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 Twitter, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
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