullying: The New Moral Frontier. Cyber Bullying.
- Lindert, J. (2017). Cyber-bullying and it its impact on mental health. European Journal of Public Health, 27(3).
- McLeod SC, F. (2019). The adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying. [online] Lawcouncil.asn.au. Available at: https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/resources/submissions/the-adequacy-of-existing-offences-in-the-commonwealth-criminal-code-and-of-state-and-territory-criminal-laws-to-capture-cyberbullying [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Patchin Ph.D, J. (2019). 2019 Cyberbullying Date. [online] cyberbullying.org. Available at: https://cyberbullying.org/2019-cyberbullying-data [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
- Rolfe, J. (2018). ‘Let cyber-hate victims sue Facebook’. [online] Adelaidenow.com.au. Available at: https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/technology/top-lawyer-says-people-injured-by-cyberhate-should-be-able-to-sue-facebook-or-other-platforms/news-story/41fc83cb91a3a1ad64d131921b80fa0d [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].