How To Cover Electronic Aggression, or Cyberbullying

Recent events have reminded us that cyberbullying is not limited to children, with at least one survey indicating that 73 percent of adult internet users have seen someone harassed online, while 40 percent have personally experienced it.

For example, professional golfer Paige Spiranac last week spoke about the harassment she and her family experienced following her professional debut last year. The recent U.S. Presidential campaign has also highlighted the increasing prevalence of cyberbullying that targets adults.

Electronic aggression is the definition used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to describe any type of harassment or bullying that occurs through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging.

And the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) defines cyberbullying as the willful and repeated use of cell phones, computers, and other electronic communication devices to harass and threaten others.

NCSL notes that cyberbullying differs from more traditional forms of bullying in that it can occur at any time, its messages and images can be spread and shared instantaneously to a wide audience, and perpetrators can remain anonymous, often making them difficult to trace.

Adult cyberbullying often takes the form of trolling where someone posts inflammatory messages in an online platform, such as on Facebook, or Twitter or in a chatroom or blog, with the sole intent to provoke a reaction from other users.

While there are many examples of cyberbullying against celebrities or public figures, any adult who uses the internet is increasingly at risk.

Social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have responded by introducing new tools aimed at combating cyberbullying.

Just as technology is changing the way we interact with each other, so insurers have been moving to provide insurance coverage that can mitigate the financial loss and emotional harm suffered as a result of a cyberbullying incident.

For example, earlier this year Chubb made cyberbullying coverage available to its U.S. homeowners customers. The coverage provides up to $60,000 in compensation to clients and family members for expenses related to harassment and intimidation committed via personal computers, telephones or mobile devices. It can help mitigate the cost of wrongful termination, false arrest, wrongful discipline in an educational institution, or diagnosed debilitating shock, mental anguish or mental injury.

From the perspective of businesses, most traditional commercial general liability policies would not cover electronic aggression or cyberbullying claims. Specialist media liability policies developed by insurers may cover social media activities and industry experts say the number of insureds and insurance brokers looking at this type of coverage is increasing.

Specialized cyber policies developed by insurers may also be tailored to incorporate social media coverage. Check out the Insurance Information Institute white papers Cyber Risk: Threat and Opportunity and Social Media, Liability and Risks for more on this topic.

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