Article Online Stalking
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WHEN SOCIAL NETWORKS TURN INTO CYBER-VIOLENCE OF A SEXIST NATURE AND, MAKE VICTIMS OF ONLINE HARASSMENT. WHAT PROTECTION FOR THESE VICTIMS OF CYBERBULLYING?
The use of the Internet and other communication technologies is constantly gaining ground. This digital environment, intended for professional or personal use, is used by all kinds of people, including children, teenagers, young people, adults, etc.
We cannot deny today the advantage that the use of the Internet represents. This one allows the enrichment and the improvement of knowledge in several fields such as health, education, trade, general culture etc.
However, the use of this digital space is not without consequences. The negative aspect of this space is that it can offer a threatening environment to users who become victims of it, and thus lead to serious consequences which, sometimes, can be fatal: this is the case of harassment on the Internet.
What is online harassment? What protection does the law offer to victims of online harassment?
I- The notion of online harassment
1- Definition of online harassment
Online harassment, also known as “cyber-harassment”, is a practice that consists in exerting moral violence against another person via a website.
The exercise of such violence may result from a comment, intimidation, a humiliating act or a behavior aimed at damaging the mental health of another person.
In order to be characterized, an act of intimidation or humiliation must be committed on an Internet site and be repeated over time.
This means that the existence of the act alone is not sufficient to characterize online harassment. It is also necessary that this act be perpetrated over time and in a continuous manner.
The French Ministry of Education defines cyberstalking as “an aggressive, intentional act perpetrated by an individual or a group of individuals using electronic forms of communication, repeatedly against a victim who cannot easily defend himself or herself.
Thus, cyberstalking or online harassment can be defined as the act of harassing a person through the use of a digital medium with the aim of damaging his or her mental health. It is a moral or psychological injury.
Moreover, in some cases, online harassment is carried out in packs.
This is called “digital raids”.
Bullying is characterized when it is carried out by several people or a group of people in a concerted and repeated manner on an Internet site against a victim.
2- The different forms of online harassment
Cyber-stalking or online harassment can be moral or sexual.
Cyber-stalking or moral harassment is defined by the Penal Code as “the fact of harassing a person by repeated comments or behaviors with the purpose or effect of degrading his living conditions resulting in an alteration of his physical or mental health.
Cyber-sexual harassment or online harassment is defined as “the fact of imposing on a person, in a repeated way, words or behaviors with sexual or sexist connotation which either harm their dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, or create against them an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.”
3- What are the harms for victims of online harassment?
Online harassment can have serious consequences on the physical and mental health of the victim. Most often, it leads to depression which can in some cases be fatal for the victim.
The Mila case is a beautiful illustration. In 2019, a young teenager was victim of cyber-harassment for having criticized Islam in a virulent way on the social networks. This one had to change city because her life was threatened.
The risk incurred by the victim is a moral risk, which can affect her daily life, her health and her professional life.
You are a victim of online harassment and you wonder what to do; what recourse does the law give you to act against the author of such an act?
II- The legal and regulatory framework of cyberbullying
To protect victims of cyber-bullying or online harassment, a legal framework has been put in place. This framework has made it possible, through texts, to take action against cyber-bullying (1) and to impose sanctions against the perpetrator. (2)
1- Adoption of the texts
The law of August 3, 2018, known as the Schiappa law, aimed at fighting against sexist and sexual violence, introduced an offence of grouped harassment that punishes cases of online pack.
In the aforementioned Mila case, this law led to the conviction of eleven people by the Paris Correctional Court.
To strengthen the protection of victims of cyber-harassment, the Avia law of June 24, 2020 was adopted to fight against hateful content on the Internet. A specialized prosecutor’s office and an observatory of online hate have been created.
2- Sanctions for online harassment
If you are a victim of cyber-harassment or online harassment, you can claim damages.
Whether cyber harassment is moral or sexual, the law punishes online harassment in all its forms.
Article 222-33-2 of the French Penal Code allows for severe punishment of cyber stalkers.
Thus, the penalties can range from one to three years of imprisonment. As for financial penalties, they can range from 15,000 euros to 45,000 euros in fines.
This is the case of cyber-bullying, which is punishable by two years of imprisonment and a €30,000 fine.
Sexual harassment is punishable by 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.
If you are a victim of online harassment, and you wish to be compensated for the damage suffered, contact a lawyer who will accompany you throughout the procedure.