This module is a resource for lecturers
Cybercrime can be (and has been) addressed by applying existing laws covering offences committed offline, amending laws to include cybercrime-related provisions, and adopting laws specifically proscribing cybercrime. Existing laws, however, may not be applicable to cybercrime because these laws may have predated the Internet and digital technologies and/or may not have been developed with the Internet and digital technologies in mind. Laws created for offline crimes, therefore, may have a limited impact on cybercriminals and other offenders who target information and communication technology (ICT) and/or use it to facilitate crime. In view of that, specialized laws pertaining to cybercrime may be needed. This need for cybercrime laws "depends upon the nature of individual acts, and the scope and interpretation of national laws" (UNODC, 2013, p. 52).
Consider a 2013 case of image-based sexual abuse (colloquially referred to as 'revenge porn'), a form of cyberharassment which involves the "non-consensual creation, distribution and threat to distribute nude or sexual images" (Henry, Flynn and Powell, 2018, p. 566) to cause "the victim distress, humiliation, and/or harm them in some way" (Maras, 2016, p. 255), whereby the perpetrator of this abuse could not be prosecuted with existing laws in New York (for further information about image-based sexual abuse, see Cybercrime Module 12 on Interpersonal Cybercrime). Specifically, the perpetrator posted nude images of his girlfriend (at the time of the incident) on Twitter and emailed these images to his girlfriend's sister and employer ( People v. Barber, 2014). Among the charges against him, were aggravated harassment in the second degree. According to New York Penal Law § 240.30(1)(a), "[a] person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, he […] communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, by telegraph, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm." Because this law applies to direct communications between the victim and the offender ( People v Smith, 1977, 791), the court in People v. Barber (2014) held that the defendant's conduct (i.e., emailing nude images to victim's sister and employer and posting the images on Twitter) did not constitute aggravated harassment. This limitation of the law in applying to online spaces and cybercrimes is by no means unique. As the 2013 UNODC Draft Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime noted, "many traditional general laws do not take into account the particularities of information and information technology that are associated with cybercrime and crimes generating electronic evidence" (p. 51).
The sub-pages to this section provide a descriptive overview of the key issues that lecturers might want to cover with their students when teaching on this topic:
- The role of cybercrime law
- Harmonization of laws
- International and regional instruments
- International human rights and cybercrime law