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Georgia’s view on cyberbullying

People in Atlanta tend to view cybercrime is hacking attacks launched by sophisticated “tech-heads” to either steal information or interfere with an organization’s online activities. Yet the actual definition of cybercrime is criminal activities out with computers or via the Internet. Applying this definition could make cause cybercrime to hit closer to people’s homes in the form of cyberbullying. Bullying itself is an age-old issue, yet cyberbullying is a relatively new problem. While the perceived impersonal nature of the Internet may cause some to believe that their online actions are viewed differently than by those they engage in person, the law often does not differentiate. 

Cyberbullying is a perfect example of this. While there certainly instances of adults bullying other adults online, cyberbullying is a problem typically associated with children and teens. Indeed, information compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that 15 percent of high school students report being bullied via electronic media. Teens and tweens might mistakenly believe that whatever they post on social media platforms, send through emails or communicate through instant or text messages is always viewed as being perfectly innocent given that disconnectedness of the medium of the Internet empowers them to say things that they do not actually mean. 

Yet from the perspective of the state of Georgia, cyberbullying is akin to stalking. Section 16.5.90 of the state’s Crimes and Offenses Code classifies stalking as “follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.” Recent years have seen the state include communications via computer to qualify as “contact” under this statute. Youths who face cyberbullying charges must prove a lack of harassing intent in their online communications. 

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