General Question

joli's avatar

Online harassment: What to do?

Asked by joli (628points) January 20th, 2008

Are there any new rules out there for protection; from IT danger with possible cross-over from verbal/written to physical?

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8 Answers

aaronblohowiak's avatar

Harassment and threats are as valid over any medium. Contact your local law enforcement agency.

gooch's avatar

It's a federal offense because threats over the Internet are like threats over a phone line.

Spargett's avatar

I knew a girl who was being harrased online, which she confided in me for help due to my computer knowledge and law enforcement ties. Sad to say, but you prob. won’t get much luck with local law enforcement unless there are very specific and credible threat in relation to the department’s jurisdiction. Most agencies will take a report, which is required by law, but the detectives never seem to find them high on their priority. You can also contact the FBI since cyberspace is federal territory, but they’ll care even less.

What I’ve found works best for people is to just ignore the abuse, since the bully feeds off the reaction you give them. Any response only encourages their actions.

With that, I would file a police report and speak with the assigned detective. They’ll try and blow you off, but if you remain adamant you just might get somewhere.

Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions. If you gave me more details I could help advice you even better.

hossman's avatar

One of the reasons law enforcement tends to not give serious treatment to online harassment is due to the usual anonymity of the Internet. If the person harassing you does not know who you are, then the police make the assumption that you can simply stop visiting the site through which you are harassed, or change your e-mail address, or do something else so the harasser cannot contact you.

On the other hand, if you can show that the harasser does know who you are or your physical location, they may take it more seriously, as the harasser may then be able to escalate the harassment to create a physical threat to your safety.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

Some tips to avoiding abuse:

set up email “filters”—see your mail client for more information on how to do this. You can make messages that have certain words or are from certain people automatically get put into a separate folder or have them deleted automatically.

Consider white-listing: If you use an instant messaging program, you can make it so that “only people on my list may contact me”, this way you can dodge anonymous and strange people altogether.

Black-list with a broad brush: most public forum/discussion/messaging sites and software have the ability to completely ban a person from seeing your information, contacting you, or posting information that you can see. There are more privacy settings in facebook than most people know about—take the time to familiarize yourself with these features.

The internet is very, very free. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

joli's avatar

Thanks! All good advice. I expected the police to not take it too seriously, however, the person could vary well end up with the tag of sexual offender with his behavior. At least, I will have a civil restraining order and he’ll have to protest, and contest to get it off his record. All in all it’s annoying to have someone feel justified in seemingly unstable behavior. I haven’t responded in any way for months, but if I unblock him, there’s an e-mail within a day or two. I don’t want to wake up with him on my doorstep, so I’ve been keeping an eye out and now is the time for action. It’s been well over 6 months. Ridiculous.

artemisdivine's avatar

Sadly sometimes people have nothing better to do than harass others. Which is sad and pitiful for sure. But in this day and age it can be scary. The worst part is of course if you put any of the REAL you (like your real name) on the web with your city etc it makes it easier for crazies to find you. And it can be anywhere like even on posts, boards, chat rooms. I cannot BELIEVE some of the info people post. They will post their name, address, phone. Its crazy. Who knows how long info it out there. But I would not believe that most would come to physical contact. The reason so many ENJOY the net is the anonymity. Real life scares them. Otherwise they would be out there in it.

The best course for online harassment is just to DUMP your email etc and get a new one. It is a pain for sure (unless it is a business that involves losing business). But better that than endless annoyances.

As always, here are some links

Feministe – this one has 130 comments!

Recently, several feminist bloggers have had their sites taken down by DoS attacks (including Feministe), and have faced threats of murder and violence. A taste (warning: may trigger):

The Post on Web Harassment

Some tips if you’re being harassed or stalked online:

Keep records. Save their emails, save copies of their websites, save their blog comments. It’s tempting to delete it all and believe me I’ve been there. But you may need it for evidence later. The police, your lawyer, or your tech support might have a good use for it.

Update your software. Keep all your stuff up to date. The out of date software is easier
to break into. Don’t give them the opportunity.

Use strong passwords. Make your blog password something different than your email password. Use lowercase letters, capital letters, numbers, and symbols in every password. Make it difficult for someone to guess.

Ask for help and support. Let others know this is happening. They might offer some resource you didn’t know about. or they might offer a shoulder to cry on. Either way, reach out. You’re NOT alone.

Resources for victims of web harassment:

Halt Abuse Suggested Responses
Wired Safety
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Form

Yuchen's avatar

Ignore it if you can. It’s simple to do and doesn’t cause too much agitation.

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