Cyber harassment (online harassment)

Verified 30 November 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Online harassment (emails, social networks...) is called cyberharassment. This is a offense. If you are the victim of this type of harassment, you can request the removal of the posts from their author or the electronic support manager. You can also report online to the police or gendarmerie or file a complaint. This offense is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. The penalties are more severe if the victim is under 15.

Harassment is the act of making repeated comments or behaviors that have the purpose or effect of worsening the victim's living conditions. This results in a deterioration of the physical or mental health of the harassed person (anxiety, stomach pain...)

It is the frequency of comments and their insulting, obscene or threatening content that constitutes harassment.

Online harassment is harassment that takes place via the Internet (on a social network, a forum, a multi-player video game, a blog, etc.). We are also talking about cyberharassment.

The comments in question can be comments from Internet users, videos, edits of images, messages on forums...

Online harassment is punishable whether the exchanges are public (on a forum for example) or private (between friends on a social network).


the school harassment is the subject of specific repression.

The primary perpetrators of online harassment are those who are responsible for the comments in question.

The liability of intermediaries is governed by specific rules.

These technical intermediaries may be

  • hosts that store content written and produced by third parties (hosts of a social network, forum, online game, blog)
  • or service providers offering a simple connection to the internet.

An intermediary will be responsible only for:

  • whether it has been made aware of the messages published,
  • and if it did not act promptly to have these messages withdrawn as soon as it became aware of them.

The victim can act directly with intermediaries in the event of cyberharassment. This is not a formal complaint. For example, with the managers of a forum or social network.

Social networks or video hosts can also request the removal of such or such content in the name of respect for people. However, their conditions for withdrawal depend on their own criteria and not on French laws.

On the forums, messages deemed obscene or threatening can be reported to the officials.

Social networks also allow block one person, that is to say to prevent any contact.

You can alert social media managers directly:

If you are a victim of cyberharassment and your situation requires urgent law enforcement intervention, you can alert the police or gendarmerie.

In case of emergency, and only in this situation, it is possible to alert the police or gendarmerie by telephone call, or by SMS, if you are unable to speak.

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By telephone

In case of emergency, when a quick intervention is necessary, you can call the emergency police. Dial 17.

You can also contact the 112.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

You can't call

114 is the emergency call relay service if you are unable to speak on the phone (deaf, hard of hearing ...) or if it could put you in danger.

Who shall I contact

The site PHAROS: titleContent, managed by specialized police and gendarmes, allows the reporting of illegal content on the internet.

Report illegal internet content (internet-reporting: Pharos)

You can report even if you are a minor.

Social networks often have their own reporting mechanisms. They evolve according to the general conditions of sale of the parent business and not according to French laws.

However, you can request removal of illegal content to their author or to the host of the site.

If you are a victim or witness to a cyber harassment situation, you can contact the police or gendarmerie by instant messaging.

An instant messenger (chat) allows you to chat with a police officer or a member of the gendarmerie. Chat history can be deleted from your computer, mobile phone or tablet at any time.

Report cyber harassment (online harassment)

Collection of evidence

Without waiting for the police or gendarmerie investigation, the victim can collect evidence of his harassment herself, including through screenshots.

A commissioner of justice (formerly a bailiff and judicial auctioneer) can be called in to make these catches. These pieces can be used in the trial.

Filing of complaint

The victim may complain against the perpetrator(s) of the harassment.

A minor can go alone to the police or gendarmerie and report the facts. But he can't to be a civil party in order to claim damages, his parents must do so on his behalf.

If the victim does not know the true identities of the perpetrator(s), they can file a complaint against X. Technical intermediaries must enable the courts to identify the author(s) of the content in question.


the electronic complaint of psychological and sexual harassment of a discriminatory nature on the Internet must be lodged with the tribunal judiciaire de Paris, when the facts have been committed throughout the territory.

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The author is an adult

Penalties vary depending on whether the victim is 15 or younger.

The victim is over 15

Perpetrator of online harassment risks

  • 2 years in prison
  • and €30,000 of fine.
The victim is under 15

The maximum penalty is increased to 3 years in prison and €45,000 a fine if the victim is under 15 years of age.

The author is a minor

Penalties vary depending on whether the perpetrator is older or younger than 13, and whether the victim is older or younger than 15. In all cases, the parents of the minor authors, regardless of their age, will be civil officials. They are the ones who will have to compensate the victim's parents.

The author is a minor over the age of 13
The victim is over 15

The maximum penalty for harassment will be

  • 1 year in prison
  • and €7,500 of fine.
The victim is under 15

The maximum penalty will be 

  • 18 months in prison
  • and €7,500 of fine.
The author is under 13 years of age

Rules and measures applicable to minors under 13 years of age are covered by specific rules.

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