25 Things You’re Doing Online That Are Probably Illegal

Posted by , Updated on May 24, 2024

Are you certain you haven’t engaged in any illegal activities online recently? Understanding internet laws can be challenging due to their complexity and constant changes, making it difficult to differentiate legal actions from illegal ones. Even though many regulations seem straightforward, people often inadvertently find themselves in gray areas. For instance, activities like torrenting or using unlicensed streaming services are common online practices with dubious legality. Like many others, you might unknowingly be participating in these 25 Online Activities That Are Likely Illegal.




bittorrentSource: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/917847/The-Pirate-Bay-Torrent-Warning-Download-UK

The action of torrenting isn’t illegal, but if you’re torrenting copyrighted content, then yeah, it’s illegal. Thousands have been sued for torrenting and stealing copyrighted content.



CyberbullyingSource: https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/justice-studies/blog/is-cyberbullying-illegal/

Cyberbullying is a vicious and sometimes undetectable type of harassment. In the United States, each state has its own type of anti-bullying laws when it comes to someone being harassed online. Punishment can include expulsion from school, criminal charges for harassment, or being sued for damages.


Unofficial TV Streaming Services

game of thronesSource: https://www.businessinsider.com/are-streaming-sites-legal-2014-4

Millions of people illegally watch television shows and movies through illegal online streaming websites. Game of Thrones, for instance, is considered one of the most pirated HBO television shows of all time.


Using the Deep Web

deep webSource: https://lifehacker.com/things-you-can-do-on-the-dark-web-that-arent-illegal-1819790298

The Deep Web is the dark underbelly of the internet. Technically, accessing it isn’t illegal and even some journalists have used it to communicate with countries that have strict internet laws, but if you stumble on the wrong site, it could still get you into a ton of trouble.


Faking Your Name

faking nameSource: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/11/15/142356399/is-lying-on-the-internet-illegal

This one sounds dumb, but according to the vaguely worded Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, faking your name online is illegal.


Faking Your IP

fake ipSource: https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/09/illegal-internet-things/

While you can mask your IP, faking it is illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Of course, this one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. You can do all kinds of dodgy things when you’re anonymous.



free wifiSource: https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/wi-fi-connection-laws.html

If you’re using your neighbor’s unsecured Wifi internet without their consent, it’s called “piggybacking,” and it’s illegal.


Selling on eBay without Declaring Earnings


This is pretty much common sense and a fast track way to have the IRS at your door.



trollingSource: https://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2014/10/are-you-an-internet-troll-legal-consequences-to-consider.html

Trolls are all over the internet, and it’s likely most people at one point in time have trolled someone. However, if trolling becomes harassment, stalking, or bullying, then it’s illegal.


Ad Blockers

ad blockerSource: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/05/adblock_plus_chinese_ban/

In most countries, ad blocking isn’t illegal. China, on the other hand, has come out against ad blocking, banning it in their country.


GIFs and Memes

dogeSource: https://www.forbes.com/sites/propointgraphics/2016/04/30/animated-gifs-and-fair-use-what-is-and-isnt-legal-according-to-copyright-law/

While some GIF’s and memes use public domain or creative commons images, many others use copyrighted content which is technically illegal. Some cite the Fair Use law, but in certain circumstances, that might not apply.


Clicking "Save Image As"

save as

Of course, saving an image itself isn’t illegal, but as you might expect at this point, if it’s a copyrighted image, then you’re heading into treacherous waters. You now have the power to distribute, and depending on what you do with that image, it could get you into trouble.


Working Remotely on a Travel Visa

coffee shop

If you work from home for a US company and all of a sudden decide to go to the UK, it may be illegal to access your work email without a work visa.


Sharing Passwords

loginSource: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2016/08/23/why-sharing-passwords-is-now-illegal-and-what-this-means-for-employers-and-digital-businesses/#1caf7cf13a46

Sharing passwords is both a bad security risk and illegal. A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that sharing passwords violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. So, just don’t do it.


Parody Accounts


While not always illegal, there is a fine line, and some Twitter users have run up against it. This is especially true for those who haven’t clearly labeled their account as fake or a parody.


Under Age Accounts

child and computerSource: https://www.thoughtco.com/does-facebook-have-age-restrictions-3367671

According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, children under the age of 13 cannot have an online account without the permission of their parents.


Registering Trademarked Domain Names


You can’t register trademarked domain names like “ilovecocacola.com” and sell it to the trademark holder. It’s illegal and will likely get you sued.


Bypassing Paywalls

paywallSource: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nz7w7k/a-canadian-news-site-just-won-11470-because-someone-bypassed-its-paywall

While everyone wants free news and journalism, at the end of the day, newspapers and news sites are businesses that need to make money. If you bypass their paywalls, you’re virtually stealing. In Canada, a news site won $11,470 when they sued someone who bypassed their paywall.


Uploading Copyrighted Content to Youtube

youtubeSource: https://thenextweb.com/apps/2014/12/08/youtube-now-warns-exactly-will-happen-upload-copyrighted-music/

Uploading copyrighted content to YouTube could get the video removed, and if the copyright holder so chooses, could get you into legal trouble. Even if you don’t monetize and claim Fair Use, it might not be enough to protect you.


Fun on Work Computers

computer gamer

It has something to do with using a work item for recreation. Just don’t laugh too loud.


Copying Software


This one is probably more obvious than the rest. Whether or not it is illegal depends on the rights. Some software is allowed to be distributed.


Traversing the Silk Road

dark web

Remember the deep web? The Silk Road is the online black market where you can pretty much buy anything. In this case, accessing it could land you in trouble notwithstanding purchasing anything.


Uploading a Video of You Singing Happy Birthday

happy birthday

You’re not allowed to sing Happy Birthday in public, which means you’re definitely not allowed to upload a video of you singing it. Why? It’s copyrighted, which is why you never really see it in movies.


Bad Mouthing China

china cafe

If you’re in China, you can’t criticize the government in real life or online. Doing so could get you thrown in jail.


Hiring a Hitman


You likely have never tried to do this, but we thought we’d remind you. Whether you’re online or in real life, hiring a hitman is definitely illegal.

Photo: Featured Image - Cory Doctorow, Game Cafe, Guangzhou, China.JPG, CC BY 2.0, 1. BagoGames, Hyped or Afraid? HITMAN 2, CC BY 2.0, 2. Cory Doctorow, Game Cafe, Guangzhou, China.JPG, CC BY 2.0, 3. PxHere.com (Public Domain), 4. MaxPixel.net (Public Domain), 5. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 6. Pexels.com (Public Domain), 7. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 8. The Sociable, The Times paywall, CC BY 2.0, 9. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 10. Nevit Dilmen, Child and Computer 08473, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 11. PxHere.com (Public Domain), 12. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 13. PxHere.com (Public Domain), 14. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 15. WikipediaCommons.com (Public Domain), 16. Fabián Alexis, Antu preferences-web-browser-adblock, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 17. The People Speak!, Internet trolling, CC BY 2.0, 18. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 19. Shaunleeyh, People using free WiFi, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 20. Stefneok, 2dio, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 21. Army.mil (Public Domain), 22. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 23. BagoGames, The Top 5 Best Moments in Game Of Thrones So Far, CC BY 2.0, 24. Internetsinacoso, Cyberbullying, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 25. Scott Martin, BitTorrent network, CC BY-SA 3.0