The Law & Online Abuse

It was an honor to speak at The John and Lawrence Bonzani Memorial Law Lecture about The Law & Online Abuse.

Technology, the internet, and social media are some of the greatest gifts of the 21st century. While these gifts can be extraordinarily positive, negative and sometimes devastating behaviors have emerged through their use. With so much of our lives taking place online today, we owe it to ourselves to make our cyber world safe.

Here are links to some of the laws discussed during the lecture:

Aggravated Harassment

SECTION 240.30: Aggravated harassment in the second degree


18 U.S. Code § 2261A – Stalking

SECTION 120.45: Stalking in the fourth degree

Nonconsensual Distribution of Intimate Imagery

SECTION 245.15: Unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image


SECTION 135.60: Coercion in the third degree

Sexting Involving a Minor

SECTION 235.22: Disseminating indecent material to minors in the first degree

Obscenity Involving Minors (Department of Justice’s Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Obscenity)

Hate Crimes

SECTION 485.05: Hate crimes

18 U.S. Code § 249 – Hate crime acts


SECTION 190.25: Criminal impersonation in the second degree


ARTICLE 7: Miscellaneous Rights and Immunities

The word doxing comes from the combination of dropping and dox — a slang term for documents. Doxing is sharing someone’s identifiable personal information online without their permission.

While it’s not illegal to dox everyday citizens in New York, there are laws covering the doxing of people with certain roles, like jurors, witnesses, informants, officers of the law, judges, state employees, and federal employees.

Threatening to dox someone if they don’t comply with a demand also may possibly be covered under coercion. Threatening to dox someone if they do not provide property may be covered under larceny by extortion.

If someone subsequently causes harm by doxing, this may result in a punishable crime. For example, if someone shares a person’s address, suggests people go to the address to harass, assault, or commit another crime against that person.

Another important point on doxing. If one breaks the law to source someone’s information that is used to dox, the unlawful act of obtaining the information is a crime.

In the New York State 2023-2024 Legislative Session, Bill A1530 was introduced in the Assembly and Bill S00079-A was introduced in the Senate to establish the criminal offense of doxing a police officer, peace officer, or state officer.

In the New York State 2021-2022 Legislative Session, Bill S7646 was introduced in the Senate and Bill A9060 was introduced in the Assembly to establish the crime of doxing an individual.

18 U.S. Code § 119 – Protection of individuals performing certain official duties

Counterman v. Colorado

22-138 Counterman v. Colorado (6/27/2023)

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

47 U.S. Code § 230 – Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material (See (c)(1).)

Learn more about the Amanda Todd Legacy Society.

Carrie Goldberg, Esq.
Carrie Goldberg, Esq.

Carrie Goldberg, Esq.

Founder, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC; Board Member, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative; and Author, Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Perv, and Trolls.

NWA: Never Worry Alone. Tell a friend, relative, or co-worker about what you’re going through.

RTU: Resist the urge to respond. Your attention is like crack to them and will positively reinforce their activities.

SHE: Screenshot everything. Whether you pursue civil, criminal, or just take-down remedies, you’ll need the proof!

Ryan Duquette
Ryan Duquette

Ryan Duquette

Digital Forensics Specialist; Cyber Investigator; Former Law Enforcement Technological Crimes Unit; and Expert Witness

Preserve the evidence!

A lot of the evidence comes from online sources and can be here today and gone tomorrow. Best to preserve it immediately — even using rudimentary means — and then have an investigator use proper preservation methods.

Professor Sameer Hinduja
Sameer Hinduja, PhD

Sameer Hinduja, PhD

Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University; Co-Director, Cyberbullying Research Center; and Co-Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Bullying Prevention

Victims around the world reach out for help every day. Most, though, fail to provide user account information, screenshots, and screenrecordings — which platforms need in order to action violative content and sanction aggressors. Always save digital evidence of harm you experience.

Justin W. Patchin, PhD

Justin W. Patchin, PhD

Professor of Criminal Justice University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Co-Director, Cyberbullying Research Center; Researcher; and Writer

Document everything, not only evidence of the harm, but contacts or meetings with school officials, police officers, or anyone else you have sought help from.

Maanit Zemel

Maanit Zemel

Partner, Zemel van Kampen LLP; Commercial and Civil Litigator; Internet Lawyer; Adjunct Professor; and Expert in Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), Online Defamation, Cyberbullying, Privacy, and Cyber-Security

Consult a lawyer with expertise in the area about your legal options. Online defamation is a complex area involving many issues. A lawyer who is not familiar with these issues is likely to make mistakes that will cost you money and not get you the results you need.

Do not send a “cease and desist” letter threatening litigation unless you plan on following up with litigation. Otherwise, it may embolden the defamer and make things worse.

Do not Google yourself. Instead, get someone you trust to do it for you by monitoring the online content and saving it for use as evidence in the future.

Do not engage with the defamer / harasser. It will give them what they want – your attention.

If you receive messages from so-called “reputation management companies” offering to get the content removed from the web for a fee, do not hire their services. It may be an extortion scam. In most cases, the people behind these “reputation companies” are the same people running the offending websites and even write the offending content themselves. If you pay them, it will only get worse, because the posting will disappear, and new ones will appear with demands for more money. Also, do not ignore the messages, because they will continue to send them. Instead, reply with a short statement saying you are not interested in their services and to stop contacting you.

Annie Seifullah, Esq.

Annie Seifullah, Esq.

Managing Associate at C.A. Goldberg, PLLC; Co-Chair of the New York Cyber Abuse Task Force; and Author, Scarlet Hashtag: Turn Your Public Shaming into Power

Law students who are interested in an emerging practice area, where they can make an immediate difference, should consider specializing in technology-facilitated abuse (“tech abuse”). Tech abuse overlaps with every area of law: family law, civil rights, criminal justice, elder law — even business and corporate law.

Consider joining the New York Cyber Abuse Task Force, which is a volunteer coalition of advocates combating tech abuse. They have resources for people who are interested in learning more about being tech abuse legal advocates, Zoom meetings every 6 weeks or so, a free annual conference in October, and a free manual for practitioners.

Access a PDF of the FBI Threat and Response Guide.

Your safety is your priority

  • When in immediate danger, call law enforcement
    • On campus, call the university police emergency
      line at 607-777-2222
    • Off campus, call 9-1-1

Don’t engage

  • Don’t respond
  • Don’t retaliate
  • Don’t share

Save the evidence

  • Not all documentation is created equal
  • Try to get screenshots and recordings with full URLs
  • Sort your documents in folders
  • Regularly sort your files
  • Save your documentation in multiple locations

Send one message to the responsible account

  • Do not contact me again, or
  • Stop

Report abusive content

  • After you document an incident
    • Inform the platform about the abuse
      • Don’t give up if the platform’s response isn’t helpful; continue to report the abuse
  • Find platform-specific information to report online abuse and cyberbullying at


  • Accounts engaging in abuse
  • Mutual connections with abuser

Reporting incidents to law enforcement

  • Be prepared
  • Bring organized printouts to the police station.
  • Explain the situation fully, and succinctly
  • Ask questions
  • Take notes
  • Write down follow-up instructions
  • Bring someone with you
  • Follow up
  • Speak with a supervisor, if necessary

If parties involved attend the same school

  • Review policies and procedures
  • Contact the appropriate representative
  • Follow similar steps to reporting to law enforcement
  • Ask about next steps
  • Follow up

Consider contacting an attorney

  • Review the specific situation
  • Explain applicable laws and options
  • Advocate on your behalf
  • Represent you
  • Discuss speaking publicly about your case
  • Explore legal ramifications of your actions

Find support

  • Help you prepare to work with school officials, law enforcement, or the judicial process
  • Inform a small group of friends or family
  • Consider counseling
  • Practice self-care

Consider informing your employer

  • For your safety
  • For the safety of your colleagues
  • To avoid surprises

Be proactive

  • Set up Google alerts
  • Purchase domains of your name and variations of it

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

  • Call or text 988
  • TTY Users: Dial 711 then 988
  • Veterans: Call or text 838255
  • Línea 988 de Prevención del Suicidio y Crisis — Text Envía “AYUDA” al 988

The STOMP Out Bullying™ Live HelpChat Crisis Line

Cyberbullying Research Center

Tyler Clementi Foundation

Bullying Prevention Hub by Facebook and Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

X/Twitter Help Center – Online Abuse

VARCC’s Safety Plans

Stalking Safety Planning, National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Be an upstander
    • Reach out and offer support
    • Share information to stop and prevent online abuse
    • Help document or report
    • Listen
    • Ask how they’d like you to support them
  • Be kind online
  • Tell all your legislators — town, city, county, state, and federal — that cyberbullying and online abuse are great concerns of yours
  • Tell New York State legislators that New York needs an official definition of cyberbullying
  • Tell Governor Hochul to sign the bill that prohibits nonconsensual distribution of intimate images created by digitization (S1042A)
  • Tell your Congressional representatives to pass the SHIELD Act — the Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution act.
  • Consider joining the New York Cyber Abuse Task Force

The State of Online Harassment, Pew Research Center

Teens and Cyberbullying 2022, Pew Research Center

Online harassment occurs most often on social media, but strikes in other places, too, Pew Research Center

Cyberbullying Facts, Cyberbullying Research Center

Online Hate and Harassment: The American Experience 2023, Anti-Defamation League

Readout of White House State Legislative Convening on Non-Consensually Distributed Intimate Images

Dutch court delays sentencing hearing for man who sexually extorted Amanda Todd, CBC

Mother of Amanda Todd, victim of cyberbully, frustrated by Dutch sentencing delay, Toronto Star

CDC study shows teens struggling post pandemic, parents call for cyberbullying law, Eyewitness News ABC7

Hundreds of LI schools reported zero cases of bullying and cyberbullying. Parents say that’s misleading. News12 Long Island

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz fights back against cyberbullying, BingUNews

Governor Hochul Signs Online Safety Package Legislation

Use this site’s form to contact me, and mention if you are a Binghamton University student or alum. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.