Cyberbullying: the “shields” now guaranteed by law

Even in Italy, digital violence has been included in the legal system. From blocking of illegal content to school education, from police commissioner intervention to the monitoring by Palazzo Chigi, the law approved by the Italian Parliament fills a need covered even by several startups

Published on 22 May 2017

The word “cyberbulling” has officially entered the Italian legal system. The issue frightening so many guys and families as well, has been finally governed by a first set of rules and instructions which have at long last reached the ultimate approval.

Identikit of the cyberbully. For the first time, the Italian legal system includes a specific definition of cyberbullying. Cyber bullying is any form of stress, aggression, harassment, blackmail, insult, denigration, defamation, identity theft, alteration, manipulation, acquisition or processing of personal data made by telematic to the detriment of any underage. As well as the spread of online content (even related to a family member) with the specific aim of closing off the underage through serious abuse, malicious attack or mocking

Web blocking. The fourteen-year or older victim of cyberbullying (or even a parent) may ask the Internet website or social media manager as well as to the data controller to remove or block the content disseminated on the network. If within 48 hours no action has been taken, the person concerned may apply to the Privacy Authority who directly step in within the next 48 hours. The definition of “provider”, which is the Internet content provider, however, excludes access providers, cache providers, and search engines.

Anti-bully teacher in any school. Among professors in each school will be identified a contact person for initiatives against cyberbullying. The dean will be required to immediately inform the families of teenager involved in cyber bullying and implement any appropriate educational measure as well. The obligation to provide information is limited to cases not deemed as criminal offense. More generally, the Miur is committed to draft guidelines to prevent and contrast such an issue, focusing on the training of school staff, the promotion of an active role of students and the provision of support and re-educational measures for the teenagers involved, while each school is committed to perform programs focused on education to the lawfulness and proper use of the internet. Postal police and territorial associations will also collaborate on school-based initiatives.

Police commissioner intervention. In case of injury, defamation, threat or illicit treatment of personal data via the web, before the lawsuit or complaint, likewise what is already foreseen for stalking, the cyber-bully may be formally warned by the police commissioner, being ordered not to repeat the harassment. Along with the underage, a parent will be summoned. The coming of age coincides with the termination of order.

Action plan and monitoring. A technical panel will be set up at the Council Presidency committed to draft an integrated action plan to contrast and prevent cyberbullying creating a database to monitor the issue.

As mentioned in this article, ISTAT had already found in the past few years that in Italy just over 50% of the 11-17 year olds have been bullied (online-offline); In 2016, the Postal Police specified that 235 complaints were filed for online offenses (18%), insults, threats and harassment (37%), stalking (3%), identity theft on social media (30%), spread of child abuse material (13%) with underage as victims. In 31 cases the reported parties were underage and 6% of teenagers is victims of cyberbullying. Of course, lawsuits cover only the smallest part of the issue.

To cope with this issue, the elements to be enhanced are information, prevention, awareness raising and monitoring, and some aid can also come from the technological world.

Hello Soda, a UK-based startup company, dealing with big data and text analytics, can use this information to profile people with a high level of detail, providing risk-profile analyses. The software was created for business, for customer profiling, but by the end of 2015, the company launched a family product that allows to monitor, in a non-intrusive way and with the consent of the underage, the online life of the latter, analyzing whether the behavior is proper and identifying the risk exposure. A daily report and real-time alerts, with geo-localization of social activities, allow parents to control their children’s digital life.

A Piedmont startup, Toothpic, a research project of the Politecnico di Torino, currently incubated by I3P, has developed a software technology based on noise recognition left by the digital camera sensor, which allows to uniquely associate a photo with a precise ( and just to that) photo-device or smartphone. A solution can certainly be a tool to tackle cyberbullying, being it able to find photos taken from a precise device among other millions. Police could have a key tool for all those cases where, for example, an act of bullying can be kept live and spread through whatsapp groups.

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