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Facebook Harassment: Should You Call the Cops?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

When it comes to Facebook harassment, knowing when to get the cops involved can be a tricky matter.

Generally, the line in the sand should be the point when the communication becomes threatening and causes you to fear for your safety.

Here are a few tips on when to call the cops to report Facebook harassment, and when it may be best to resolve the matter without the help of law enforcement:

Potential Crimes

Serious harassment via Facebook is worth calling the cops over, since such behavior could constitute a number of serious criminal offenses. Such offenses can include:

  • Harassment. Online harassment entails using digital means to intentionally target others with behavior that is meant to alarm, annoy, torment or terrorize them. Most state laws require that the behavior cause a credible threat to the person's safety or his or her family's safety. In many cases, very serious instances of cyberbullying can count as harassment.
  • Stalking. Cyberstalking is a specific type of harassment. In general, a victim must show a pattern of harassment via the Internet, email, text messages, or other means of electronic communication. A stalking conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or even criminal penalties.
  • Bullying. Online communication that is meant to intimidate someone can constitute bullying. Nearly every state has anti-bullying laws in place. Many states are adapting existing bullying laws or enacting specific cyberbullying laws to impose penalties for digital bullying, according to USA Today.
  • Hacking/identity theft. Several states make it illegal to obtain someone's personal identifying information (such as passwords) for any unlawful purpose. For example, a boy in California went to jail for hacking into a girl's Facebook account to add sexual comments to her Facebook page.

When Not to Call the Cops

There are certain times when calling the cops would be considered premature or even unnecessary.

If you can chalk the harassment up to a bad joke, that would be a time to keep the cops out of it. Remember, cops aren't particularly fond of being used as tools for teachable moments.

Instead, other routes may be more appropriate, such as meeting with the harasser's parents or talking to school officials.

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