Cyberharassment – What You Need to Know
By Nick Anderson 6 minutes
Cyberharassment is a subject that must be talked about at every turn, due to the severity of some offenses and effects it can have on an individual. The digital world is crawling with bullies, sexual predators, frauds that the general public must be aware of to better protect themselves online. It’s not just the tools we use, but the practices we adopt can have a lasting impact on keeping personal information safe.
What is Cyberharassment
Cyberharassment is the act of bullying, threatening, provoking someone online through derogatory and sexual remarks, unsolicited messages, blackmail, or spreading rumors. The sole purpose is to cause distress to the person’s social and professional life, and consequently, health and mental wellbeing. It is a serious offense that continues to find new victims, and the perpetrators often have little to no regard for the personal space of other people.
According to statistics, 44% of people have experienced some form of cyberharassment. It’s not just kids going to school that may face bullying; adults can have a similar experience on the internet. And adults are likely to experience it more because they have no parental guidelines that restrict them from forums and social media.
Terms That You Should Know
Stalking defines the act of keeping a close eye on someone or someone’s activities. People who stalk other users online exhibit some degree of obsessive behavior, which leads them to follow a user through every platform. The primary purpose of cyberstalking is to learn about someone. It may not be dangerous in some cases, but cyberstalking can become a prerequisite for a larger act, such as physical harm or intimidation, in which case the perpetrator will make its presence known.
Social media platforms are a window into our daily lives. The more you share online, the more information there is that could be used against you. Information collected about you can be used against you to threaten or fabricate rumors.
Cyberbullying involves humiliating remarks that ultimately leads to embarrassment among friends and family that may be connected online. Bullying is a major issue that kids continue to face during their time in school. The constant humiliating and verbal assaults have a lasting impact on a kid’s mental and emotional health. In modern language, it is known as “trolling.”
Cyberbullying can consist of remarks on age, race, ethnicity, religion, or anything about you. Bullies don’t know boundaries and can even make fun of disabilities. Such toxicity is what drives people in isolation, due to fear of such treatment.
The safety of children online must be paramount for parents and guardians. The nature of social media allows users to connect but has often attracted predators.
Sexual harassment is one of the worst experiences anyone can have online. It involves unsolicited messages that are sexual in nature and repeated messages from someone you may or may not know. The act of harassment doesn’t take into account familiarity with perpetrators. If engagement is non-consensual and repeated, then it falls under harassment.
Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment online. Dating websites are a common social platform now, and it doesn’t take long to get acquainted with strangers online. Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee safety. Users may fall victim to blackmail if acquaintances get hold of compromising material, such as photos or messages.
We often overlook what we share on the internet. Doxing is a reminder just how much we don’t know exists about us on the internet; things we may have posted years ago that continue to exist and be available publicly. Doxing refers to collecting information about a person through publicly available information or through hacking.
The term is an abbreviation for “dropping dox” and is an act that can leave you exposed on the internet. If someone plots revenge against you for any reason, the perpetrator can scour the internet for information such as name, address, and phone number. Worse, someone could try to hack you through a phishing attempt that tries to install malware on your computer. The hacker can then monitor your activities and get access to even financial information. However, the purpose of doxing is public humiliation and revealing the identity of someone who wishes to stay anonymous, such as activists and journalists.
As the name gives it away, a perpetrator will setup fake online accounts to impersonate you. Some types of cyberharassment – such as doxing and cyberstalking – can become prerequisites for online impersonation. Content posted through fake accounts made in your name can have disastrous impacts on your personal and professional life. It doesn’t take much to destroy someone’s credibility on the internet.
For example, the impersonator can post hateful comments towards religious groups, which will then have adverse effects for you. If the impersonator has planted info such as address and phone number on your profile, it can lead to repeated hateful texts and calls, or mob violence in the worst scenario.
Swatting is relatively new but has dire consequences. It can bring you trauma that may be difficult to deal with. Someone with information on where you live can drop false information to the law enforcement agency about a bomb threat or a possible terror activity in the planning. Given the critical task at hand, SWAT teams would be unwilling to listen to your plead until they have secured the premises. It’s not just you, but your family will face unfortunately face the handling and the trauma that comes with it.
Bullies have used swatting during video chats in the hopes of catching and recording the process live for everyone on the internet to see.
What You Should Do
Several laws protect users against such experiences. If you believe you are being stalked or your information has been stolen, refer to the cybercrime laws of your state/country. Since these laws vary from country to country, you will have to look up the relevant authorities that can register complaints.
If there’s one thing that empowers cyber harassers is when they go unreported. Laws have proven to be instrumental in bringing sexual harassers and blackmailers to justice.
As we mentioned, cyberstalking is usually a prerequisite to something more dangerous. Let the harasser know of your intention to register a complaint. If things stay the same, you have every right to protect yourself by involving the law. Being aware of cyber laws can teach you a lot about identifying harassment and how to deal with them.