Sunday, 17 October 2010

Cyber Stalking Cyber Bullying Blackmail

How ever an organized harasser or stalker justifies his or her actions, if you experience more than 3 of the types of incidents below, the chances are you are a victim of illegal harassment and stalking and should not continue to "suffer in silence"

1) Someone has made threats to:

a) Sue if you don't pay X amount of money.
b) Begin legal proceedings against you if you don't pay X amount of money.
c) Get you arrested and imprisoned if you don't pay X amount of money.
d) Have your children put into care (because you will be in prison) if you don't pay X amount of money.
e) Take your life savings after a lawsuit they will file against you if you don't pay X amount of money.
f) Get you banned from a forum or online community you are part of if you don't pay X amount of money.
g) Publish humiliating statements about you in a public forum or blog or "go viral" if you don't pay X amount of money.

2. Spread lies and rumors. (more serious if those lies and rumors effect your business and related income)
3. Contact your work associates and/or customers via phone calls, emails, instant messages ( or any other form of communication) to "warn them" about what a liar, thief, rapist, woman hater etc
4. Contact you via email, telephone or persistent IMs despite your request not to be contacted again unless by a lawyer.
5) Troll your every forum post always derailing it to publicly humiliate you.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking:
"It's only Second Life who will take me seriously?"
"But I do deserve it, kinda"

Or the most common one:
"If I just stay quiet and keep out of public forums they will leave me alone.... eventually"

This may be true for your average forum troll but if your stalker has a financial incentive to ruin your name and business then maybe not.
The same goes for romantic deluded stalkers, the more your say "no" the more they want you.

No one has the right legally or morally to do more than 3 of the above for months or years regardless of their justifications and  "acting on behalf of public interest" can only be used once.

If the attacks are related to your work, business, online or not, this makes the crime much more serious.
If you can prove emotional and/or financial damage you have a valid case at least to present to a lawyer.

Have or did your sales decreased or diminished? and does the time frame of loss of income coincide with the beginning of the harassment and public humiliation by the stalker?

Have you been to see a doctor, counselor and/or been prescribed anti depressants, beta blockers or other prescription medication to treat symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks or depression "during" the time frame of stalking and harassment?

Did you report the incident to the police or the owners/moderators of website or forum?

Did you have to change your telephone number because your harasser made uninvited, unwelcome or repeated phone calls? Or email or actual physical address?

These are powerful evidential facts that may be taken into consideration in a court of law and regardless of what ever your harassers justifications are, no one deserves weeks, months or in some cases years of constant and unrelenting mental and emotional torture.

Equally important is not responding to or enticing/ provoking further attacks.
If someone attacks you in a forum or publishes a post about you or your business on the internet and does so by your name or in a manner that clearly identifies you or your business  the last thing you should do is respond or get involved in a "tit for tat" war, no matter how tempting that may seem in the heat of the moment.

You loose the moral high ground if you lower yourself to their level and perhaps more importantly you loose any chance of legal support too.

Someone responding in anger to a comment you left in a forum does not constitute "harassment"
Please see the links below to help you decide whether you are being harassed. 

If you truly believe you are, here's a few tips that may help in at least gaining some sense of control back.

As soon as you can, keep records of all forums posts by the stalker both those directed to you and those written "about" you.  The same goes for emails to and about you. 

Instant messages and other forms of electronic communication; Ask for copies of chat logs, private messages and emails sent to other people containing untruths and lies about you.

Important. Make sure you get the persons permission to use these copies as evidence in a court of law. 
Without that permission, they are useless and in fact you may be breaching a forum, blog site or online worlds TOS which will go against you in court. Permission, by email from the person must be obtained and when possible ask for their real names too.

Phone calls? Most answer phones have the ability to record a call, use it.
Do be careful not to "lead" the conversation as that may be seen as enticement/entrapment in a court of law. Let them lead the conversation.

If you know of anyone else who has also been the subject of similar activities by the same stalker, it may be prudent to share your experiences and discuss the possibility to group together to put a stop and clear your name and reputation.

If this is the road you all decide to go down be warned,  just because they "say" they have experienced something doesn't make it true.
You need to see hard evidence before you agree to group together.
One person's exaggeration or lie could ruin your own case which may be legitimate.  

The text below can be found here: Definition of Cyber Stalking and Harassment

One way to define it is to see how the Law defines it (check out our legal discussion of cyberstalking laws and offline stalking laws). We would like to begin, however, by defining "Cyberstalking" from the point of view of the target's (victim's) experience.

When identifying cyberstalking "in the field" , particularly when considering whether to report it to any kind of legal authority, the following features or combinations of features can be considered to characterize a true stalking situation:

Malice means: the desire and intention to terrorize and hurt you. Much cyberstalking is malicious in nature. Malice is usually indicated by the presence and communication of clear and direct threats made against you by the harasser.
Not all cyberstalking however is malicious. In cases of "love obsession" cyberstalking for example, the stalker has no visible intent to harm you, and while their behavior may cause you great distress, they do not necessarily realize that they are doing so, since they are often lost in a fantasy world where they believe you are secretly in love with them.
Other forms of online harassment are also not necessarily malicious. Some online harassment takes the forms of practical jokes at your expense, and while this may be unpleasant and cause you great inconvenience, annoyance, fear or distress, the harasser may not have intended to cause you harm.

Premeditation means: the presence of planning and organization.
Not all harassment is premeditated. Some may be the result of a sudden emotional outburst, where someone loses their temper with you and lashes out at you electronically. This may indeed cause you distress but could not be called premeditated, since the attack was sudden and not planned.
Some kinds of harassment can be set in motion instantly and without preparation. Others take time to prepare. Some require the setting up and use of special hostile computer attack programs. Others may require extensive research into your personal information on the Internet. The nature of the harassment you are experiencing will often tell you if you are dealing with a premeditated attack or an unplanned passionate outburst.
Repetition means: the harassment is not just a single isolated incident.
Repetition is a key feature of online stalking. A one off attack online, while it may cause you distress, could not be described as cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is a course of conduct that takes place over a period of time and involves repeated attempts to cause you distress. Some laws even define it as involving two or more incidents and following a repetitive pattern.

Distress means: the activity causes fear and distress to you the target.
You could not claim cyberstalking or even online harassment if you do not feel distressed in some way. Distress can take many forms, from annoyance, offense, inconvenience and humiliation to worry and fear for your safety. The presence of fear is an important of characteristic cyberstalking.
You also need to be careful that you are yourself not overreacting. In legal terms, stalking is usually defined as a course of conduct that causes a "reasonable person" to be in distress. You may react in a paranoid or hysterical way to something that is said or done online, but you can not claim cyberstalking unless you can also show that your reaction is "reasonable", i.e., that any other reasonable person would react in the same way.
To show a court that you suffered distress as a result of online stalking you really need the testimony of expert witnesses - these could be your doctor or counselor who you went to for help or medication concerning the incident. If you don't go for medical help regarding your distress then expect the stalkers lawyer to suggest to the court that you were not really that distressed at all.

Obsession means: the stalker cannot stop, despite warnings.
To establish this behavior you would need to have given a very clear warning to the harasser to leave you alone. Obsessive behavior is common both in hate vendettas against you and also in what is known as "love obsession" stalking, where the stalker believes themselves to be in love with their target. For love obsession stalkers your "NO" means "YES".
It is a common occurrence for stalkers to violate restraining orders and probation, or even lose their jobs, to continue stalking the object of their obsession.

Vendetta means: the stalker seeks revenge against you.
Hate vendettas are a common cause of harassment online. Stalkers and harassers often convince themselves that you have deserved their hostile attention and that they are in the right. They often persuade themselves that you have committed a great wrong and that they are in the position of avenger, punishing you for your crimes. Revenge may be sought for no reasonable offense at all.

No Legitimate Purpose
No legitimate purpose means: the harassment has no valid purpose, other than to terrorize you and cause you distress.
Some stalkers persuade themselves that they have just cause to harass you, usually on the grounds that you deserve to be punished for some wrong they claim you have committed. Other stalkers have no announced purpose other than to make you suffer. In either case the stalking serves no legitimate purpose.
If however you started the problem by attacking someone else online, and now they are after you for revenge, then your original and unprovoked attack could be used in court to show that the stalker had a legitimate purpose in harassing you.

Stalking on or offline involves "harassment". We can summarize "harassment" by quoting from two US State Statutes - one from California and one from Michigan:
California defines Harassment as: ...a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. This course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person.
While Michigan defines Harassment as: ...conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact, that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress, and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress.

A threat means: a statement of intent made in order to place a person in reasonable fear for his or her physical safety. Most of the online stalking cases we have dealt with involve threats made against the target.
Some laws refer to "credible threats" - meaning that the threat must be one that the target believes the stalker to be capable of carrying out.
Interesting article:


The material on the site is made available with the understanding that I am not engaged in providing professional or legal advice. 
Before relying on material on this site,  users should independently verify the accuracy, completeness and relevance for their purposes and obtain any appropriate professional advice.
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This post was not written about or on behalf any particular person, company or association but rather touches on the subject of a common but often "hidden" issue within online communities and chat rooms.

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