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Online Harassment in Germany

Online harassment has become a significant issue in the last number of years. As our online presence has increased through social media profiles, the dangers of cyber-bullying and online harassment have greatly increased. Although cyberbullying may seem like a series of actions that impact teenagers or younger people, cyberbullying and online harassment can affect anyone. It can damage the victim’s mental and physical health; it can cause them professional damage, reputational problems and much more. If you find yourself as the victim of online harassment, please get in touch with our expert German lawyers as they will advise you on the actions which need to be taken.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we are a full-service law firm with offices in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf. We advise both private and business clients across a wide range of legal fields in Germany, and our full-service model is ideal for overseeing your online harassment legal case. Not only can we advise you on your options under German criminal law, but we can also support you in issues concerning intellectual property, copyright infringements, defamation and other areas. Contact us now to receive specialist advice from experts in German law.

Allow our team of expert lawyers to represent you in complex cases.

Schlun & Elseven are here to help you in situations of online harassment.

Cyberstalking under German Law

One of the most serious forms of online harassment is cyberstalking and our page Stalking and Cyberstalking covers this topic in greater detail. Stalking involves persistent harassment and almost “hunting” of the victim. Cyberstalking can take many forms such as continuous messages, sending unsolicited photos and other media and messaging online friends or acquaintances of the victim. It generally involves a person known to the victim. The German Criminal Code has a specific section against stalking under § 238 StGB but it also has other sections which can be seen as anti-cyberstalking from § 187 StGB on defamation to § 241 StGB on online threats and § 201 StGB on violations of privacy.

Our lawyers will advise you on the options available to you depending on your case’s circumstances. Should the case require criminal law action, our team will be by your side as representatives. If you require assistance on uncovering the identity of the stalker, our team will advise you on what is permissible under German data protection law. Contact us directly for comprehensive legal advice.


The Creation of Fake Profiles on Social Media

Creating fake profiles is one of the most popular means of online harassment. The creation of such profiles to harass victims can provide the victim with the desired anonymity to attack their victim. Some online harassment involves the harasser creating a fake profile of the victim themselves. This fake profile may be used to chat to strangers in the voice of their victim, to send private material without the consent of the victim or generally to misrepresent the victim online. There may even be blackmail or other financial motivations behind the creation of a fake profile. Such action can involve serious breaches of the victim’s private data and needs to be taken seriously. Fake profiles can damage the victim’s reputation in their workplace and generally be used to interfere with their lives.

Fake profiles can take another form when it comes to rating websites. Such websites are generally used for professions and unverified accusations on such websites can be damaging to a business or to a professional. A false accusation made at the wrong time can be very costly for a person’s professional and personal life and is one of online harassment’s most serious results. Such rating websites, and online forums generally, can also be a breeding ground for racist and prejudicial comment and even hate speech. Allow our lawyers to examine your case and outline your legal options. With recent legal developments such as the Law to Improve Law Enforcement in Social Networks (NetzDG) there are options available when it comes to tracking down perpetrator’s of online harassment in Germany.


Search Engine Results and Online Harassment

The posting of damaging material about an individual can lead to popular search engines directing more traffic towards that result. This can further highlight the problem and cause more issues for the victim. Our lawyers provide expert advice on the removal of Google search results as well as those on other popular search engines. This avenue can be more productive than challenging every individual website where the inappropriate content appears.Our lawyers will oversee your request and will accelerate the process wherever possible. The deletion of such results can be an important step in reducing the damage caused by the online harassment received. It can also allow for the deletion of intimate photos or other material which has been leaked online without the person’s consent.

Under § 17 GDPR there is a European right to be forgotten. This can be challenged where the information available online is deemed to be necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and information.  Allow our lawyers to examine your case and advise you on whether the right to be forgotten  applies to your personal situation. Our team will represent you in court should any such conflict arise.


Online Harassment and Material of an Intimate Nature

Online harassment can take the form of the unwanted distribution of intimate material of the victim. This can arise following the break-up of a relationship or from accessing a person’s phone without them knowing. It can also occur due to locating material on the internet such as in the case of material from websites such as OnlyFans. Such distribution of a person’s “likeness” without their consent can be found to be in breach of the § 22 Copyright Act and under § 33 Copyright Act can lead to fines or even imprisonment. Consult with our team of lawyers to determine whether this applies in your case.

However, the first aim of our team will be to remove such intimate material from the websites on which they have been posted. Our lawyers will issue the appropriate cease-and-desist letters and take further action where necessary. With our legal support in your corner, we will ensure that you will be aware of all of your rights in accordance with German law.


How Can Online Harassment be Prevented?

Our lawyers will advise you on legal avenues which can be taken, but there are other steps that should be considered to reduce the likelihood of online harassment. Ensure that your personal data is protected and does not easily provide details like email addresses and passwords to others. Secure passwords are always recommendable and strong virus protection. Be careful with the websites you engage with and with comment threads and other online forums. Strong opinions in such debates can often lead to online harassment. If you believe your social media profiles are at risk, you need to change your passwords and keep them strong regularly. Determined harassers can easily break predictable passwords such as “password” and “1234”.

Unfortunately, as more of our lives move online, anyone can be targeted for online harassment. Due to the anonymity of online personas, online harassment can involve messages and other actions which a person would not normally take if they came across you in real life. The damage caused by online harassment on a victim’s mental and physical health can be devastating. For many cyberbullies and online harassers, direct engagement and requests to refrain from abuse often encourage them to keep going. Taking screenshots and having recorded evidence (where applicable) are of great assistance in such cases. We would advise you to gather as much evidence as you can.

The threat of legal action can often be enough to dissuade cyberbullies and online harassers. However, for cases where this is not the case, following up and actively engaging with legal counsel is a great solution. Regularly, these people often do not believe that their victim will seek professional legal advice, and they can be surprised when they find that they will be made to answer for their actions.

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Practice Group: German Criminal Law

Practice Group:
German Criminal Law

Lawyer: Aykut Elseven

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Philipp Busse

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Contact a lawyer for Online Harassment cases

Please use the contact form to inform us about your concerns concerning online harassment. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct our German criminal lawyers in online harassment cases.