This is another post in our Guest Writer series that is meant to expand the set of opinions found on kraxinlogic. In the spirit of free speech and diverse opinions we will not be vetting or editing our guest posts in any way. We hope to encourage as many of these as possible in the future. Thanks KDL for contributing to Krax!
Written by: KDL.
In the aftermath of the recent Amanda Todd cyberbullying incident, many were quick to condemn our laws as inadequate at protecting youth from the unbridled dangers of the Internet. Some, including British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, suggested that new laws might be necessary to combat and even criminalize cyberbullying.
But what is cyberbullying? A definition is difficult to narrow down. And, without a proper definition, how can we properly begin a discourse related to the inadequacies of our current statutory protections? Although cyberbullying is a fairly recent development (or at least is as recent as the omnipresence of, and our dependence on, the Internet), this author submits that it is not truly something new. Rather, it is the use of developing information technologies to conduct otherwise ordinary bullying – whether that bullying be harassment, intimidation, defamation, or discrimination. While the impact of cyberbullying is unquestionably more damaging than regular bullying, due simply to our reliance on information technologies in our day-to-day lives, it is significant to note that we do not currently have laws in Canada that specifically address bullying as a crime.
In fact, the term “bullying” currently only appears in various provincial education and public schools acts. Otherwise, “bullying” as such remains unlegislated. Notwithstanding, we have slander and libel acts. We have torts to address instances of assault, discrimination, harassment, defamation, and even, in certain provinces, breach of privacy. We have human rights legislation. And we have the Criminal Code, which has criminalized harassment, the propagation of hate speech, and the commission of fraud and sexual preditation, among other things. What aspect of cyberbullying, specifically, is not encompassed by these legal recourses? Is it the breadth of the injury and the far-reaching hand of the Internet that lead critics to conclude as to the inadequacies of our legal system?
This author suggests that it is not our legislation that is lacking, but rather proper education as well as the accessibility of our legal system as a whole. While there are countless programs that exist to educate youth as to the harms of bullying and cyberbullying, adults are often left out of this discourse. Information technologies have developed so quickly that many parents are out of touch with the day-to-day online activities of their children. And it would not be surprising if many adults do not even understand some of the technologies used by their children. Our society as a whole, and not only our children, should be educated as to the risks associated with information technologies. Although we most often hear of cyberbullying in the context of youth victimization, adults are equally as capable of being cyberbullies and cyberbullied. Education must be widespread.
In addition, while we do have a variety of legal recourses to protect against cyberbullying, these recourses must be readily available to those in need of such protection. It is highly costly to bring an action in a court of law, and the burden of proof linked to such an action is often incompatible with the fact that the prejudice suffered by a victim of cyberbullying is usually moral and not financial.
Cyberbullying will not go away on its own, but new legislation is not the answer. We have the answer already. We just need to ensure everyone knows it, and everyone has access to it.
This is KDL’s opinion, what’s yours?