How Should Online Bullying Be Punished?

Writers Opinion Online Bullying Punished Featured

Bullying is not anything new. However, with the rise in popularity of social media, it has become much more widespread, as it seems people feel free to just say whatever they want, whether it will hurt someone or not. And sometimes it pushes the limit of hurt and becomes outright cruel.

Dubai happens to take online bullying really seriously. A British woman attended the funeral of her ex-husband in Dubai, and her statements on Facebook from a few years prior when he remarried have come into question, when she appeared to wish him dead and called his new wife a “horse.” This is something she could now go to jail for.

How should online bullying be punished?

Our Opinion

After first stipulating that stories of Dubai make him leery to leave the airport, Andrew said he believes the default attitude should be “not legally punishable,” with exceptions in cases of provably harmful activity. He agrees that it’s a serious issue but doesn’t like the idea of restricting speech, as it can get subjective quickly “without clear legal definitions and consistent enforcement.” He believes any cyberbullying law should have “extremely clear criteria for what constitutes harmful cyberbullying.”

He doesn’t believe single comments made in anger or one-off instances should be punishable except in the most extreme cases, such as encouraging a mentally unstable person to do something harmful.

Sayak also mentioned the restrictive laws in Dubai, noting you can even get arrested for “flipping the bird.” He doesn’t believe online bullying should be seen differently than other bullying. He thinks government-mandated photo IDs and profile pics should be compulsory on social media to put an end to trolls and fake accounts that create disturbances, harass, stalk, and threaten/intimidate.

Writers Opinion Online Bullying Punished Graffiti3

He believes “the anonymity of the Internet allows [bullies] the freedom to cross all limits.” Yet he also doesn’t believe those who taunt, insult, swear, or hurl abuses should be risking arrest.

Philbelieves it should be punished like any other crime, “appropriately and proportionately.” He does believe behavior on social media should be punished if you step over the line yet realizes that limits freedom. But “the other trouble is if you give everyone total freedom, then you let the hate in with the joy.” He thinks it should be a matter of platforms and not the law.

Fabio is fine with online bullies doing jail time. You should be free to say what you want, “but there are things you should never say.”

Simon believes “it should come under the same regulations as any other form of verbal abuse.”If it comes up that someone verbally abused someone two years ago, and new evidence supports that, that person should be punished, and the same should go for old bullying Facebook posts. “It’s a reminder on how everything we do online can be like etching words in stone.”

For me a lot of it comes down to intention, whether the person intended to be hurtful. Just like there are varying degrees, at least in the U.S., for killing another person, harming them with words should have the same varying degrees (but not the same punishments). First degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, unintentional manslaughter, etc. Why not have something similar for bullying?

Did that woman really wish her husband dead? What was her intention in calling that woman a horse? There are times when teens bully another online by saying they are so ugly, they should just die. And that other person then commits suicide. That’s intent. But just saying, “Hey, you’re ugly,” is deplorable, but it shouldn’t get the same punishment.

Your Opinion

How do you feel about online bullying? Should it be punishable? Do you think you should get in trouble for two-year-old statements made on Facebook? Should it lead to jail time?

How should online bullying be punished?

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. I definitely think that any kind of bullying needs to be punished. Social media instead of concentrating on fake news should concentrate on punishing cyberbullying. First offense, a stern warning. Second offense, you’re outta here! The account is closed and deleted. However, as with anything that has to do with human interactions, we’re not tallking black or white, we are talking zillions shades of gray.

    “Andrew believes any cyberbullying law should have “extremely clear criteria for what constitutes harmful cyberbullying.”
    While I agree with Andrew 100%, he is not being realistic. Laws are never written to provide “extremely clear criteria for what constitutes a particular crime”. They are vague and ambiguous. Once we start considering the state of a person’s mind and their intent, any exactness or precision is impossible. I don’t think there is a person alive who has said, at some time, “I’ll kill you if….”. Do they really mean it? For 99.999999% of those who utter that phrase, it is just a phrase but a prosecutor WILL make it sound like murderous intent. Language is a very imprecise means of communication, for the speaker, for the hearer and for the listener. The speaker may say and mean one thing but the hearer may hear and understand something totally different, while a listener will hear and understand something else altogether.

    Because of the imprecise nature of language, no “extremely clear criteria for what constitutes harmful cyberbullying (or bullying in general)” can be defined. A lot depends on how the words are received and who the target is. I can say to a male friend “You’re an ugly SOB” and it will be received as a joke. If I say “You are ugly” to a woman or a girl, that is bullying or, in the best case, an improper thing to say. If a teacher tells a student their answer is wrong and the student feels intimidated, is the teacher bullying the student? The student (and in today’s world the parents) certainly feel that the teacher IS bullying the student.

  2. Case by case basis.
    I’m currently locked out of Facebook because I shared a portrait of ol’ Adolf with text of something he said, about how folks can be steered into believing their bad times are good, or that their good times are bad.

    Facebook didn’t like that. Locked me out of being able to share or comment for thirty (30) days.

    As I understand it, it would have been okay, if I’d only put some words on top about Adolf, the monster, being a monster.
    30 DAYS because I didn’t say at the top, that Adolf was a bad guy.
    My Facebook site makes it quite clear where I stand on such matters.

    Phooey, say I. Facebook needs further work. It doesn’t let defendants appeal decisions.
    Its decisions are final…and that stinks.

  3. What a load of crap! Online bullying is simply an excuse for the weak and those who WANT to be seen as victims to gain attention, notoriety or compensation.

    If you are so deluded as to believe that you are being ‘bullied’ by something that someone else wrote (maybe you know the person and maybe not), then you have simple choices:
    1. Ignore it
    2. Rebut it
    3. TURN IT OFF. Nothing forces you to read online crapola that you don’t like.
    If you don’t like broccoli, you don’t eat it
    If you don’t like the news on TV you turn it off
    Similarly, if you don’t like what someone says (of what you THINK they are saying) about you on the internet TURN IT OFF!

    C’mon people! Grow up! Stop complaining about every little thing and making a big deal out of little or nothing and get off the internet – leave it to those who use it for legitimate communications and research.

    1. “If you don’t like the news on TV you turn it off”
      I’d rather insist that it is fake news. :-)

      “Stop complaining about every little thing and making a big deal out of little or nothing ”
      Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades we have developed a Culture of Victimhood. People always feel dissed by others. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

  4. Online bullying?! Are you kidding me? If someone gets so butthurt over *reading* something, they already had deeper issues and problems. The people who think actual ‘punishment’ for such BS are pathetic to say the least and have absolutely no hair on their cods.

    Grow a pair. When i was 5 years old I had more balls than these so-called adults wanting to “punish” online bullying. Go get a pacifier, shove it in your mouth and sit down somewhere, shut up and quit bothering the *real* adults!

    Good gawds, but the whining about bullying and everything else is so out of hand! How did anyone who wants this kind of thing punished survive without their mommy holding their hand 24/7/365?!

    1. Somehow totally isolating offspring from ANY nastiness the world has to throw at them has become the chief endeavor of parents. Nobody is supposed to bruise their fragile egos by criticizing them. Teachers do not want to stunt the kids’ development by accurately grading their work so they either grade them pass/fail or just pass the along to the next level. As a result, a generation of emotional wimps is let loose on the world.. When these offspring face the cold, cruel, uncaring world, they are unprepared. They cannot accept “NO” for an answer, any criticism is perceived as a personal attack, any attack becomes bullying.

  5. Intent is a hard matter to determine and judge so forget that as criteria.
    If I find posts offensive, I ignore them, if there is a pattern I block the person posting the crap.
    Cyber-bullies like real bullies are cowards and deserve none of my time.

  6. So like any bullying this is something that with kids must be addressed both at the school level and at the parenting level. Too many times the schools have little recourse in outside the school behavior unless it also happens on school grounds or at functions. Parents need to be better at monitoring what there kids are doing online and who they are chatting or friends with. Also if someone is bullying them the parents should file a complaint, they should help their child block or ban that bully from accessing their child. People of all ages are very rude and cruel when they think they remain anonymous or don’t fear any serious repercussions. The political attacks and fake news are just as bad, and sometimes parents set poor examples when they speak of being bullies themselves as adults. As I have found, you find a kid who is a bully and more then likely a adult has given them reason to emulate that behavior. Maybe in a misunderstood way, but in fact kids replicate adults behavior a lot. Social media unfortunately is a haven for good and bad, it will never be a Utopia for only good people. You have to take steps to protect your kids just as you do any other place.

    1. “Too many times the schools have little recourse ”
      No. Schools are afraid to punish any negative behavior, not just bullying. Any action by the school against Johnny/Jane will result in backlash from the parents, including litigation. Used to be that school and parents collaborated. When a kid transgressed in school, not only did the school punish the behavior but then the parents added their punishment. Nowadays, the kids can do no wrong in the eyes of the parents. The parents have abrogated the responsibility for raising their to the schools.

      “they should help their child block or ban that bully from accessing their child”
      How do you “ban” the bully from accessing their child in school or playground?

      “People of all ages are very rude and cruel when they think they remain anonymous”
      People were and still are rude even in face to face encounters.

      “You have to take steps to protect your kids just as you do any other place.”
      Protect – yes, coddle – definitely not. Over the past couple of generations, in the course pf “protecting our kids”, we have created neurotic, emotionally weak children. When they encounter the difficulties of every day life, they are not prepared to handle them They feel put upon, they feel bullied. They do not have the emotional backbone to stand up for themselves.

  7. Sorry. But no. This is ridiculous! We’re now expected to “punish” people for having opinions?….for saying offensive words?…..this is pathetic. Listen people, as a father who raised a male child (who recently turned 19 yrs old!) Let me explain it to the masses in the same way I explained it to HIM (when he came home one day and told me he was being “bullied”)
    First? Identify the threat: Who was it that was bullying him?….were they one of those big, “been-left-behind-more-times-than-even-the-teachers-remember” kind of kids?…who are like……in the 6th grade with 5 0’clock shadow? Well imagine my surprise when he told me no….the kid was even SMALLER than he was!….I immediately stopped further investigation and went into “Analyze” mode. Why do you think you’re being bullied?…where is the teacher or school staff when this bullying takes place?….He finally told me the whole story about being bullied “online”. You can just imagine my “problem”: wanting to burst out laughing while at the same time trying to maintain a straight face!….LoL! So I told my son the best way to handle bullies is to cut them off “at the source”…..I think he thought I was going to call the school…..or that I would take a ride to the kids house and confront him and his parents?……Nope. Instead he watched as I unplugged and boxed up the monitor…..keyboard…..and mouse along with the PC tower….place them in the trunk of the station wagon…..and LEAVE them there! I then told him….that there was now NO POSSIBLE WAY he could EVER be “cyber-bullied”….EVER AGAIN!….and that when he thought he would be able to “overcome” being bullied like that?….we could set the computer back up.

    He was “all better” after one week.

    ONE WEEK….is all it took to get that foolishness out of his head, and out of his system! Sometimes (I’ll have to agree with some of the commenters here!) Its the PARENTS who need to take an ACTIVE ROLE in making sure their children understand this one thing: You can ONLY be bullied?…..if you ALLOW yourself to be bullied! I grew up in the 60 / 70’s….and a bully for ME?…was the left-back kid who was such a fixture in the 7th / 8th grade he had his own chair in the Principal’s Office….And I too WAS bullied….both in grade school and in H.S…..and I was taught to avoid confrontation and to “Live & Let Live”…..UNLESS they put their hands on me in an aggressive manner……so while some might have called me a “wimp” or a “sucker” or “punk” for letting the bullies CALL me names..I didn’t mind…..I have a stronger mental process than what schoolyard philosophy allows or permits..but……….the ONE time….one of them put their hands on me?….

    With the way these….”snowflakes” are being raised?……you can wear a t-shirt that hurts their eyes and be arrested. Its time for this foolishness to stop. If you “think” or “feel” you’re being bullied online? TURN OF THE #&^%$@!#-ING COMPUTER AND GO DO SOMETHING ELSE! Or if you can’t do that?…(due to having to work on a school paper or do online research etc.) then find the name / account / handle of the person who’s doing the “bullying” and BLOCK them! I can tell you this much, the kid that was “supposedly” bullying my son?…..was never heard from again….(In the regard that my son graduated…and then moved to a different school…without ONCE ever going back on FB to “find out” if the kid was or was not bullying him!) Sometimes I think people are giving the morons out there who have nothing better to do with their time……WAY too much “power” over their lives!. I have had conversations….online…(well more like heated debates….c’mon DragonMouth…I know you’re there….waiting in the wings to roast me over the open coals!…LoL!) with a slew of folks from all walks of life….and when they reduce the conversation to “truck stop vocabulary”….where every other word out their mouth involves a body-part or a parent?…I just cordially bid them a good day and end the entire thing with ‘Nuff Said”. Its the verbal equivalent of turning off the TV and going to bed….or turning out the front light in the driveway and retiring upstairs for the evening. I have no time to debate logic or opinions with fools and those who are too uneducated or ignorant to have a conversation without resorting to cursing and swearing in order to “sound” big, bad, and tough. And the quicker these current-gen parents realize that?…the sooner they can relate the message to their kids…and then maybe a bit of sanity will return to society.

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