With the massive networking opportunities provided by the Internet you dont have to be a superstar or a celebrity to attract a lot of attention. You might be blogger, artist, video maker (youtuber) musician, business person, pet lover etc. You could simply be networking and sharing your interests with others via the Internet around the Globe.
In doing so you will invariably attract attention. Larger than life personas tend to attract more attention. That is to be expected and in some cases it is deliberate which is why I use the word persona as oppose to personality. An online persona could be a very different persona to that exhibited face to face in a real life encounter.
In most cases the attention you receive is likely to be positive (fans) but there will always be those who for whatever reason resent or dislike your public persona or public work and rather than ignore you as any rational person would do, they instead decide to devote a large and unhealthy proportion of their life to cyber stalking or cyber bullying you.
Cyber stalking activities might include some or all of the following, one act alone is not likely to be a stalking offence:
- Obsessively tracking your movements on the Internet
- Leaving abusive, offensive, critical comments in response to your work or via email
- Impersonating people you know in comment to your work
- Parodying you on their own sites, impersonating you.
- Messages may be sexual or threatening in content
- They may research your offline life, family and friends and make contact with them
- They may post images and or defamatory messages relating to you around the Internet
- They might recruit others to help them harrass you
Wikipedia says this re cyber stalking:
" Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Lambèr Royakkers writes that:
" Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom he has no relationship (or no longer has), with motives that are directly or indirectly traceable to the affective sphere. Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect). "
A number of key factors have been identified:
More commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their stalking target on web pages, message boards and in guest books designed to get a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact. In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content.
- False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public contributions, such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.
- Attempts to gather information about the victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their victims friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victims online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.
- Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victims name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
- False victimization. The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases. "
When prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track or follow the victims Internet activity. Classic cyberstalking behavior includes the tracing of the victims IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment. "
As a blogger, Ive at times written rants about users Ive come across on the Internet, products or service providers. A one off rant while not pleasant is not cyber stalking. Cyber stalking relates to sustained attacks and violations to ones personal cyber space as detailed at length above.
So what do you do, how do you stop a cyber stalker?
In all cases you should keep a detailed account of all the stalkers activities. You can do this via:
Screen shots of anything that they wrote to or relating to you ie comments, blog posts, emails, forum postings, visits to your sites and so on. Screen shots are a very reliable way of proving the content existed should they later delete it.
Keep the relevant links, copy and paste content and so on.
Keep a record of their email addresses, IP address (should show if they leave comments on your blog etc.) and so on.
Make a police complaint
Most people do not realise that the above named behaviour is a criminal offence and that they can be prosecuted. They may see what theyre doing as harmless fun, but in the eyes of the law, the sustained duration of the behaviour is a clear indicator of something other than fun.
Stalkers have been known to take their obsession offline by tracing the persons home address and harrassing them there. This is why police like to nip it in the bud when they recognise the signs. They take it far more seriously than many imagine.
That is the good news but what if you dont know who your cyber stalker is?
If you dont have the cyber stalkers personal details and decide to register a police complaint, the police can find those details from Ip address/email and so on. There is a simple form they email across to the persons Internet Provider. However they generally only do this if they decide to make an arrest or if you decide to press charges.
In addition to the above sending nasty emails or posting nasty messages to someones own sites etc. is called malicious communications and is a criminal act in the UK.
Ideally ignoring your cyber stalker will result in them getting bored and going away, but that may just infuriate them more and cause them to up their game. In which case a police complaint might be your only recourse.
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