20 March 2007

Dealing with Online Harassment

Hi folks. If you are ever harassed by someone online, there are actions you can take against them. Here are some things I have learned along the way. If you know the region where the offender actually lives, then you can also work with the region's local law enforcement agencies.

1. Report Spoofing
2. Report Harassment
3. Report Terms of Service Violations
4. Submit Tips and Information


If the offender has ever imitated you or someone you know online by posting as you or ever claiming to be you, then it is a crime called "SPOOFING" and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the USA asks that a complaint be filed.

FBI Cyber Investigations

FBI Internet Crime Online Complaint Form

You are also encouraged to report SPOOFING, STALKING AND OTHER FORMS OF ONLINE HARASSMENT to Wired Safety, the world's largest online safety and help group.


If the harassment includes threats of violence, call the police. If the harassment is defaming in nature, save and document the harassment. Copy and paste defaming messages that were sent over instant messengers, save emails, and save defamatory blog posts. Be sure to log the dates and times. You can even install monitoring software that will assist in the documentation of the abuse.

- MAIL: To report unwanted mail [not email] you have received from this individual, The United States Postal Inspection Service welcomes your complaint.

- EMAIL: To report malicious email, check the header of the email for information about what ISP the abuser is using. You can then report the harassment to the abuser's ISP. To find this information follow these instructions for your specific email program.

- EMAIL THROUGH ONLINE EMAIL SERVICES [like Yahoo or Hotmail]: "Contact their email provider. Almost all email providers have terms of service in place that does not allow their users to use email for this purpose. To determine who is providing their email service, look at the email address from the cyberbully. The name after the @ symbol will tell you. Go to their Web site and search for their terms of service. Somewhere in there is usually a link to report abuse. Often there is a "report abuse" link on the contact page on the Web site." -- source: http://familyinternet.about.com/od/internetsafety/a/harassedonline_2.htm?terms=reporting+abuse

- STALKING: "Cyberstalking is a specific kind of harassment. The Department of Justice 1999 study on the subject defines it as 'the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property.' CYBERSTALKERS FREQUENTLY follow their targets around the net, frequenting in chat rooms, message boards, newsgroups or mailing lists in which the target participates. At times they will also attempt to form relationships with those who are friendly with the target in order to get more information about the target." -- source: http://www.haltabuse.org/help/isit.shtml

see also:

"Guidelines for Responding to CyberStalking"
by Cyberangels, Internet safety organization

"Cyber-Stalking: Obsessional Pursuit and the Digital Criminal"
by Wayne Petherick


You can also report violations against terms of service with any web service he has used for malicious intent, such as mail services, blog hosts, Internet service providers, bulletin boards, mailing lists and so forth. WITH EVERY ACCOUNT HE MAKES, HE AGREES TO TERMS OF SERVICE WHICH PROHIBIT THE ABUSES HE PERPETRATES. These complaints can be filed directly with the provider of the service, such as Yahoo or Blogger. THE MORE COMPLAINTS, THE STRONGER THE CASE AGAINST THE OFFENDER.

Every action taken online from viewing webpages to sending an email is tagged with your ISP and computer information. This can be easily traced by web service providers to build a case against an offender.

- call or write to the offender's ISP

- BLOGGER: Report Terms of Service Violations

- YAHOO: Abuse Help

- YAHOO: Message Boards, Groups and Mail Abuse Incident Form

- GEOCITIES: Feedback on Members Abusing Services or Violating Terms of Service

- GEOCITIES: Report Unauthorized Image Use or Defamatory Information


If you think you have information about an individual engaging in this type of behavior, you can submit a tip to the FBI.

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