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I recently edited someone's face on Photoshop and posted it online. This face was not recognizable to anybody except to that individual. I did not name the person or intend to spread hate. But the original person made me take it down because they said it was "cyberbullying".

Was this illegal? Is what I did considered cyberbullying?

  • What do you mean by "cyberbullying"? – user6726 Feb 5 '17 at 23:21
  • @user6726 he use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. – Erik Low Feb 5 '17 at 23:25
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    "Cyberbullying" isn't a legal term, as far as I know, so whether or not it is "cyberbullying" is not a question about law, hence not on-topic here. – Nate Eldredge Feb 5 '17 at 23:31
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    findlaw says it is a term is use in some states: criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/cyber-bullying.html and in Colorado, the anti-bullying laws cover cyberbullying stopbullying.gov/laws/colorado.html But does it extend to 'shopping someone's photograph? – BlueDogRanch Feb 6 '17 at 0:04
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    @NateEldredge Yes – Erik Low Feb 6 '17 at 0:36
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Colorado law does not have specific language naming "cyber bullying" but it does name "electronic harassment". On page 2 of this article from WatchGuard, it does list PhotoShop as a form of cyber bullying. "Cyber bullying" or "harassment" in Colorado means that you either intentionally or unintentionally harass, alarm, or annoy another person. A lot of the times, people engage in what might appear to be fun and harmless jokes and pranks, but not thinking that it will negatively affect the receiving party. So what you did technically is considered illegal and cyber bullying (or "electronic harassment" in Colorado).

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It is not clear what is forbidden by the relevant Colorado statute. To be a violation, you must have "intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person". Then we get to action (e):

Directly or indirectly initiates communication with a person or directs language toward another person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, or other interactive electronic medium that is obscene

which we can reduce to

initiates communication with a person or directs language toward another person by computer in a manner intended to harass

In other words, communication intended to harass can be indirect or direct. Putting the pieces of the statute together, harrassment is an act with the intent to harrass or annoy, and the act is communicating electronically in a manner intended to harass (it does not say annoy). One could then conclude that electronic communication intended to annoy is not harassment, only electronic communication intended to harass is. But "harass" is not otherwise defined.

And finally, the statute states:

(8) This section is not intended to infringe upon any right guaranteed to any person by the first amendment to the United States constitution or to prevent the expression of any religious, political, or philosophical views

There are many horrifying, demeaning and identifiable cartoons of politicians communicated on the internet (in Colorado) which can clearly be understood as having an intent to annoy (as well as make a social comment), and yet these are protected by the First Amendment. One can wonder why they bothered with that last clause. Perhaps it refers to the fact that the First Amendment may override this statute. The First Amendment is general, that is, it is not just there to allow political expression.

This being a new law, it's really hard to say what the bottom-line on this law is.

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