Online harassment, how to end it.

If you are being subjected to online harassment, social media stalking, or cyberbullying, it can be hard to know where to turn. Common questions are: Can I report this to the police, where should I be reporting harassment online, can I get a restraining order for online harassment, how can I stop being harassed online? Let’s go over what defines online harassment, and what you can do to end it.

Help me identify who is responsible for harassing me

Definition of online harassment

The definition of online harassment is generally defined as a repeated pattern of behavior on the internet, with the intent to scare, anger, shame, or harm the victim. These harassing activities are performed through digital technologies such as social media, spoofed texting services, fake email addresses, gaming platforms, dating profiles, etc.

We often help people who are a victim being harassed online through someone:

  • Posting online defaming statements with the intent to harm someone’s reputation.
  • Publishing or threatening to spread private, or explicit photos or videos.
  • Sending threatening messages.
  • Impersonating them online. 

Types of Harassment on the Internet

Online harassment often takes one of the following forms:online harassment

  • Hate speech through posting damaging or threatening remarks motivated by animosity toward identity traits such as race, religion, gender identity, etc.
  • Sextortion or revenge porn, where someone is harassed in behavior that is sexual in nature and often involves threats to post private photos. Revenge porn is when an ex-partner posts explicit or nude photos or videos on the internet without their consent.  
  • Cyberstalking in a strict context refers to abusive behaviors electronically over an extended period to harm, threaten, or terrorize through stalking someone online. Cyberstalking is a federal offense, and some countries have laws against it. 
  • Doxxing is when someone posts private or identifying information about someone on the internet, with malicious intent.
  • Impersonation or identity theft, where someone is using someone else’s online identity online. 

What to do if someone is harassing you online

Document Everything

The benefit of online harassment is that it leaves a trail of evidence. Save everything, and make screenshots. You may want to delete and try to ignore the abusive messages, but keeping records as evidence will help you when trying to get content taken down by websites or social media platforms, or when you go to the police. 

Make screenshots to record the harassment and keep them organized in a folder for when you are ready to take action against the antagonist(s). Also try to preserve details such as metadata, times and dates, hash values, and other data, because this is sometimes needed as a requirement to submit it as digital evidence in court.  

Keep Yourself Safe

If you are being harassed online, you should ask yourself if you know the perpetrator. If so, and they know personal details about you, like your address, and made threatening remarks, stay vigilant in protecting your physical safety as well. If you are worried about your physical safety, find a place to stay where you feel protected, and enlist the help of friends or family for support. If the harassment is work-related, it may be a good idea to notify your employer of what is happening.  

Increase Your Personal Cybersecurity

If you think you are hacked, stop antagonists from having access to your private material by increasing your security measures. 

  • Change your password to a strong and unique password, that contains random numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Don’t ever use the same password twice
  • Enable two-factor authentication on any account that contains personal information. 
  • Use a password manager to remember your new passwords.

Find out who is harassing you online

Some victims of online harassment consider involving law enforcement or legal help. But unfortunately, different law enforcement agencies are often unable or unwilling to help. And legal help is often very costly, and time-consuming. Another thing to consider when involving an attorney to subpoena ISPs, phone carrier,s or companies, is that by issuing a subpoena, you are letting the antagonists know you are after them. Companies who are subpoenaed for customer information have to let the customer know and give them the opportunity to fight this subpoena. 

If you are harassed online, our investigators can help you find out who is responsible. With our cyber investigation tools, we can map IP addresses and much more data from fake phone numbers, social media, email addresses, also encrypted email services like ProtonMail, and more. We can also defeat VPN. And in most cases, we can settle the online harassment outside of court, saving our clients a lot of money. 

Case study: exposing ProtonMail blackmailer

Can I report online harassment to police

Unfortunately, the police are limited in time and resources and often don’t have the capacity to investigate online harassment, unless:

  • The antagonist published sexual material about you online without your consent.
  • You have received serious threats of violence that specify a time, day, or location.
  • You know the antagonist and want a restraining order.
  • The antagonist violated state or federal stalking laws.

If you report online harassment to the police or are in the process of reporting harassment online, provide them with evidence that supports your statements. Our experience with clients worldwide, especially in the United States, has shown that it is rare for the police to take on an online harassment case. 

Often people come to us after the police told them they can’t or don’t want to help. It is a travesty that victims must resort to paying for a private investigation when this is a criminal matter, police should handle that. However, in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other Western nations, less than one in 100 cybercrimes are investigated and less than one in 10,000 are prosecuted.

Can You Sue Someone for Harassing You Online?

 Yes, you can sue someone for civil wrongs like defamation, harassment, and public disclosure of private fact that has taken place on the internet. You can request compensation for any “injury” resulting from the civil wrong and impose liability on the antagonists for harmful acts.  

Some stats

A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults found that 41% of U.S. adults have personally found themselves being online harassed, and 25% experienced more severe online harassment such as: 

  • physical threats, 
  • stalking, 
  • sexual harassment and 
  • sustained harassment. 

Help me identify who is responsible for harassing me