Facts Harassment

When is being mean or bullying someone online harassment, in the eye of the law?

When a person writes offensive things online or on social media —hurting or humiliation you because of one or more of our seven grounds of discrimination—it is called harassment. Harassment is a crime.

Today, the seven grounds of discrimination are sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief system, disability, sexual orientation, and age. Harassment can be in the form of words, pictures, messages, tags, tweets, or attempts to contact you if it is seen as bad by the person being subjected. 

Harassment that is related to ethnicity, belief system, and/or sexual orientation is particularly protected and can be a question of hate crimes or hate speech.

Hate crimes.

Hate speech.

When does it become a crime?

For it to be seen as a crime, you need to explicitly tell the person who is harassing you that it is not okay. In some cases that are very clear, you do not have to do this, but it can be hard to know—so if you feel like you can, ask the person to stop. 

Often times, it is not possible to do this without leading to more harassment from the person in question. In that case, turn to your school, workplace, friends, family, a discrimination agency, the Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman, or the police for support and help in how to proceed. Save all the contact between you and the person who is harassing you. See our guide for gathering digital evidence.

Never answer in affect!

It is extremely important to keep a cool head and not answer aggressively. If you do that, it is seen as you participating in the altercation. Then, the situation stops being a crime because you both are attacking each other.

The exception is if the people are attacking you because of your ethnicity, belief system, or sexual orientation—then it is a hate crime. Seek help and support, even if you end up in a defensive position. You should not have to stand alone in uncomfortable situations.

Your experience is the most important

When someone writes mean or degrading comments, it can be hard to know if it is illegal — or if the person is just being mean within the boundaries of the law. 

The most important thing is still your experience of the incident. You always have the right to ask for advice or get help to figure out the situation, either in your network or by contacting anti-discrimination agencies or the anti-discrimination ombudsman. 

You should not have to respond to or live with harassment online because of who you are. Even if the harassment is not illegal, your school, workplace, or organization still has the responsibility to investigate incidents that you experience as uncomfortable. You have the right to be safe online. 

Make Equal believes that bullying is harassment and therefore illegal. 

At Make Equal and the Cyber Hate Assistant, we see bullying (even online) as a form of harassment. If you are bullied, it is often illegal because the harassment happens in a systematic and repetitive manner.

If you do not get help from your school, organization, or workplace —take it further! BRIS, the union, Friends, or the police can and will help you.


Swedish Police Authority, DO, Work Environment Information Center, Chatper 1 § 4 point 4 Discrimination Act.