States have enacted "cyberstalking" or "cyberharassment" laws or have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within more traditional stalking or harassment laws. This chart identifies state laws that include specific references to electronic communication. However, other state laws may still apply to those who harass, threaten or bully others online, although specific language may make the laws easier to enforce. This chart classifies the various state laws addressing these types of online behaviors, as described below.
Cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors. Cyberstalking may be considered the most dangerous of the three types of Internet harassment, based on a posing credible threat of harm. Sanctions range from misdemeanors to felonies.
Cyberharassment. Cyberharassment differs from cyberstalking in that it may generally be defined as not involving a credible threat. Cyberharassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Some states approach cyberharrassment by including language addressing electronic communications in general harassment statutes, while others have created stand-alone cyberharassment statutes.
Cyberstalking: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-602, 18-9-111
Cyberharassment: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-111
(1) A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
(1.5) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “obscene” means a patently offensive description of ultimate sexual acts or solicitation to commit ultimate sexual acts, whether or not said ultimate sexual acts are normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or excretory functions.
- (a) Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or
- (b) In a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or
- (c) Follows a person in or about a public place; or
- (d) Repealed by Laws 1990, H.B.90-1118, § 11.
- (e) Initiates communication with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, computer, computer network, or computer system in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system that is obscene; or
- (f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a
- conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or
- (g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another's home or private residence or other private property; or
- (h) Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse
- language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.
(2) Harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section is a class 3 misdemeanor; except that harassment is a class 1 misdemeanor if the offender commits harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
(3) Any act prohibited by paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of this section may be deemed to have occurred or to have been committed at the place at which the telephone call, electronic mail, or other electronic communication was either made or received.
In the often inhospitable realm of cyberspace, there's a new sheriff in town — in the form of a revised Colorado's harassment statute that backers hope will keep the most vicious electronic communications from inflicting tragic damage.
Those changes now expose "cyberbullies" to a misdemeanor charge that carries a possible fine of up to $750 and up to six months in jail.
...two important distinctions of the new law: The cyberbullying has to rise to criminal intent to alarm, annoy or harass; and it can be either direct or indirect. In other words, an online posting need not be sent directly to an individual victim to fall under the statute.
"Research shows that cyberbullying tends to be more vicious because of the anonymity of it, and as a result of that viciousness, we often see tragic consequences," said Kevin Paletta, Lakewood police chief and chairman of the subcommittee.