Michigan Takes Legal Action Against Cyberbullies
Michigan is the first state in the country to pass cyberbullying laws that make it illegal. On Dec. 27, 2018, Michigan’s governor signed into law, a bill that describes online bullying as a misdemeanor. The law will take effect in March 2019 and is a landmark ruling to prevent cyberbullying.
Currently, 45 states have a sanction for cyberbullying that takes place on school grounds, and only 14 of those states have off-campus policies. Due to the nature of online bullying, a majority of schools end up being the first line of defense against it. However, it is not only middle school students or high school students affected by this. This leaves a significant gap in protection for those not enrolled in an educational institution. In recent studies, online bullying is found to influence those in the workplace, too. If more states adopt similar laws to Michigan, they could effectively end cyberbullying.
Consequences for Cyberbullying in Michigan
In the newly signed law, officially known as Public Act 457, cyberbullying is punishable by jail time. The online bullies, if found guilty, can find themselves in jail for 93 days and a $500 fine. If the perpetrator continues harassment after prison, they will be charged with a felony that sends them to prison for up to five years and a $5,000 fine. If a victim of online bullying dies by suicide, the bully will face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Since 2007 and the dawn of social media, suicides related to cyberbullying largely go unpunished.
The reason is cyberbullying is not always seen as harassment. Harassment is defined as targeting an ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. When online bullying becomes harassment, is when the law steps in and takes action, however, relentless teasing, fat shaming, or exclusion, for the most part, is not punishable. Michigan’s law sets a new standard for the consequences of online bullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cell phones, text messages, social media sites, and other web sites put young people and older people make anyone a target of a cyberbully. Traditional bullying allowed the victims to look their bullies in the eyes, and then report them and take the necessary action. Cyberbullying includes the act of using social media, phones, and more to harass and bully someone.
For the most part, school districts are responsible for preventing bullying. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 15% of high school students admitted they were bullied electronically in the last year. Another study found that 60.4 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.
Private companies like Instagram and Google are trying to combat cyberbullying, too. Instagram revealed artificial intelligence that can automaitcally remove and report content that is inflammatory. On the other hand, Google released the Interland service to teach school-aged children proper online behavior educate them on what to do in case of online bullying. Fortunately, these private companies are doing their best to prevent this type of online behavior, while the states catch up with preventative and consequential laws.
How to Stop a Cyberbully
If you see a person bullied online, take action and report it to social networks. In addition to reporting posts, take screenshots to send to the victim of the bully so they can have records to submit to law enforcement.
However, If you are experiencing cyberbullying, contact SecureForensics. Due to the anonymity of many cyberbullies, a digital forensic investigation can help. With our advanced tools, we can pull the mask off of these bullies. Our goal is to help you give you the closure you need to resume regular online activity. We agree that no one should worry about trolls or bullies, we also think that these bullies should have consequences. For a free phone consultation, call us at 1-800-288-1407.