What You Say Online Can Come Back to Haunt You
The internet has changed just about every aspect of life. People go online to work, shop, communicate, and socialize. Unfortunately, some people use the internet to intimidate or harass other people.
Everyone gets angry and says something they later regret. When you post an angry rant, threatening statements, or intimidating content online, however, your words are stored. Published online, they can be easily and quickly transmitted to other people.
Intimidation and harassment are two of the most common internet crimes. Social media and the popularity of smartphones has made it easier than ever for people to cross the line when it comes to internet communication.
Intimidation: Digital Threats
Depending on the severity of the crime, using an electronic device to communicate a threat to another person can be a misdemeanor or a felony under Indiana’s intimidation statute, which is codified in Section 35-45-2-1. The statute’s definition of “threat” is quite broad. For example, a person can intimidate another by threatening to harm their business reputation (by using false information), expose them to ridicule, or physically hurt them.
Harassment: An Intent to Harass, Annoy, or Alarm
Considering the ease and speed of digital communication, it’s easy to see how online harassment crimes have increased over the past several years. Before the internet, social media, and smartphones, harassing a person was much more difficult and usually involving repeated phone calls or letters.
Today, the digitization of communication means a disgruntled customer, ex-spouse, or other person can use social media, text, or other means to harass, annoy, or alarm another person. Indiana Code Section 35-45-2-2 prohibits people from harassing, annoying, or alarming others through the use of “illegitimate communication.”
Illegitimate communication can include telephone calls (with or without conversation), written communication, and the transmission of obscene messages or indecent or profane words.