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Legal aspects

Legal situation in England

What does the English law say?


There is no legal definition of the term cyberbullying in England. However there are many laws that apply to cases of cybermobbing and accompanying attacks on the victims:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997; Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Communications Act 2003, section 127:

This law prohibits the sending of obscene, offensive or inappropriate news. It should mentioned that online groomers do not belong to those news, because they write first friendly and want to establish a trust relationship with their victim.

Education Act 2011:

  • Teachers are allowed to solve cybermobbing problems by searching and deleting such content on mobile phones or computers of their students.

Defamation Act 2013:

  • This rule stipulates that the database provider is responsible for the deletion of offensive content.

In addition to the legislative effort to handle the problem of cyberbullying, there is a wealth of guidelines and guidance on how parents, teachers and students should behave in order to avoid such incidents or to quickly resolve such incidents.


According to the criminal law in 2015, a new criminal record was established with adults to protect minors against unwanted and sexual contact. Against the background of changing communication channels and techniques, contact should be punished for the purpose of establishing sexual contact between perpetrators and victims. This includes in particular the initiation of contacts through chat and the Internet in general with the intention of the adult to approach the minor, to gain his trust and later to have any sexual contact with him. The maximum penalty is 10 years.

In the area of civil law, the adult who is looking for such contacts can impose a kind of "risk of sexual harm" order in the context of prevention. This prohibits the person concerned from seeking online contacts with minors.

It should be noted that the age limit is 16 years. In general this is the case, because even adolescents can abuse others of the same age or children. Where volunteering is on two sides, the law enforcement authority will deny the public interest and cease the pursuit.


English criminal law has its own criminal record for sexting. It is called "Revenge Pornography", translating revenge pornography. The fact that the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 has been dealt with in Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act and threatens a maximum sentence of two years of imprisonment For the law enforcement agencies to act, the published recordings must be "sexual" and "private". Both terms are defined in section 35.


For posing pictures it is forbidden, if one is under 18 years old, to make indecent pictures of themselves or other underage persons or to share with others.

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What does the German law say?

Even if cyberbullying itself doesn't lead to a criminal offense, legal measures could be taken against such kind of actions:

  • Without agreement, posted videos and photos harm the right to a private life and the right to personal image (also "Portrait right"). So measures could be taken against the post (for example disposition and temporary restraining order, see below).
  • When lies or insults are spread – for example through social networks or by E-mail - legal action could be taken. In addition, a complaint for libel or insult could be lodged (see below).
  • If someone is permanently being offended or bullied by E-mail, Messenger or SMS, they could take action under the Anti-Stalking-Law.

When the so called "Cyberbullys" or perpetrators, don't stop their actions after the warning, the victims could exercise their rights through civil proceedings.

Injunction/place under interdiction, legal arrangements, criminal action

The injunction of a civil suit is intended to compel the "Cyberbully" to obey the requirements of the written warning before the court's decision. If the perpetrators don't change their behavior, they suffer the consequences, the court accepts the complaint and it is a final decision. Moreover damages could be claimed.

Court orders are fast proceedings - for emergencies. It is possible to apply for the appropriate court order only in the period after the violation has been announced (for some courts four weeks, for others up to three months).

The court order has significant advantages in comparison with civil action: it can be executed within several weeks and in the meantime the cyberbullys may stop.

The heaviest forms of cyberbullying could give an occasion for civil action – under certain circumstances parallel to the civil protection. They include, for example the cases, in which the victims are in danger of serious physical violence. Object of the criminal law are threats, compulsion and blackmail.

First of all the following crimes could be commited:

  • § 201a of the criminal law „Violating the right to privacy through the captured image“
  • § 185 of the criminal law "Libel"
  • § 186 of the criminal law „Slander“
  • § 187 of the criminal law „Defamation“
  • § 238 of the criminal law „Persecution“
  • § 131 of the criminal law „Violence“
  • § 22 of the copyright law „The right to your own image“
  • § 223 of the criminal law "Heavy physical injury"
  • § 240 of the criminal law "Compulsion"
  • § 253 of the criminal law "Blackmail"

Furthermore, the webpage could be required to remove all texts, photos and videos. This could be enforced by law, but can be expensive, especially with foreign hosting sites.

Other European law systems don't have legal frame purely for cyberbullying. For them, the guilt comes from the other crimes.

Legal situation in different European countries

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