The internet has opened up the world to its users. They can learn, research, explore and discover almost anything they desire. It also gives individuals who understand how to use it, the ability to contact and interact with other individuals, either without their permission. Cyber harassment is unlike physical forms of harassment for several reasons. In a virtual world, it is extremely hard to detect and only individuals who are familiar with this level of technology can prove it has occurred.
What is Cyber Harassment?
What is cyber harassment? It is the use of the internet to make unsolicited advances, communications or interact with another person or entity. A true definition of cyber harassment or cyber stalking does not yet exist due to the many forms it can take. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, one key point in defining and using the terms cyber harassment and cyberbullying is the perpetrator’s age. In most cases, the term cyberbullying refers to unsolicited communications or stalking activities between minors. The term cyber harassment is normally used when adults are involved.
Types of Cyber Harassment
Cyber harassment can take many forms. The line between harassment and stalking normally is crossed when an individual realizes someone is watching their online activities. Stalkers are often quiet and don’t broadcast their intentions or that they are actively watching someone. A person intent on harassing another individual usually wants them to know they are doing it and will openly engage in online interaction to see the person’s response. The following techniques are often used.
- unsolicited posts and comments on social media sites
- graphic images and posts directed at the victim
- instant messaging
A person can block many of the messages and posts, but when they begin to contain threats or unwanted advances, the victim can report them to the proper authorities. If a person feels as if they have been targeted by another individual, shutting the bully down as quickly as possible prevents them from gaining the advantage.
Different types of Cyber Harassment :
- Hate Speech: Any person using his online persona to promote hate speech against a certain race, sex, religion or politics is considered a cyber-bully. There is a thin line between expressing how you feel or think about an idea and promoting hate speech towards a certain group of people. Any speech that promotes hate culture should be reported to the website immediately.
- Sexual or Pornographic Content: Websites that are not supposed to be carrying sexual content but are doing so should also be flagged. Facebook for instance does not allow pornographic content on its pages. So do most of the social media websites.
- Self Harm: Promotion of hard drug abuse, cutting or eating disorders should not be dealt with lightly. Most websites where people can share this sort of thing work with suicide prevention agencies to help people in distress.
- Intellectual Property Protection: If you happen to be someone who shares their work online, you should be well equipped with a license that protects your work from being stolen and linked to another person. This could happen directly with a person stealing your work or indirectly through a person posing as yourself in order to take credit for your work. Intellectual property licenses are everywhere online. Make sure you buy yours.
- Identity Theft: Someone stealing your online persona is someone who wants more than just that. Puts your personal life at stake as they might gain access to your bank accounts and credit cards through posing as you. This makes them extremely close to your social circle as well.
- Cyberbullying: Ganging up on a victim and constantly harassing them through the internet or through their mobile phone is an act of cyber harassment. Another form of cyber harassment is being mean in a constant manner to a person online is unacceptable to most social media websites. Sometimes, the victim cannot handle the stress of cyber harassment and may resort to suicide. At this point, the aggressor in this cyber harassment incident will go to court.
Ways to Prevent Cyber Harassment
The key to preventing cyber harassment is identifying the person who is responsible and reporting them to the police. If someone is being harassed in a virtual or online forum or platform, instructing them to stop will not be enough. There are several ways to prevent cyber harassment and to not be a victim. A few include:
- Tell them to stop
- Report them to the authorities
- Privatize your accounts – make sure all accounts are private so that only your known friends can access your information or see your posts and photographs.
- Never give out your personal information. Also never put your personal information on your social media accounts. If a friend or loved one needs personal information, call them on the telephone.
- Never add people to your friend’s list unless you are sure of their identity. If you do not know them but act like they know who you are, ask your friends and family if they look familiar.
- Beware of fake accounts. Social media accounts where a person only has 4 or 5 friends are probably bogus and are being used to stalk or harass other individuals.
- Don’t initiate contact with people you do not know.
Taking as many precautions as possible is the best way to prevent cyber harassment. Making sure all of your information is secure is another. By setting all of your online accounts to “private” you dramatically reduce the number of people who have access to your public information. If your profile is set to private, no one can see your photos or posts. They cannot find your email address and will not be able to comment on anything unless you give them permission.
What is cyber harassment? Cyber harassment in many states is now a crime. Laws have been passed that make it illegal for individuals to continually pursue others through unsolicited attempts at communication over devices governed by the FCC. Once cyber harassment has been reported and an investigation has started, the person committing the crime can be arrested and charged if they do not cease and desist.
Victims can take control of the situation by reporting all instances of cyber harassment and stalking to their local law enforcement, as well as online agencies who are able to handle the virtual technology involved.