Is it Time for Canadians to Update Their Cyberbullying Attitudes?

Photo: Jason Howie

As we continue our trek to become an evermore online culture, the issues our society faces with cyberbullying continue to grow. Since the web is a ubiquitous and necessary part of modern life, there can be no escaping the avenues of communication that are present. When this communication turns negative, it can be near impossible to avoid its scope, and this problem only becomes more relevant with each passing year. With that in mind, it could be time to reexamine or relearn a little about cyberbullying and privacy, to help protect yourself and the people you care about.

What is Cyberbullying?

The act of cyberbullying covers a range of acts, each of which is directed at hurting a specific target. According to UNICEF, this includes acts such as spreading lies about an individual, sending abusive or threatening messages, or impersonating someone through fake accounts. This behavior isn’t new to the internet, but what is new is the number of forms that these acts can take. Fortunately, there are some simple steps included in basic privacy practices that can help mitigate the cyberbullying risk.

Keeping Discreet

As convenient as it can be to keep everything open and connected on social media, this is often a poor choice in terms of privacy. As noted by ExpressVPN, keeping social media accounts unlinked, and using multiple accounts in general, can help users separate the good audience members from the bad. Combined with filtering and turning off locational information, good privacy practices make it more difficult for bad actors to track a person down and otherwise engage in negative behavior.

A Broader Legal Solution

As of 2015, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act is the most modern part of the Canadian criminal code to address the cyberbullying issue, as detailed as Kruse Law. This doesn't just set guidelines on what is and is not acceptable in terms of online interaction, it also introduces punishments for offenders. This includes the seizure of online devices and up to five years in jail

Jail time for extreme cases of cyberbullying is a growing tactic adopted by many countries, most recently in 2022 by Japan. In Japan’s instance, the previous law set a maximum jail time of 30 days for cyberbullying offenses, which has increased to up to one year. There are concerns, however, that Japan’s law is too nebulously defined, and could therefore be dangerous. As noted by lawyer Seiho Cho in a CNN interview, too broad a definition could lead to powerful people like politicians hiding behind the law to shut down dissent.

Photo: Blogtrepreneur 

With each new year bringing new communication apps and levels of real-time access into people’s lives, cyberbullying laws require constant inspection by both lawmakers and the public. Too little attention and negative forces will always find ways to approach their targets. Too much overreach and legitimate criticism of public figures could be stifled. It’s a balancing act, though one which can thankfully be partially addressed by users’ improved security practices. While we can’t predict what the online social sphere will look like a decade from now, we do know that this component will be more important than ever, and it’s better to be proactive rather than let things get out of hand.