Electronic communication is a wonderful gift, but some of the messages, images, or other interactions you have online don’t feel so wonderful. As with anything, sometimes people will use a gift for good and sometimes they will use it for bad.
What if you’re feeling frustrated, exploited, or even abused by content you’re receiving from someone online? They haven’t physically done anything to you so there’s nothing you can do about it, right?
With the rise of electronic forms of communication, the law has extended to protect people from bullying and other serious and inappropriate behaviours online. Let’s take a closer look at what that means for you.
A Carriage Service Offence
There is a charge on the books called the Use Carriage Service to Menace, Harass, or Cause Offence. A person sending menacing, harassing, or offensive messages or material online can be charged with this offence.
To understand how this works, there are a few definitions that you must understand.
First, what is a carriage service? This is any type of electronic communication through wires or using electromagnetic energy. This includes conventional and mobile phones, radio, internet, and intranet services.
What Is Considered Offensive?
The law does not specifically state what can be considered offensive. It would take far too long to write this out in detail — and a lot can be missed.
Thus, the court has to determine what a reasonable person would consider offensive. For example, you might think multiple texts from your ex about what time to pick up your joint custody child is harassment. But nobody else would…especially if you’re not answering.
However, if someone is threatening to kill you or someone you love — that would definitely be considered offensive by reasonable people.
There is a more serious level called aggravated offence if the content you are receiving is of a private sexual nature. If you are being pressured to send nude photos of yourself or someone is forwarding you pornographic content, it would fall into this category.
An aggravated offence carries stiffer penalties.
Penalties for Carriage Service Crimes
This crime is regarded with the seriousness it deserves. Everyone has the right to be treated respectfully whether on or offline. Misconduct over a carriage service is often easier to prosecute simply because there is an electronic record and the courts can review the material in question first-hand.
The maximum penalty is 3 years imprisonment, though this can go up to 5 if it qualifies as an aggravated offence. Courts can also order good behaviour bonds, suspended sentences, and other modifications.
Don’t Submit to Online Bullies
If you’re being harassed by an online bully, you don’t have to just hit delete, take a shaky breath, and try to forget what you just saw. Know your rights here and understand that you don’t have to accept this unbecoming behaviour. You can put a stop to it!