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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

CyberBullying – what you need to know

There are many definitions that you can find online which describes Cyber Bullying. In Trinidad and Tobago those definitions are no different and the term Cyber Bully was once defined in the Cyber Crime Bill as follows:

A Cyberbully is someone who uses a computer system repeatedly or continuously to convey information which causes fear, intimidation, distress or other harm to another person; or detriment to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation.

So let’s break that down a bit.

In the definition above, the ‘computer system’ being referred to includes all internet connected devices like mobile phone, computers, tablets, game consoles etc. We can use those computer systems to send texts, messages photos or videos and share them online in social media, forums, gaming sites or pretty much anywhere people can view, participate or share that content.

And what exactly can cause ‘fear, intimidation, distress..’ or other types of harm to a person? Well it can be something as simple as a mean text like ‘you’re ugly‘ or as bad as a fake image of the person (photoshopped or doctored image). All of which can have very little to very severe consequences. The forms of cyber bullying listed next would define some ways in which you can cause fear, intimidation, distress or other types of harm to a person.

Forms of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying takes different forms:

Impersonation
A common form of impersonation involves fake accounts or profiles designed to impersonate the victim. One form of impersonation using the Facebook platform, known as ‘fraping,’ involves someone gaining unauthorized access  to the victim’s social media account, impersonating them and posting inappropriate content as the victim.

Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is when someone uses technology to repeatedly harass, intimidate and threaten someone. Cyberstalkers may keep tabs on their victims and make attempts to meet them in person. Extreme cases of cyberstalking can also involve adults grooming teenagers to have sexual relationships with them or in some cases for the purpose of human trafficking.

Flaming
Flaming is when people post derogatory comments on someone’s web or social media page or via instant messaging such as WhatsApp, emails or chat rooms. This generally occurs during an online argument, and the communication is usually filled with angry and foul language.

Outing
This type of cyberbullying involves sharing someone’s private information in order to publicly humiliate him or her. Outing can include posting photos, emails, text messages or videos online or forwarding them to other people via instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

Trickery
Like outing, trickery involves revealing private information about another person. When someone engages in this type of cyberbullying, the person befriends someone and gains his or her trust with the specific intention of sharing that person’s private information online.

Harassment
Harassment involves the constant sending of malicious, abusive or threatening messages to an individual or group online. This can be done to the victims publicly on their social media feed or via private / direct messaging.

Trolling
Trolling is the most common of cyberbullying techniques. It is the deliberate act of provoking a response through the use of some type of inflammatory statements — such as using insults or inappropriate language or images online. The goal of a troll is generally to incite someone to anger hoping that the person reacts in an equally inappropriate or embarrassing way.

Catfishing
Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone they are not and sometimes assumes another person’s identity online, sometimes including the identity of the victim. This is often done to post inappropriate content or manipulate and hurt other relationships the victim has online. A catfish uses fake photos, and sometimes a false persona, to find friends or romantic partners on the internet. This can also lead to wanting to meet face-to-face often associated with unwanted outcomes.

Denigration
This occurs when someone posts rumors and gossip about someone online. Cyberbullies use denigration in order to ruin the victim’s relationships and reputation.

Exclusion
Exclusion is creating groups or events and intentionally excluding someone. This can also happen by not tagging someone in a photo or inviting them to a chat group or blocking them from private social media accounts. Exclusion is often carried out in similar fashion, simultaneously, in the real world.

The most common places where Cyber Bullying occurs include:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter
  • SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
  • Instant Message (such as WhatsApp, iMessage, SnapChat, Discord etc)
  • Email
  • Blogs, Comments and Review sections of websites

We can look at the differences between ‘Traditional’ bullying and Cyber Bullying in the diagram below. While there are many differences, the key similarity is what is important. They both can cause serious long term damage.

 

Bullying vs Cyber Bullying

 

Cyber Bullying and the Law

All countries would have various sanctions against persons who get caught in the act of cyber bullying. At present, Trinidad and Tobago is guided by the

 

Listed below are some newspaper headlines from Trinidad and Tobago where victims of Cyber Bullying won their cases and were awarded financial compensation. These cases would have called upon the following terms in the Offenses against the Persons Act to fight their cyber bullying case:

  • Defamation of character
  • Damage to Reputation
  • Harassment
  • Invasion of privacy



Resources for Schools

The following links are meant to act as guidelines for school administrators in handling and addressing Cyber Bullying incidents. Schools in Trinidad and Tobago should always ultimately be guided by the National Schools Code of Conduct.

 

CyberSafety Awareness Day 2023 – Cyberbullying Theme

Conclusion

Cyber Bullying isn’t an activity you want to witness or even be a victim of. Some comments, images about a person may be funny to you but it can cause sever emotional distress to another one. It is best that you report any Cyber Bullying activity to someone who can help such as a teacher, parent or even the local police (they can then escalate the matter to the Cyber Crime Unit).

Lastly, THINK before you post online; follow the rules outlined in the message below for a safer and happier internet:

 

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