NYC Cyber-Harassment Lawyers
How we interact with people is regulated by laws that help to ensure everyone’s rights are respected. This is also true for how we interact with one another on the internet and the laws specific to online interactions are called cyber-harassment or cyberbullying laws. We need special laws to address these kinds of interactions, because it’s particularly easy to treat others disrespectfully, when you don’t have to look them in the eye. While most people do respect one another, some people use their keyboards to say things they would never dream of saying in face to face confrontations. These interactions may be typed instead of spoken, but they still have the power to cause harm and that’s why New York has enacted cyber-harassment laws.
The punishments for cyber-harassment vary, based upon the severity of the crime and the type of harassment. Cyber-harassment is a broader term that encompasses a number of different types of online harassment. Each type of crime is identified under the law. The complex cyber-harassment laws are in place, because, very often, the consequences of these acts include suicide, attempted suicide, and other types of self-harm committed by the victim or target of the harassment.
The Various Types of Cyber-Harassment
One type of cyber-harassment is flaming, which involves starting an argument in a public forum, such as on a group page or a public social media post. This can also occur in instant messaging, where the thread is joined by multiple users. The individual responsible for flaming will spark an argument specifically to enrage or hurt others, possibly with the intent of hurting many others.
Denigration is a similar type of cyberbullying, though is much more intentional and more directly targeted. Messages and comments are mean-spirited in nature and directed at a single individual with the intention of hurting their feelings. These comments can be posted publicly on social media or shared privately via instant messaging or emails. The messages may also come with pictures attached, which would also be used in attempts to ridicule the recipient.
Another crime that falls under this category is outing, which involves intentionally alienating one person specifically. The guilty parties may share secrets about the victim intended to cause others to dislike her or him, so they will further become alienated by their peers. Personal information about the individual may also be shared publicly as a way to humiliate him or her, making the individual feel even more alone. This is punishable as a crime, because of the way it can affect a person’s life and emotional wellbeing.
The law also delves into other types of cyber crimes, when trickery is used to gather personal information. This is a form of “hacking” that allows an individual to commit crimes associated with identity theft and fraud. While trickery can be used to get secure financial information, it’s also sometimes used just to get information about a personal situation. People will pretend to be family members, so an individual will share information that a family may be trying to keep private. In either case, this is considered a form of cyber-harassment.
An Overview of New York Cyber-Harassment Laws and Their Punishments
Harassment under New York Penal Law § 240.21 – 240.32 makes four distinctions and, depending on which degree is applied, the penalties will vary. For instance, first degree harassment involves intentionally harassing another individual with repetitive acts targeted at the victim. As a class B misdemeanor, a conviction is punishable by up to three months of jail time and a fine of up to $500.
Second degree harassment is a less serious crime in that it involves using the intent to harass another individual to cause fear. The fear may be for their safety or from physical harm. In terms of online interactions, this most commonly refers to individuals who know each other in their day to day lives and in situations in which one party uses online tools to harass the other. Considered a violation, as opposed to a crime, second degree harassment doesn’t include jail time, but fines may be imposed.
Aggravated harassment in the first degree involves harassing an individual based upon their religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Imagery and visual props used to incite fear or cause intimidation raised the charge to first degree aggravated harassment. Additionally, one may be charged with this crime, which is a class E felony, if they have a previous conviction for harassment. In New York, a class E non-violent felony is punishable by one and a third years up to four years in prison. Probation is not a consideration.
Aggravated harassment in the second degree more aptly applies to online interactions, because it involves using written communications and telephone communication to convey the harassment. Again, this charge can also rely on the harassment being instigated based on the race, gender, religious belief, or sexual orientation of the individual. Previous harassment convictions may also play a part in these charges. As a class A misdemeanor, this crime carries fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
NYC Cyber-Harassment Lawyers