Cyberlaw deals with the legal issues related to almost everything that happens in cyberspace.
The term social media encompasses many different types of internet applications that allow user-generated content and multi-directional exchange of information (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Discord). In many areas of law, there are no specific or different laws or rules in place for social media. This means:
Be careful about what you say about yourself and others. Posting something rude, offensive or derogatory can have consequences. For instance, your comments and/or the photos you post may be considered defamatory, hurtful, threatening, or image-abuse by others. Even after you’ve ‘deleted’ them, there’s no guarantee that your content has disappeared – copies of it could exist on backups, or might already have been downloaded by others. This content could later be presented as legal evidence against you at university, your job, or even in court.
Cyber abuse is online behaviour that is reasonably likely to have a seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating effect on a person. It’s behaviour that threatens to hurt a person socially, psychologically or even physically. Cyber abuse includes behaviour such as cyberbullying and image-based abuse. It can take place in various online spaces, like chat rooms and social networking sites, or through emails, messaging apps or on message boards.
More information on cyber abuse.
Cyberbullying is behaviour carried out online or through mobile phones that: is meant to be hurtful; targets a certain person or group of people; happens more than once; and embarrasses, threatens or intimidates the person being bullied.
More information on what cyberbullying is and how to get help.
Cyberbullying may be a crime under either NSW or federal law when it involves:
You can report cyberbullying to your local police on 131 444 or by going to your local station; or you can make a report to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).
If you’re questioned or arrested by the police in relation to cyberbullying, you should give your correct name and address, but exercise your right to remain silent for any other questions. Try to stay calm, and politely ask to get legal advice before you give them any other information.
In general terms, defamation occurs when a person intentionally spreads information about another person, group of people, or small company that damages their reputation, or could make others think less of them. You can be sued for defamation regardless of the medium of publication. For example, a person can be defamed on the internet as well as in print and through photos.
If you post defamatory content online, you could be sued for defamation. Even if you didn’t create the defamatory content, but only shared it (e.g. by retweeting it), you could also be held liable for defamation.
The best thing to do if you’re accused of defamation is to take down the offending post as soon as possible and seek legal advice about your next steps.
In NSW, it’s illegal to record, distribute or threaten to distribute an intimate image without consent. If this happens to you, you can report it to the police on 131 444 or by going to your local station.
For confidential information, referral and counselling you can call Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) on 1800 424 017 (24 hours a day/7 days a week) or contact them online.
Information about image-based abuse laws in other states.
If you’ve experienced image-based abuse, there are a number of actions you can take to have your images removed or deleted.
Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Be alert and protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips.
More information on popular types of scams.
If you need further assistance with any area of cyberlaw, our Legal Service can help you. Contact us for advice.
This information is current as at December 2019 and is intended as a guide to the law as it applies to people who live in or are affected by the law as it applies in NSW. It does not constitute legal advice.
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Last updated February 2020
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