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What are the legalities of cyber bullying in the state of CA?

Sacramento, CA |
Attorney answers 3


Guide to Cyber bullying from the Attorney General of California:

What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying can be described as any cyber-communication or publication posted or sent by a minor—by instant messenger, e-mail, website, diary site, online profile, interactive game, handheld device, cell phone or other interactive device—that is intended to frighten, embarrass, harass or otherwise target another minor.

Here are four examples of cyber bullying taken from real events:

A fake profile is posted on a social networking site using a student’s real name, contact information, and photos. The profile includes embarrassing information about the victim, and provides a forum for other students to post mean or harassing messages about him.

A student receives repeated anonymous instant messages and emails at home, calling him names or threatening him with physical harm. The victim does not know who is sending the messages and begins to think that everybody is against him. The victim no longer feels safe at school or at home.

A website is created dedicated to making fun of and embarrassing a particular student at the school. The victim may not learn about the website until later, but other students will read it and begin to ostracize and bully the victim at school.

Students spam an online forum with anonymous posts spreading rumors about a particular student. The victim has no way of knowing who posted the rumors, because the online forum anonymizes all of the posts.
Andrew M. Jaffe
Attorney at Law
Practice Limited to E-Commerce and Internet Law

This post is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice specific to you. This general information is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney client relationship is not established by this post.


If this query relates to a specific online site, such as Facebook, they've got their own policy defining and prohibiting bullying as well, so that's another place to check, since violation of a site's policy can get an account terminated.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


Last year, California passed Assembly Bill 9, and it went into effect January 1, 2012. This bill “requires the policy adopted by the local educational agencies to prohibit discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics.” This bill also gives school districts the right to suspend and in some cases, expel students who are caught.

Also, The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyber-bullying as “the process of using the internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”

Good luck!
Mark A. Seif,
Attorney at Law

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