The Next Frontier of Criminal Law: The Criminalization of Online Harassment

WEST SACRAMENTO, California. If you haven’t heard about “swatting,” you may not be aware of a vast underground world of online harassment. Swatting is the practice in which a harasser makes a fake emergency call to law enforcement, which leads to a large police response. Innocent individuals may find their homes invaded by large SWAT teams responding to calls of an armed individual or hostage situation. Despite the clear harassment and legal issues that these false calls can cause, there are no laws on the books that criminalize the practice.

According to Mother Jones, one lawmaker is fighting to change that. Young women may be most prone to online harassment, and they may be shocked to learn that there is little protection for them. Approximately 20 percent of young women on the Internet have experienced some form of online harassment. According to Time, the numbers may be much higher for younger women, with as many as 70% of teens experiencing some form of harassment. 26% of women have been stalked online. This goes beyond name-calling. In some cases, women have received death threats, been “swatted,” or had their private information published publicly, a practice called “doxxing.” Teens are also vulnerable to “sextortion” in which nude photos of young women are used to extort money and sex in exchange for keeping the photos off the web. Individuals suffering from this harassment sometimes don’t even receive a response from the FBI. Essentially, the FBI has few procedures in place to protect women and others from this disturbing form of cyber crime.

While some law enforcement claim that online harassment doesn’t have an impact, this kind of crime can impact a person’s sense of safety. While cyber stalking has been criminalized, instances of cyber stalking are not always prosecuted. The nature of the internet itself, which promotes anonymity, may also be creating a whole new generation of criminals. According to Time Magazine, the online disinhibition effect, can reduce the effectiveness of societal mores and customs. In short, things we would never think of doing in person, we may do online.

Leslie Jones, the star of the recent re-make of Ghostbusters, received so many death threats and frightening emails that she considered leaving show business. She explained that she felt trapped in her own home. Yet, her experience is not unique and many women who openly express their viewpoint online, face similar forms of harassment.

Online troll culture may also be impacting real life culture, with studies finding that kind online acts trigger kindness in the real world. Police don’t yet have the tools in place to protect individuals from the more extreme forms of harassment. The Linda Louder Law Office is monitoring this situation closely. As the public and police departments become more aware of the impact of these crimes, more individuals are likely to face charges or need assistance if they are “swatted.” Visit to learn more today.

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