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Dealing with trolls/cyberharassment/cyberstalking

Since this subject has come up, I wanted to point something out that some people might not know.  (Since I live in the US, this pertains to the US, but I’m sure other developed countries have similar laws and procedures.)

First, some definitions (I’m taking these from the page I’m about to link to because they are so relevant and succinct):

Cyberstalking.  Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors. Cyberstalking may be considered the most dangerous of the three types of Internet harassment, based on a posing credible threat of harm. Sanctions range from misdemeanors to felonies.

Cyberharassment. Cyberharassment differs from cyberstalking in that it may generally be defined as not involving a credible threat. Cyberharassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Some states approach cyberharrassment by including language addressing electronic communications in general harassment statutes, while others have created stand-alone cyberharassment statutes.

This comes from the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) and is located here:  It also lists which states have which laws in place with links to the relevant statutes.

The key here, when it gets bad enough to fall under the above definitions (and I’ve seen several cases on tumblr already that satisfy both of the above definitions) is to not just report it to tumblr.  The key is to file a report with your local law enforcement agency (police, sheriff’s office, local FBI office, the Internet Crime Complaints Center, etc).  Once an investigation starts, and depending upon the severity, the law enforcement agency will get a court order that will force tumblr to release, to the law enforcement agency, any information they have on the person/people under investigation (i.e., legal name, IP address (which can then be used to track them down via their IP), etc.).  At that point, once there is a law enforcement investigation, tumblr can no longer ignore it, or they will face, at the very least, contempt of court.

Where this gets even more interesting is if the stalker/harasser and the victim are in different states.  Because then, again depending on the severity, the FBI gets involved.  And federal punishments tend to be more severe than the ones states dish out. These are the federal statutes:

And where this gets *really* interesting is if it’s a teen doing these crimes on the internet access their parents pay for.  Depending on the parent (some are just as scummy as their children, alas), this can result in some metaphorical pyrotechnics when the parents find out just what their child(ren) have been doing.  Because in some cases, parents can be held monetarily responsible for the damage from crimes their children commit with their internet access, just like they can be held monetarily responsible for damage their children cause while driving the family vehicle.

And if you think these cases are ignored or go uninvestigated/unprosecuted, think again:

Keep in mind as well that, in addition to being crimes, cyberharassment and cyberstalking are also actionable offenses in civil courts/actionable torts.  This means that the perpetrators can be sued in civil court as well as prosecuted for the crime.

And finally, this is a good article that covers the basics:

Now, I do want to point out, again, that this all depends upon the severity of each case.

If you are being cyberharassed or cyberstalked, the most important thing is to SPEAK UP.  Talk to your parents, your family, your friends.  If you are in school and you know the perpetrator is someone else at the same school, report it to the school authorities.  Personally I would say anyone reading this and going through it, if you need someone to talk to/support in this, my ask box is open.


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    Tagging to all peeps I know who have been harassed
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