Internet Harassment and Cyberbullying – Your Rights
We live in a wired world. The majority of Canadians are online and use the Internet in some aspect of their personal and professional lives. More and more often, what was initially seen as a social benefit – the way we can easily connect online with others – is now showing a darker side: Internet harassment and cyberbullying.
There have been a range of high-profile cases in the media over the past few years – celebrities and others who have had intimate photos posted online by former romantic partners, individuals living in fear because someone (a stranger, acquaintance or colleague) is stalking them via their online footprint, or those who are targeted by cyberbullies. These cyberbullies attack them personally and/or professionally, working to intimidate, dominate and threaten them.
It isn’t just individuals who experience Internet or online harassment and cyberbullying; companies are also being targeted – employees who have been fired or laid off, disgruntled shareholders and even competitors have been known to post complaints and accusations (real, imagined and fabricated) online in order to damage the economic interests of the company, the business owners or others who work there. These attacks frequently include allegations of fraud or criminality. And even if the accusations are untrue, they sit on the Internet and can severely damage the company’s brand reputation and the professional reputations of the individuals who work there and others who are somehow connected to them.
Whatever the motivation for those who decide to assault another person in this manner, the impact can be devastating to the reputation, livelihood and morale of a person or business. We have all heard stories of how these types of campaigns have played a part in the tragedies of some victims taking their own lives.
Widespread Access to Technology has Facilitated Online Harassment
The fact is, these kinds of online attacks happen far too often and are increasing.
The good news: there is something you can do about it. Canadian law gives remedies to those who have been victimized.
You Have Rights
The law of defamation evolved in the print age. However, today, the courts have recognized the unique impact that online harassment has on its victims. We live in a digitally connected world, and a person or business that is experiencing online harassment may have the right to sue the attacker for defamation and to seek compensation for losses.
In cases where the harassment has an immediate and serious impact on the victim, the remedy of an injunction (restraining order) may be granted. This is often the most effective – and immediate – solution, as the attacker may be unable to pay a significant damage award.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Internet Harassment, Online Stalking or Cyberbullying
If you are the subject of Internet harassment, it is important to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. Delay often emboldens an attacker. For the most part, this type of issue is not one that should be ignored in the hopes that it will just go away.
If a restraining order is sought, it is important to act quickly so that the court is not left with the impression that the harassment is not having an immediate and serious impact on the victim. It is generally unadvisable to attempt to defend oneself by responding to the attacks or by striking back. The courts are less willing to impose strict remedies when it appears that there is a bidirectional exchange (even if the other side initiated it).
Our Vancouver law firm is experienced in handling Internet harassment, online stalking and cyberbullying issues. If you feel that you are a victim, please contact us immediately. We can help.