For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

Cyberbullying is where someone bullies another person online (e.g. on a social media site) or by sending emails or messages using a phone or computer.

Cyberbullying can cause serious problems for everyone involved, and in some cases, it can be a crime. 

We recommend that you think very carefully before you say things about anyone else online or in an email or message.

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, phone 000. 

Navigate this page

What is cyberbullying?


Bullying is repeated behaviour which is done on purpose to make someone feel hurt, upset, scared or embarrassed.

If a person bullies someone by sending emails or messages or by saying or doing things online (e.g. on a social media site) then it’s often called cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can happen in lots of different ways. For example, it can include sending or posting nasty or embarrassing comments or photos, spreading rumours, making threats, excluding someone online, or pretending to be someone else to make them look bad. 

What criminal laws apply?


In serious cases, cyberbullying can be a crime.

We explain some of the main laws that could apply below. But please note, the law in this area is complicated and this is just a summary. 

If you are worried about anything that you or someone else has sent or posted we recommend you get legal advice.

Using a phone or the internet in a menacing, harassing or offensive way 

There is a national law that makes it a crime to use a phone or the internet in a way that is menacing, harassing or offensive. To be considered a crime, the behaviour must be likely to have a serious effect on the person targeted. 

Cyberbullying may be a crime under this law if, for example, it involves frightening someone by threatening to harm them, bothering someone over and over again so that they feel afraid, or if messages, emails or posts make someone feel seriously angry or upset. 


Cyberbullying may be a crime under WA law if it involves stalking someone.

Stalking is where a person keeps giving someone else unwanted attention to purposely scare them, cause them physical or mental harm, stop them doing something they would otherwise do, or make them do something they wouldn’t.   It includes repeatedly communicating with someone, e.g. by sending them text messages or emails.

Making threats

Cyberbullying may be a crime under national law if it involves using a phone or the internet to scare someone by threatening to kill or seriously harm them. 

It may also be a crime under WA law if it involves threatening to kill or hurt someone, destroy or damage property, or cause harm to anyone. 

Encouraging suicide

Cyberbullying may be a crime if it tries to persuade someone to commit suicide. 

Under national law, it is a crime to use a phone or the internet to send or post anything that encourages or helps someone to commit suicide. There is also a WA law which makes it a crime to cause or help someone commit suicide, or to encourage someone to commit suicide.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or experiencing emotional distress, help is available. You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 anytime. You can also contact one of the services listed below.

Other criminal laws that could apply

Depending on the circumstances, there are other crimes that may also apply to cyberbullying.

For example:

  • it is a crime under national law to log on to someone’s online accounts to access information or change anything without permission, or to commit a serious offence; 
  • it is a crime under WA law to log on to someone’s online accounts to access information or use the accounts;

What civil (non-criminal) laws apply?


Cyber-bullying may also breach some civil laws.

Cyberbullying may also breach anti-discrimination laws if it includes ‘racial hatred’, or if it involves sexual harassment.

Cyberbullying may also result in a civil claim for defamation if online posts or messages damage someone’s reputation because they say untrue things about them. See our page on Defamation for more information.

What could happen if I cyberbully someone?


If you commit one of the crimes we have talked about above, the consequences can be very serious. You may be investigated and charged by the police, and if you are found guilty you could end up with a criminal record or even go to jail. 

What can I do if I think I have cyberbullied someone?


Remove the material. 

It’s usually best to remove any material you are worried about, especially if someone has asked you to take something down that you’ve said or posted about them or if you have been contacted by the eSafety Commissioner. We suggest you get legal advice or talk to a trusted adult, especially if you are planning to contact the person (e.g. to apologise).

Get legal advice. 

If you are worried that you have cyberbullied someone, we recommend that you get legal advice straight away.

For free legal advice, you can contact us or one of these services:

What can I do if I am being cyberbullied?


If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call the police on 000. As a first step, we recommend that you get free and confidential legal advice straight away.

Collect evidence. First, you’ll need evidence of the cyberbullying if you decide to take further action (e.g. take screenshots or print messages, posts or emails). For help and more information see the eSafety Commissioner’s guides – How to collect evidence and Collecting information.

Stopping the cyberbullying. If you want to take steps to get cyberbullying material removed or to stop the cyberbullying, then you can:

  • report it to the social media service, website or phone company (you can see the eSafety Commissioner’s Social media safety centres for help with this); or
  • if you feel comfortable, contact the person cyberbullying you and ask them to stop and/or to delete any material they have sent or posted.

If you are being cyberbullied by someone at your school, you can speak to a teacher, the principal or the school counsellor so that the school can help you sort things out. 

Report it to the eSafety Commissioner. If you are under 18 and the victim of serious cyberbullying you can make a report to the eSafety Commissioner. The Commissioner can work with you to help stop the cyberbullying and get the material removed.

For more information about how to make a report, including what information you need to include and what you need to do first, see the Cyberbullying complaints and Report cyberbullying sections of the eSafety Commissioner’s website. Note that the Commissioner can tell other people about your complaint, including the person responsible or the police, but (unless you are in danger) it will try to ask your permission first. 

Get legal advice. If you are being cyberbullied, there are things you can do to protect yourself. In serious cases, you might be able to get a restraining order, or take other legal action against the person. 

We recommend you get legal advice. Every situation is different, and a lawyer can help you understand your options. 

For free legal advice, you can contact us or one of these services:

You can find more information about restraining orders here.  

Report it to the police. If you think you are the victim of one of the crimes we’ve talked about above, you can report it to the police. But it’s a good idea to get legal advice first, especially if you’re worried about anything you’ve said or done or if your situation involves a nude or sexual image of a young person.

 You should contact the police immediately on 000 if someone is threatening you.

Take steps to stay safe online. There are steps you can take to stay safe online and to stop people contacting or bullying you, for example by blocking or unfriending people who upset you and keeping your privacy settings private. We recommend you take a look at some of the following resources to make sure you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself from online abuse of any kind.

Talk to someone. Getting someone’s support can make you feel better, and they can start helping you fix the problem. You can talk to a friend, your parents, or other trusted adult. 

If you would rather talk to a trained counsellor, you can call one of the services ​listed below ​ for free and private counselling support.

What can I do if I have seen cyberbullying?


If you know someone who is being cyberbullied or you have seen cyberbullying online then it is important that you don’t join in, forward or share material or comment on anything. This could get you into trouble, as well as making things worse for the person being bullied. It is best if you leave any conversations or group chats if people are being nasty about someone.

There are things you can do to help stop the bullying and to support the people involved. For more information see the Australian Human Rights Commission’s webpage on What you can do to stop bullies – Be a supportive bystander or contact one of the support services above.

Counselling and support services


If you would like to talk to a trained counsellor, the following services offer free and private counselling support.

  • Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 (available 24/7, for young people between 5 and 25)
  • eHeadspace 1800 650 890 (available 9 am to 1 am, everyday, for young people between 12 and 25)
  • Lifeline 13 11 14 (available 24/7, for all ages)
  • QLife 1800 184 527 (available 3 pm to midnight, everyday, for all ages)
  • 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732 (available 24/7, for all ages)


Last reviewed 9 February 2021 


Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) 

Mons v R; Droudis v R [2013] HCA [310]

Monis, Man Haron v R; Droudis, Amirah v R [2011] NSWCCA 231 [44]

Criminal Code Compilation Act 1913 (WA)

Defamation Act 2005 (WA)

Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)

Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) 

Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) 

Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth) 

Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA)

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying (March 2018) 

Got a question you can't get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.