Ethics Law Research

Electronic Bullying or Freedom of Speech?

Raskauskas (2007) mentions that with the advent of the Internet and the increasing availability thereof, has come a new form of bullying involving text messages, web sites, emails and instant messaging. Raskauskas’s study is researching two sides of the electronic bullying demographic which I think are both quite feasible. The first being that the likelihood of a real life bully becoming an electronic bully is quite high, but secondly that the victims of bullying could turn to electronics to become bullies themselves due to the anonymity. I think this is entirely likely, anyone who has spent time on the internet during their youth, in chat rooms more than likely, have come across the typical cyber bully, using their authority (access level/user rights) to persecute other users.

As far as responsibilities go, it is my personal belief that (in the case of students) it is both the school and the parents who should be intervening and trying to control the situation. Stavros and Androniki (2010) mention that schools should involve the entire faculty along with the students in producing a policy against cyber bullying, that cell phone use should be prohibited in school and punishments should be clearly defined and explained to all parties. They also mention that all students and parents should sign and accept the policy on cyber-bullying in schools, I believe this will increase accountability and make the seriousness of the situation more accepted instead of it being looked at as a trivial or perhaps humorous act.

Greg (2009) has written a blog post on a student who made a YouTube defamatory video about another student. The student was suspended from school for two days. A judge ruled that the school had no right to suspend the child from school as it did not cause any disruption of the school’s activities. The judge wrote that “The court cannot uphold school discipline of student speech simply because young persons are unpredictable or immature”. In Greg’s article he describes the freedom of speech as a rule to protect bullies, while this is probably not the case, there does rein some truth.

Masnick (2010) has a similar article on cyber bullying regarding comments made against a student on his website. In this story the California court said that the online bullying was not protected free speech. This shows that there are still some issues to be revisited when it comes to free speech laws, clearly, is has been a difficult task due to differing opinions of hate speech and arguments against freedom of speech.

I don’t believe that electronic bullying in the workplace falls far from school bullying. Morrall and Urquhart (2004) write that harassment, whether in or out of the workplace is punishable by law. Under the UK Public Order Act of 1986 “a criminal offence is committed where a person intentionally harasses another by using threatening or abusive language, whether orally or in writing, which causes another person harassment, alarm or distress”.



Greg (2009) Freedom of Speech vs. Bullying [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 December 2010).

Masnick, M (2010) California Court Says Online Bullying Is Not Protected Free Speech [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 December 2010).

Morrall, S & Urquhart, C (2004) ‘Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace’ Legal Information Management; Autumn 2004, 4 (3), pp.164-167, EBSCO [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 December 2010).

Raskauskas, J (2007) ‘Involvement in traditional and electronic bullying among adolescents’ Developmental Psychology, 43 (3), pp.564-575, EBSCO [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 December 2010).

Stavros, K & Androniki K (2010) ‘Cyberbullying: A Review of the Literature on Harrassment Through the Internet and Other Electronic Means’ Family & Community Health, 33 (2), OvidSP [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 December 2010).