6 www.DFInews.com FALL 2013
from the editor
I was recently discussing with a friend the tragic case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old Canadian girl who
killed herself in April after being taunted over a photo of her alleged rape by four boys. I noted that the
problem with cyber-bullying is that it is relatively new and the legal system doesn’t entirely know how to
address it. He countered that cyber-bullying is no different than stalking; the only difference being in the
media. What is the real difference between sending threats and insults in an anonymous letter and sending
the same messages electronically? In fact, he argued, it is actually easier to track the perpetrator when the
messages have been sent via e-mail or social media. Even when an anonymous or phony account has been
created, there are other clues including the origin of the message and the traces left on the computer from
which the message was sent. I was forced to concede his point.
On further reflection, it is not the cyber-bullying itself that is creating the legal dilemma but rather the
number of cyber-bullying cases involving minors. I don’t know what proportion of stalking cases involve
school children, but I would guess few minors stalk each
other in the traditional sense. Something about the way
today’s youth has grown up with technology seems to make
them less cautious about how much they share electronically and has also, it seems, made them bolder when it comes
to exploiting e-mail, social media, and cell phones to harass
New Jersey Legal’s blog on the topic (http://njlcblog.
computer-forensics-help-part-1) cites some alarming figures:
• Nearly one-third of all students are involved in a cyber-bullying incident each year.
• Of 350 college students surveyed in Virginia and Illinois, about 60% said they had experienced
• When teens were asked why they think others cyber-bully, 81% said that cyber-bullies think it’s funny.
• 44% of boys surveyed say that they’ve seen sexual images of girls in their school, and about 15% of
them are disseminating those images when they break up with the girls.
Obviously the first issue here is the importance of teaching new generations how to use electronic media
responsibly: the permanence of their communications, the impact they have, and the legal ramification of
harassing or other illegal messages. From an investigation perspective, however, it is also worth considering
how we will deal with cases involving minors as we are more and more likely to find ourselves investigating a cyber-bullying case at some point. The number of extreme cases involving victims developing severe
psychological issues, dropping out of school, and even committing suicide underlines the importance or
treating these cases seriously. While no one wants to see a minor ruined by a wrong childhood decision,
the consequences force us to view these crimes as something more than “children being children.”
...it is not the cyber-bullying
itself that is creating the legal
dilemma but rather the number
of cyber-bullying cases