Using the Court of Public Opinion to Stop Cyberharassment

and bullhorns by mikeinlondon from Flickr

and bullhorns by mikeinlondon from Flickr

I recently taught a seminar for the State Bar of Arizona E-Commerce and Technology section. I’m a big believer that if you’re cyberharassed, cyberbullied, or cyberstalked online that you should report it – first to the website or service where it’s occurring and then to the police if the person continues to misbehave despite being told to knock it off or if the website or service doesn’t do anything about it. She said, in her case, law enforcement wanted to pass the buck to another agency than deal with the problem themselves.

That’s discouraging. What are you supposed to do if you’re being harassed and the people whose job it is to stop this behavior are ignoring you?

My first thought was, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you keep reporting the problem, the powers that be might realize that doing their job is the best course of action because you’re not going to go away until they do. You might have to go above their heads and report them to their superiors to make this happen. A nasty letter from an attorney written on your behalf might do the trick too.

If that doesn’t work or if you’re in a situation that needs immediate attention, consider turning to the court of public opinion and publicly call your harasser/bully for their bad behavior. Use your social network to rally support for your situation. Contact the media and try to get them to run a story about it. If there’s enough public outcry, maybe the powers that be will do their jobs or the person who’s harassing you will leave you alone.

If you want to turn to the media or social media, my one word of caution is to mindful about what you say. Resist the urge to exaggerate – it might cross the line into the realm of defamation or false light. Instead stick to the facts, your feelings about the facts, and what you want to happen as a result. If you use the media or the public to try to make a change, you have to tell them what you want whether it’s contacting a certain government official, signing a petition, boycotting a business, etc. Don’t tell people to harass the person who is harassing you; that might be soliciting a crime

Be sure to keep copious records so you can back up your facts with evidence if you need to defend yourself. Some people may attack you just to try to shut you up.

My final word on this topic is if you’re going to try to use the media or the court of public opinion to resolve a problem, you’re going to have to grow a thick skin. Some people are vicious and will call you out for calling out someone else. Surround yourself with a strong group of supporters to bolster your spirits when the haters come after you.

If you’re being cyberharassed, consult an attorney in your community to discuss the best strategy to make it stop. You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Don’t Post Stupid Stuff Online

Gestures by Tuppus from Flickr

When I was a kid, I had a shirt that said “think” across the chest and “act” across the back. There was tiny print around the bottom hem that had a series of statements that said “think before you ________.” The shirt’s message was, “Think before you act.” If the company made this shirt today, they should modify the design to say, “Think before you post.”

Think B4 U Post by Mister Norris from Flickr

It blows my mind how much stupid shit people post on the internet, and most of the time, you can tell they do it because they think it’s funny in the moment and they don’t think it all the way through. Before you post anything on the internet, regardless of what it is and where you’re putting it, ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  2. How many ways could this blow up in my face?

We all know how fast an internet post can spread like wildfire. Look at this post by a girl who lost her hat that she got from her mother who died of cancer at the Phoenix airport. I’m sure tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people have seen it. I hope she gets it back. This post went viral because her story touched people’s hearts, but other posts go viral because they’re so offensive.

Always beware of the court of public opinion. You can look like a massive ass on the internet without doing anything illegal. If you do that, be ready for your reputation to be tarnished. That offensive post could easily become the number one result when someone Googles your name, which will hurt your professional and personal lives.

And if you make an offer in a post that is believable, don’t be shocked if someone accepts it. If you post on Facebook, “I lost my phone in a cab in NYC. I’ll give $10K to whoever returns it.” You better get your checkbook out when you get it back or you might find yourself in court for breach of contract.

If you post something on the internet and it garners strong negative reactions, there isn’t much you can do if you don’t like it unless they cross the line into the realms of invasion of privacy or defamation. The only thing you can really do at that point is damage control.

Carter Law Firm’s Postcards

If you post something online and regret it after the fact, deleting it may not be enough to save you. Once you put something out there, you can’t control how many times it will be downloaded, shared, re-posted, and re-tweeted. It only takes a few seconds to create a post, but you may be living with the consequences forever.

The take away lesson: Think before your post…really think. Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.