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Cyberbullying is where someone bullies another person online (e.g. on a social media site) or by sending emails or messages using a phone or computer.
Cyberbullying can cause serious problems for everyone involved, and in some cases, it can be a crime.
We recommend that you think very carefully before you say things about anyone else online or in an email or message.
If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, phone 000.
Bullying is repeated behaviour which is done on purpose to make someone feel hurt, upset, scared or embarrassed.
If a person bullies someone by sending emails or messages or by saying or doing things online (e.g. on a social media site) then it’s often called cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can happen in lots of different ways. For example, it can include sending or posting nasty or embarrassing comments or photos, spreading rumours, making threats, excluding someone online, or pretending to be someone else to make them look bad.
In serious cases, cyberbullying can be a crime.
We explain some of the main laws that could apply below. But please note, the law in this area is complicated and this is just a summary.
If you are worried about anything that you or someone else has sent or posted we recommend you get legal advice.
There is a national law that makes it a crime to use a phone or the internet in a way that is menacing, harassing or offensive. To be considered a crime, the behaviour must be likely to have a serious effect on the person targeted.
Cyberbullying may be a crime under this law if, for example, it involves frightening someone by threatening to harm them, bothering someone over and over again so that they feel afraid, or if messages, emails or posts make someone feel seriously angry or upset.
Cyberbullying may be a crime under WA law if it involves stalking someone.
Stalking is where a person keeps giving someone else unwanted attention to purposely scare them, cause them physical or mental harm, stop them doing something they would otherwise do, or make them do something they wouldn’t. It includes repeatedly communicating with someone, e.g. by sending them text messages or emails.
Cyberbullying may be a crime under national law if it involves using a phone or the internet to scare someone by threatening to kill or seriously harm them.
It may also be a crime under WA law if it involves threatening to kill or hurt someone, destroy or damage property, or cause harm to anyone.
Cyberbullying may be a crime if it tries to persuade someone to commit suicide.
Under national law, it is a crime to use a phone or the internet to send or post anything that encourages or helps someone to commit suicide. There is also a WA law which makes it a crime to cause or help someone commit suicide, or to encourage someone to commit suicide.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or experiencing emotional distress, help is available. You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 anytime. You can also contact one of the services listed below.
Depending on the circumstances, there are other crimes that may also apply to cyberbullying.
Cyber-bullying may also breach some civil laws.
Cyberbullying may also breach anti-discrimination laws if it includes ‘racial hatred’, or if it involves sexual harassment.
Cyberbullying may also result in a civil claim for defamation if online posts or messages damage someone’s reputation because they say untrue things about them. See our page on Defamation for more information.
If you commit one of the crimes we have talked about above, the consequences can be very serious. You may be investigated and charged by the police, and if you are found guilty you could end up with a criminal record or even go to jail.
It’s usually best to remove any material you are worried about, especially if someone has asked you to take something down that you’ve said or posted about them or if you have been contacted by the eSafety Commissioner. We suggest you get legal advice or talk to a trusted adult, especially if you are planning to contact the person (e.g. to apologise).
If you are worried that you have cyberbullied someone, we recommend that you get legal advice straight away.
For free legal advice, you can contact us or one of these services:
If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call the police on 000. As a first step, we recommend that you get free and confidential legal advice straight away.
Collect evidence. First, you’ll need evidence of the cyberbullying if you decide to take further action (e.g. take screenshots or print messages, posts or emails). For help and more information see the eSafety Commissioner’s guides – How to collect evidence and Collecting information.
Stopping the cyberbullying. If you want to take steps to get cyberbullying material removed or to stop the cyberbullying, then you can:
If you are being cyberbullied by someone at your school, you can speak to a teacher, the principal or the school counsellor so that the school can help you sort things out.
Report it to the eSafety Commissioner. If you are under 18 and the victim of serious cyberbullying you can make a report to the eSafety Commissioner. The Commissioner can work with you to help stop the cyberbullying and get the material removed.
For more information about how to make a report, including what information you need to include and what you need to do first, see the Cyberbullying complaints and Report cyberbullying sections of the eSafety Commissioner’s website. Note that the Commissioner can tell other people about your complaint, including the person responsible or the police, but (unless you are in danger) it will try to ask your permission first.
Get legal advice. If you are being cyberbullied, there are things you can do to protect yourself. In serious cases, you might be able to get a restraining order, or take other legal action against the person.
We recommend you get legal advice. Every situation is different, and a lawyer can help you understand your options.
For free legal advice, you can contact us or one of these services:
You can find more information about restraining orders here.
Report it to the police. If you think you are the victim of one of the crimes we’ve talked about above, you can report it to the police. But it’s a good idea to get legal advice first, especially if you’re worried about anything you’ve said or done or if your situation involves a nude or sexual image of a young person.
You should contact the police immediately on 000 if someone is threatening you.
Take steps to stay safe online. There are steps you can take to stay safe online and to stop people contacting or bullying you, for example by blocking or unfriending people who upset you and keeping your privacy settings private. We recommend you take a look at some of the following resources to make sure you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself from online abuse of any kind.
Talk to someone. Getting someone’s support can make you feel better, and they can start helping you fix the problem. You can talk to a friend, your parents, or other trusted adult.
If you would rather talk to a trained counsellor, you can call one of the services listed below for free and private counselling support.
If you know someone who is being cyberbullied or you have seen cyberbullying online then it is important that you don’t join in, forward or share material or comment on anything. This could get you into trouble, as well as making things worse for the person being bullied. It is best if you leave any conversations or group chats if people are being nasty about someone.
There are things you can do to help stop the bullying and to support the people involved. For more information see the Australian Human Rights Commission’s webpage on What you can do to stop bullies – Be a supportive bystander or contact one of the support services above.
If you would like to talk to a trained counsellor, the following services offer free and private counselling support.
Last reviewed 9 February 2021
Criminal Code 1995 (Cth)
Mons v R; Droudis v R  HCA 
Monis, Man Haron v R; Droudis, Amirah v R  NSWCCA 231 
Criminal Code Compilation Act 1913 (WA)
Defamation Act 2005 (WA)
Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)
Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)
Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth)
Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA)
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying (March 2018)
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