Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

Violence (Cyber)

Cite this article as:
Monika Zalnieriute (17/12/2021). Violence (Cyber). In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Monika Zaineriute

Traditionally, ‘violence’ has been understood as the intentional use of physical harm against an individual or a group (Jackman, 2002)1. However, the rise of online digital platforms has challenged existing conceptions of violence and expanded our understanding as an act which can be perpetrated digitally (Corb, 2015)2. Violence, in the context of virtual interactions, can be defined as the harm caused to a person or a group of people by virtue of the use of an online space, without requiring actual physical damage to the person. Described by the Council of Europe as ‘cyberviolence’, this can include physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering (Working Group on cyberbullying and other forms of online violence, especially against women and children, CBG, 2018)3.

The growing prevalence of cyberbullying, virtual sexual harassment, and online stalking make clear that the terminology related to violence in the age of online platforms is ‘still developing and not univocal’ (Šimonović, 2018)4. The Council of Europe breaks down cyberviolence into six related but distinct categories (Council of Europe 2019)5. Firstly, cyberharassment involves the persistent and repeated targeting of a specific person in order to cause severe emotional distress or fear of physical harm. Cyberharassment, often targeting women and girls, can involve a range of online conduct including hate speech and the release of revenge pornography. Secondly, information and communication technology-related violations of privacy, which seek to obtain or misuse data or online information, is a form of violence against the individual. Thirdly, online sexual exploitation and the sexual abuse of children are increasingly prevalent due to the accessibility that online platforms provide to abusers. Fourthly, online platform-facilitated hate crimes which can be an act of individual violence, as well as lead to communal violence. For example, online platforms make more dangerous widespread incitement to violence (Avni, 2018)6. Fifthly, information and communication technology enable direct threats of violence as well as actual physical violence, wherein online platforms can be used in connection with murder, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and other acts of traditional violence. Finally, some cybercrime can be considered to be an act of cyberviolence. For example, the illegal access of personal data or the denial of key online services may have physical or violent repercussions. Given the rapid growth of online forms of violence, there can be a large gap in relation to “knowledge, reporting mechanisms, support services, law enforcement, and prevention strategies to effectively tackle online abuse, online violence, and exploitation of young people” (Blaya, Kaur, and Sandhu, 2018)7.


  1. Jackman, Mary R. (2002). Violence in Social Life. Annual Review of Sociology 28. 387-415. Available at:
  2. Corb, Abbee. (2015). Online Hate and Cyber-Bigotry: A Glance at Our Radicalized Online World. In The Routledge International Handbook on Hate Crime., 306–17. Routledge International Handbooks. New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. Available at:
  3. Council of Europe. (2018). Working Group on cyberbullying and other forms of online violence, especially against women and children (CBG). Mapping Study on Cyberviolence. Prepared by the CBG for consideration by the T-CY at its 19th Plenary. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe. Available at:
  4. Šimonović, Dubravka. (2018). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences on Online Violence against Women and Girls from a Human Rights Perspective. A/HRC/38/47. Human Rights Council. Available at:
  5. Council of Europe. (2019). Cyberviolence. Cybercrime. Available at:
  6. Avni, M. (2018). Incitement to Terror and Freedom of Speech. In: Incitement to Terrorism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Nijhoff. doi:
  7. Blaya, Catherine. Kaur, Kirandeep. Sandhu, Damanjit. (2018). Cyberviolence and Cyberbullying in Europe and India – A Literature Review. In: Smith, Peter K., Sundaram, Suresh., Spars, Barbara A., Blaya, C., Sandhu, D. Bullying, Cyberbullying and Student Well-Being in Schools – Comparing European, Australian and Indian Perspectives. 83–106. Cambridge University Press.
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By Monika Zalnieriute

Dr. Monika Zalnieriute is a Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UNSW Sydney. She holds a PhD in Law from European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Previously, Monika led a research stream on ‘Technologies and Rule of Law’ at the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation at UNSW Law Sydney, and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, where she worked on the digital rights and discrimination of marginalized groups online.

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