Social Media, the Internet and the Law - Part Two - Cyberbully and Harassment

  • Civil Law
April 3, 2017

We hear the stories all the time – a person is bullied or harassed repeatedly online, and no one hears about it or acts until it is too late. With the prevalence of social media in our everyday lives, there is also an increase in the possible crimes we can see from its use.

In 2015, the Colorado Legislature enacted a new section of the Harassment Statute (C.R.S. 18-9-111) referred to Kiana Arellano’s Law. The law was inspired by a high school student who attempted suicide after a nasty Facebook campaign by her classmates.

This section expanded the Harassment statute to include social media along with unwanted or obscene communication by telephone. The law not only includes repeated and unwanted phone calls, but text messages, instant messages, social media posts, social media messages, or other interactive electronic medium. Prior to its’ enactment, going to law enforcement to report the harassment was not an option. The police didn’t have a remedy and there was no way to charge the perpetrators with a crime.

Kiana Arellano’s Law changed the way the police can investigate and charge harassment. Now harassing another person over Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is a misdemeanor crime punishable with a fine up to $750, and up to six months in jail. The law is in place to not only protect teens but adults as well.

Colorado also responded to the need to address “revenge porn.” Revenge porn is a form of nonconsensual photography, also referred to as cyber exploitation. It’s is often committed by an ex-partner posting or distributing an intimate photograph of a person without their consent as a means to harass, embarrass or upset them. The law, C.R.S. 18-7-107, was enacted in 2014 and states a person over the age of eighteen who posts or distributes via social media or any website a private image of another individual over the age of eighteen for harassment commits the offense of posting a private image for harassment.

Colorado’s statute specifically addresses the revenge porn crimes as they pertain to adults. The charge is classified as a class one misdemeanor, and carries a possible penalty of an eighteen-month jail sentence. In addition to any sentence a court may impose, the law also gives the court the ability to fine the offender up to $10,000.00. If the victim is under the age of eighteen, the penalties may be considerable worse, and may result in felony distribution of child pornography charges.

Cyberbullying and online harassment can have serious effects on victims, and both laws may also have civil remedies in addition to the criminal penalties for the perpetrators. If you or someone you know has been a victim of online harassment or bullying, you may want to speak with an experienced attorney about your rights and remedies under the law.

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