CBC Forum

How should lawmakers address cyberbullying?

Politicians have tried to respond to concerns over cyberbullying, but their efforts have run into roadblocks about how to tackle the issue without breaching people's freedom of expression. How should lawmakers address cyberbullying?

Victims' advocates call for new cyberbullying laws, but pinning down broad term difficult

The death of Rehtaeh Parsons prompted the Nova Scotia government to create the Cyber-Safety Act, Canada's first law aimed specifically at cyberbullying. The law was later struck down, with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia saying it infringed on charter rights. (Canadian Press)

Canadian politicians have tried to respond to concerns over cyberbullying, but their efforts have run into roadblocks about how to tackle the issue without breaching people's freedom of expression.

Nova Scotia's Cyber-Safety Act was struck down in December by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for infringing on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The main challenge is actually defining what is cyberbullying, because cyberbullying covers a huge range of behaviours," says Halifax-based privacy lawyer David Fraser.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says lawmakers need to come up with a "relatively clear and relatively narrow definition of what constitutes bullying."​

How should lawmakers address cyberbullying?

Readers let us know in today's CBC Forum — a live, hosted discussion about topics of national interest.

(Please note that user names are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style. Click on the user name to see the full comment in the blog format.)

Several readers felt any changes would have little effect. 

"Even if you could stop the prototypical schoolyard bully, you're not going to stop some guy from another country from trying to talk your child into suicide. Ultimately, we have to teach our kids to better cope with this sort of harassment, and give them the tools to lead emotionally healthy lives despite the onslaught of criticism." — Matt

"Trying to police technology is ineffective and a waste of resources against an endless army. Just wait a week before the next new app or website to come along and the problem starts all over again. Furthermore, if the servers aren't located in Canada, there is little you can do, not to mention if the insults are done anonymously." — Colin

Others felt the existing laws are sufficient.

"We already have laws against criminal harassment to deal with this issue. The best way to handle this is via education for children and the enforcement of existing laws." — RandomCommenter33

Suggested solutions ranged from less anonymous technology to harsher laws.

"The billionaires who invented social media but refuse to take responsibility for the mess need to be compelled to come up with the answer. It should not just come down to 'blame the parents' for this." — Gerry 

"Websites that require real-name log-in but then let you display a nickname would help. They can then in the user agreement state that bullying will not be tolerated and they will collaborate with police in case of harassment." — Eric Leduc

"The most important thing that they can do within Canada is to deal with some of the jurisdictional roadblocks which exist between provinces. Say, for example, there is a server in Alberta and it houses information for an investigation that police in Ontario are conducting. A court order from an Ontario judge is not valid in Alberta until an Alberta judge signs off on it." — Ottawa_Oh

"If the cyberbully is located offshore, then extradite the perpetrator to face the charges. If their cyberbullying results in the victim committing suicide, then a charge of murder should apply. It's time to quit pussyfooting with this and high time this is dealt with accordingly." — Call it what it is

Can't see the forum? Click here.

With files from CBC's Joseph Quigley