Online abuse is, unfortunately, a common problem. It seems that there are some people in this world who simply get a lot of pleasure out of abusing others and the online world is a fertile ground for finding vulnerable victims. By vulnerable I’m not really referring to people who have any particular physical, emotional , or psychological vulnerabilities but rather the fact that we are all vulnerable in the online world to having our personal and professional reputations injured or destroyed. All knowledge and information about us which is out there is available to be twisted, misrepresented, distorted, exaggerated, lies invented based on it, and otherwise abused to present us in a negative light, in public, amongst those who either don’t know us or only know us casually.
We are also vulnerable to this abuse in real life but it’s harder to do and requires more structure and organization. It’s also harder to prove that it’s going on in real life. In the online world where nothing ever really gets deleted (despite the harassers attempts to remove the evidence) it can almost always be located and therefore the allegations proven.
Someone, somewhere has almost always archived it for posterity.
So, while the lies never get erased, your refutations to the lies also never get erased. If you’ve done your job properly the truth can and will overwhelm the lie and the liars even if they outnumber you.
However, going through that process is time consuming and often quite painful because those who engage in cyberharassment and stalking often have nothing else to do. They can (and do) spend hours doing this because they are dysfunctional people living dysfunctional lives whereas those of us being targeted with this abuse are trying to lead active, normal lives and this nonsense takes us away from that.
While these stalkers and harassers are usually incredibly stupid people, they do excel at lying so you will be dealing with their false allegations with the police, social media sites, friends, family, etc. sometimes for years. In the case of psychopaths, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll be on your case for years or until they get themselves incarcerated in prison or a psych ward.
This is one reason why this type of harassment can’t be ignored or swept under the carpet. The lies, if left to fester can and do take on a life of their own and become ‘truth’ by virtue of the fact that there is nothing out there refuting them.
When it comes to one’s personal and professional reputation these lies can have a deep and often immeasurable impact, especially vicious ones like the current ‘call everyone you hate a pedo’ rage.
Note that those who engage in this behavior are mentally ill in some way and it’s the mental illness that drives and motivates the stalking behavior.
As was emphasised earlier, stalking describes a behavioural problem, not a psychiatric classification per se. Several authors have reflected on the diagnostic assessment of stalkers, and generally made a distinction between psychotic stalkers (Axis I) and stalkers with severe personality pathology (Axis II). The psychotic stalker can exhibit primary erotomania, but erotomanic delusions can also result from multiple other DSM-IV disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Stalking is predominantly associated with cluster B personality pathology (narcissistic and borderline personality disorders) and to a lesser extent with dependent, schizoid, and paranoid features. There are relatively few reports of stalking by classic psychopaths, and these cases are almost without exception extensions of (long) histories of domestic violence. In addition to these primary disorders, comorbid conditions, such as substance abuse or dependence and affective disorders, are frequently mentioned (Zona et al, 1993; Harmon et al, 1995; Meloy & Gothard, 1995; Mullen et al, 1999). It is worth noting that almost all diagnostic hypotheses were based on clinical impressions from uncontrolled studies. Controlled research into personality characteristics and psychopathology (based on, for example, structured interviews and standard personality inventories) is sorely lacking. —Stalking — a contemporary challenge for forensic and clinical psychiatry
The more seriously mentally ill the cyberharasser/stalker is, the further they will go with their abuse and lies.
- Challenge their story by challenging the fact that they have no evidence? Voila, evidence gets fabricated in the form of fake photoshopped screenshots, fake pedo web sites set up under the targets personal name as the domain, quoting known liars or people who have an obvious bias, etc.
- Expose their lies and their cowardice? Voila numerous false allegations/complaints filed with police, social media sites you’re a member of, government agencies, employers (past and present), schools, social service agencies (if you receive assistance), etc.
- Confront their lies? Voila they recruit other stalkers to spew them for them so that they can claim ‘they aren’t the only ones that hate you’. Suddenly you’re surrounded by a goon squad wallowing in its own filth of lies, the intent being to overwhelm the truth with the lies.
So, what are the solutions?
What can we do to deal more effectively with such lunacy online. Aside from having those who engage in this abuse carted off to their local Psych Ward in strait jackets or to prison. While that will certainly help resolve the problem, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and in the mean time we all have to survive the crazies.
While we can’t change the fact that there are seriously disturbed people out there in the world, many of whom have access to the Internet and are going to be causing problems for innocent, sane, rational people … there are often small things that can be done that end up having a big impact … and some big things.
The big things that we can do are to follow a policy of
- exposing their lies,
- confronting them publicly with their lies
- giving them the attention they seem to want by publicizing who they are and what they are doing with the hard evidence we’ve gathered while exposing their lies.
Let the truth come out. Let the truth be louder than the lies and overwhelm the lies.
Whether they’re targeting individuals or groups shouldn’t matter because the issue here is the stalking and harassment. Nothing else. Ignoring it, pretending it will go away, sticking our heads in the sand will destroy those targeted whether they’re groups or individuals. The only time walking away helps is in personal altercations where neither person takes up stalking and harassing. In those situations the best solution is to walk away so that things don’t escalate. That doesn’t work in stalking and harassing situations so we need to learn to identify the difference when we’re deciding on a strategy.
These stalkers and harassers will get publicity and attention and possibly recruit a few people in the process but many will also be alerted to who they are. It won’t be so easy for them to engage in their cons, manipulations, scams, and computer crimes with this type of attention because the attention they’re getting involves exposing them. Ripping off their masks and letting everyone see who and what they really are.
Some of the little things we can do are covered in this recent article from Wired provided some interesting examples and insight into this issue:
According to the article, a simple process like providing a specific and detailed explanation for why someone was banned reduced the recidivism of the bad behavior dramatically whereas not providing an explanation resulted in a ‘disturbingly high’ recidivism rate.
The team also found that it’s important to enforce the rules in ways that people understand. When Riot’s team started its research, it noticed that the recidivism rate was disturbingly high; in fact, based on number of reports per day, some banned players were actually getting worse after their bans than they were before. At the time, players were informed of their suspension via emails that didn’t explain why the punishment had been meted out. So Riot decided to try a new system that specifically cited the offense. This led to a very different result: Now when banned players returned to the game, their bad behavior dropped measurably. –Extract from Curbing Online Abuse Isn’t Impossible
A solution like this actually accomplishes three things which are excellent for the consumer of the service.
- The user has a clear understanding of what the behavior that was considered negative is, and knows that if they want to stay on the site they can’t engage in that specific behavior again. This creates a solid deterrent for that negative behavior.
- The support staff are required to properly examine the issue and provide a specific reason, presumably with the evidence that the person did indeed violate the rules. This has the benefit of ensuring that Support staff do their jobs properly and can actually justify the suspension (or lack of suspension based on a complaint). That is they can justify it based on actual written policy rather than just an arbitrary spur of the minute, get this off my desk fast, decision or I feel sorry for person A, I’m on their side and will help them even though the person isn’t doing what person A says they’re doing, etc.
- Most importantly, any sense of injustice or unfairness at the decisions is also removed because everything has been properly explained and justified. This, in and of itself, can lead to self-correcting behavior. Justice has been done.
Of course, the person might find the standard itself objectionable which is a different issue but one that should be addressed by any social media site which actually wants to be a comfortable place for their users. They could have a special forum where these types of discussions can occur directly with Support staff or Development staff. Explanations will resolve 90% of the issues and the other 10% probably need to be fixed. If they can’t be fixed, people are kept informed and things are unlikely to get out of hand. Or, at least less often, than they would without these measures in place.
The reality is that the current recidivism rate for ‘bad’ behavior is disturbingly high on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and the decisions to remove or leave items being objected to are arbitrary, inconsistent, and frequently not based on the written site rules/policy.
Frequently items which obviously violate the social media site’s policy are left while items which don’t obviously violate the social media site’s policy are removed and the posters suspended, banned or otherwise punished despite the fact that they didn’t violate any policy or rule.
I’m currently in a battle with Twitter and have been for a nearly a month to get my business Twitter account unsuspended. Twitter refuses to interact with me to provide any explanation, rationalization, or justification for their arbitrary (and unjustified) actions.
I have provided a detailed refutation to Twitter (in several emails now) including the tweets that I was tweeting at the time my account was suspended based on a false complaint, and screenshots of Twitters own interface showing that at least one allegation is completely bogus and without any merit. This has, so far, been completely ignored.
Not only is this frustrating to the user who is the target of cyberbullying / harassment and being further victimized by false accusations of allegedly doing what is actually being done to them, but it enables and encourages the cyberbullies and harassers to take things further and further. After all, their scam worked.
And you can rest assured they will be smugly gloating about the fact that it worked while coming up with ways to escalate things even further. Of course, they’ll blame you for the escalations. How dare you stand up to their abuse and do so publicly. That’s cyberbullying them according to their sick and twisted thinking. Lol.
To Facebook’s credit, they have banned certain people from Facebook because of their ongoing bullying and harassing behavior, defamations, lies, etc. They closed down over 20 Facebook sites set up by one person for no other purpose than to personally attack, defame and spread lies about social activists on Facebook. Particularly anti-pedophilia social activists. This person is just one of a group of people that are part of this current harassment campaign and instigating numerous others into senselessly targeting innocent people who are anti-pedophilia social activists.
All this accomplishes, of course, is to protect the real pedophiles since those who are going after the anti-pedophilia social activists are attempting to discredit and defame them. These same groups as well as other groups are also targeting numerous others like the parents of bullied children who have committed suicide. They publicly call the children who have been viciously sexually exploited online ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ and other derogatory terms while blaming the victims themselves and their parents for the crimes.
The article proposes the following and I agree because it’s focusing entirely on the behavior that’s exhibited rather than the content of what is said. What is said only matters when it leads to negative behaviors and on those grounds free speech has always had some limitations.
You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a theater when there is no fire, because of the impact that will have on behavior. You could start a riot which could result in both panic and physical injury for no justifiable reason.
CyberBullying and harassment are the same. When you falsely call someone a Pedo or Pedo enabler and post it all over the web in numerous blogs, web sites, torrents, pastes, on DarkNet with personal information in Doxbin, etc. etc. there is an impact not only to the person targeted but to others who might decide to interact in negative ways with the target because of those false allegations.
So, this isn’t about free speech. It’s about bullying and harassing behaviors.
Extracted from the article:
What would our social networks look like if their guidelines and enforcement reflected real-life community norms? If Riot’s experiments are any guide, it’s unlikely that most or even many users would deem a lot of the casual abuse, the kind that’s driving so many people out of online spaces, to be acceptable. Think about how social networks might improve if—as on the gaming sites and in real life—users had more power to reject abusive behavior. Of course, different online spaces will require different solutions, but the outlines are roughly the same:
• involve users in the moderation process,
• set defaults that create hurdles to abuse,
• give clearer feedback for people who misbehave,
• and—above all—create a norm in which harassment simply isn’t tolerated.
–Extract from Curbing Online Abuse Isn’t Impossible