What does internet harrassment look like?

Let’s say you’re online at a favorite forum you like to visit. Somebody keeps finding you and sending you messages or posting messages to your forum that make you sound like a jerk. Try as you might, you just can’t seem to shake your new ‘friend’, and this person’s postings have become more and more offensive. You boss may have gotten some emails from someone that sounds an awful lot like you, or perhaps everyone at work got a nice little email from you explaining just how ‘you’ feel about everyone. Oh yeah, the comments aren’t too nice.

Congratulations, you are now the victim of cyberharassment. You may or may not know who this person is or why they are bothering you. None of that matters. Understanding what cyberharassment is and its effects on the victim is what is important.

The perpetrator of cyberharassment may use any of several tactics to achieve their goal, whatever that goal may be. One of the most common tactics used is to send emails from an account that is set up to look like yours. This is relatively easy to do, and just about untraceable. This kind of attack is almost impossible to guard against; the best thing to do is as soon as you know someone is doing this, let everyone in your address book know what is going on. Send out an email from you apologizing for anything rude or offensive that was said on your behalf without your knowledge, and make it clear that you would never do or say anything like that. No need to make specific accusations, but you should also start to think about who might be doing this.

Another thing that they might do is use an image manipulation software to create sexually explicit images of you (if they already have a picture of you). In some extreme cases, the perpetrator may have actual nude images of the person they are harassing. In that case, it is not uncommon for the harasser to set up websites or post those images to Internet porn sites. The harasser can even go one step further and post personal information. That is when it turns truly dangerous for the victim.

If you are the victim of cyberharassment, or think that you may be the victim of it, you do have redress. The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out who is doing it. This can be accomplished by contacting the police, who have the authority to mandate the tracking of particular IP addresses online to find the identity of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, cyberharassment is only a crime in 46 states and parts of Europe. The rest of the world has yet to catch on to the destructive nature of allowing this type of behavior to exist.

Have a great day!

Lawrence