In today’s internet age, everyone spends most of their day online. The internet has aided people in different ways. Communication has been enabled with people in various parts of the world making the world feel like a global village. Through various messaging and social media platforms, people can communicate irrespective of their location. Again, businesses and multinational companies have also been supported by the internet. Connections of these multinational companies have been enabled, and online sales have become the order of the day for businesses, aided by the various e-commerce platforms available. Despite the various strides brought by the internet, it has also been the cause of other immoral and criminal behaviors.
The internet has enabled various social evils, and also a crime to be conducted such as the sale of illegal equipment and drugs on the dark web, and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has become the most emerging con of the internet whereby people using the internet are harassed when over the internet. Laws to protect people from any cyber threats have not be developed concretely thus it is almost impossible to classify cyberbullying as a crime. The police can therefore not control threats from the internet because they cannot persecute the perpetrators. This paper discusses the issue of the police policy that hinders the prosecution of cyber bullies.
Cyberbullying is one of the problems that arose with the advent of the internet. Cyberbullying refers to the use of technology to any hostile, repeated, and deliberate behavior towards a specific person to harm them. These includes any threats that the victim received from people. Cyber bullying has been used hand in hand with cyberstalking and trolling. Most of these instances happen on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and in gaming platforms where people interact.
Different reasons exist explaining why it is close to impossible for the police to control any threats that happen online. Most of the reasons why the police cannot be able to control threats on the internet revolve around policies in place in the law. These policies include geographical and law jurisdiction, and policies revolving around the definition of the crime. These policy-related issues are what make controlling online threats through persecutions difficult. The first policy that prevents the police from controlling Internet threats is the jurisdiction issue in the branches of law. In most countries, branches of law are classified into the penal system, the civil system, and the regulatory system. The criminal (penal) system of law deals with offenses that are prosecuted by the government whose punishment is either monetary fines, serving prison terms, or both. In crimes seen as serious crimes, this punishment can also result in capital punishment. The civil system deals with disputes between organizations or individuals in which whoever loses the court battle pays the other party regarding damages or receives court injunctions depending on the case, or both. The regulatory system is in charge of specific sectors and can either give or take away licenses depending on the case. All these systems have dedicated departments for dealing with specific crimes. There are judges who deal with traffic offenses while others deal with divorces. With cyber bullying, it becomes difficult to classify the act as a crime in the first place due to the law that defines the crime. This is what makes it impossible to control threats from the internet. No dedicated agencies have been set up by the government, or by the law to deal with any cases dealing with cyber bullying. Therefore, when such cases of bullying get reported to the police, they are seen as removing resources from other departments that need them the most. An example of such a case is when Caroline Criado-Perez was being trolled on Twitter, and the police regarded the issue as having huge volumes of threats that made it hard for ‘a hard-pressed police service’ to investigate. This would divert the police from ‘dealing with something else’. This shows that the there should be a dedicated section of the law and the police to deal with online threats.
Another reason why it is difficult for the police to control threats from the internet is that of the geographical jurisdiction. Geographical jurisdiction talks about the authority over a specific location that crime, or in this case threats and bullying occurred. The court refers to the location as the venue. For any court or even government agency such as a specific police department, they only have power or jurisdiction over crimes that happen in the specific geographical locality. This means the location of the perpetrator of the crime, that of the victim, or the place of occurrence of the crime. With threats that happen on the internet it is hard for the courts or the police to claim jurisdiction since that specific threat can be committed by a person living in a different jurisdiction, the crime can happen in a different jurisdiction, or the victim of the crime can live in a different jurisdiction from that which they have authority. These jurisdiction issues make it extremely difficult for the persecution of the perpetrators. Before any department or government agency can start any investigations of any kind, it has to have jurisdiction. For cyber crimes, it is difficult to get that ‘perfect crime’ where the victim, the venue of the threat, and the perpetrator are all in an area where a court or the police department tasked with investigating the threats have jurisdiction. The complexity of geographical jurisdiction has made it difficult to act on any of the internet threats that may occur.
Consequently, the reason why the police cannot be able to control threats from the internet is that these threats are not recognized as a criminal offense. Most people do not categorize anything that happens on the internet as a crime, and therefore it is difficult for the police to control threats on the internet. According to the definition of crime as stated by the police, a crime must be ‘unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific’ and clearly show ‘gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat.’ Therefore, if the threat does not contain all of the above, the police do not consider it to being a crime. This is the main reason why it is hard for the police to control any threats happening on the internet.
Many people do not believe that any threats that happen online are that serious. Take an example of a few students playing games on the internet. If one of them gets beaten by the rest, they might result to abusing or even threating the rest of the gaming mates. Those who are threatened might result in giving back threats of their own. This shows that most people on the internet do not take threats from the internet seriously. Again, Amanda Hess in her article Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet talks about how she felt for feeling scared after someone on Twitter threatened to decapitate and rape her. She says that she felt embarrassed for being scared, and then pissed off. According to her, it was unlikely that the person would actualize their threats. For most people who are seen as controversial on the internet especially due to the stand that they take on certain topics, then it is normal for threats to fly around from the people affected by the said topic.
Despite most threats not being actualized, some crimes do happen. In some rare occurrences, some people do threaten to commit crimes via the internet and later actualize those threats. It is such rare cases that make the rest of the people threatening internet users look bad. Here is why: one might threaten someone as a joke but at the end of the day, the victim using examples from cases where threats from the internet have been carried out decides to take the issue seriously. Therefore, people should be careful about what they say online since it might end up not being understood contrary to how they had intended it to be understood.
Consequently, online threats can turn physical too. According to A Pew Research survey, about five percent of women who had been threatened online or even abused had got into ‘physical danger’ after the online incidence. This shows that though rare, online threats can be actualized in the form of stalking, or in some extreme cases, even physical abuse. Most of these occurrences happen to girls. Research shows that teenage girls are most likely to be threatened online than boys. This is what develops to when the teenage girls grow to women. for the women, just an online appearance can be what inspires abuse. Therefore, girls and women should be careful online and report any cases of harassment or threats to the authorities just to be safe. Doing so ensures one’s security since the authorities would be on the lookout for any potential incidences.
All said, most of the threats are not actualized. From the Pew Research, only five percent of threats led to some physical danger: therefore, about 95% of the threats did not lead to physical danger. This shows that most people making the threats, or even harassing women online are not capable of actualizing the threats physically. They just do so due to the privacy policies, and anonymity they enjoy from the internet. Without this anonymity or privacy policies, then these online stalkers, bullies, and trolls could not dare threaten or harass anyone. They would be afraid of getting in trouble with the authorities.
Despite online trolls not actualizing their threats physically, this harassment needs to stop or be stopped by those in authority. The threats can have a negative impact on the victims. They might live their lives in fear of being physically hurt by those who threatened them. Although the police do not have any form of control for what happens online, the lawmakers need to pass various policies that would protect all online users from trolls. So as not to infringe on privacy policies developed by the owners of the internet platforms, such policies would be achieved by developing them in collaboration with the owners of the platforms.
In conclusion, the use of the internet has not only brought advantages but disadvantages to the users. Online harassment and threats are the main issues that have given a bad name for the internet. The police cannot be able to control what happens on the internet especially due to the anonymity offered by the internet. All they can do is be on the lookout for users who have reported any online harassment. To give more authority for the police act on, then the policy makers need to develop laws that are favorable to the prosecution of online trolls.