Protection of Children Online: Federal and State Laws Addressing Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment, and Cyberbullying [October 19, 2009]   [open pdf - 342KB]

"While Congress, under the Commerce Clause, has authority to regulate the Internet, Internet 'harassment' presents new challenges for legislators in terms of defining and prosecuting such activity. Definitions for these terms vary based upon jurisdiction. Internet harassment usually encompasses 'cyberstalking,' 'cyberharassment,' and/or 'cyberbullying.' If one were to categorize these offenses based on danger or greatest potential harm, cyberstalking would be the most dangerous, followed by cyberharassment and then cyberbullying. Generally, cyberstalking includes a credible threat of harm, while the other two do not. Cyberharassment and/or cyberbullying may cause embarrassment, annoyance, or humiliation to the victim. Some individuals use the terms cyberharassment and cyberbullying interchangeably, while others reserve the term cyberbullying to describe harassment between minors, usually within the school context. While laws that address cyberstalking exist at both the federal and state levels, the question of how to handle situations that do not involve a credible threat of harm against minors has drawn congressional interest. Recent high-profile cases involving teen suicides illustrate the harmful effects of Internet harassment on young people. To address the problem, H.R. 1966 was introduced in the 111th Congress. This bill would amend title 18 of the United States Code by making cyberbullying a federal crime with a punishment of up to two years of imprisonment and/or a fine."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34651
Public Domain
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