Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Can You Report Online Harassment To The Police

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Cyberbullying and online harassment arent just the domain of high school kids and spurned ex-lovers. It can happen to your company, too. And although social media is an integral part of many companies content marketing strategies, plenty of business owners hesitate because of concerns about what could go wrong.

Clarissa Windham-Bradstock, chief operating officer of AnyLabTestNow, discovered first-hand just how bad it could get, she told attendees of FranCamp2012, held May 4 in Atlanta.

A hostile former franchisee and vendor whose services AnyLabTestNow had stopped using began cyberstalking and cyber harassing Windham-Bradstock in an apparent attempt to make her and the company look bad. The man began by about her and AnyLabTestNow on an open internet forum.

Next, friends and colleagues received friend requests from a Facebook profile bearing the same picture as Windham-Bradstocks, but with a slightly different name. The fake profile included her home address and childrens names, as well as pictures of her children.

Did you know? Windham-Bradstock experienced doxing, which is the discovery and publication of personal details online for the world to see. While doxing itself is not illegal, it may fall under stalking and harassment laws, depending on where you live and the degree of harassment.

Cyberbullying Or Cyberstalking As Harassment

Using technology or the internet to bully, harass, or stalk someone may be referred to as cyberbullying, cyberstalking, or online harassment. Cyberbullying tends to fall in a grey area that’s harmful but not yet criminal. However, it often doesn’t take much to cross the line into a criminal act when the behavior makes the targeted victim fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress.

Cyberstalking or online harassment involves a wide range of conduct, such as:

  • sending threats, obscene images, or repeated unwanted communications via text, messaging, computer, or email
  • posting harmful or false information on social media sites or the internet
  • impersonating someone on their social media account, email, or website, or
  • encouraging others to post private, personal, false, or offensive information about another.

What To Do If You Are Harassed By Your Ex

If you are harassed by your ex, whether by messaging you on social media, by referring to you regularly on blog posts or by posting your intimate images on the internet without your consent, you will almost certainly feel harassed. You should report this to the police at the earliest opportunity. The posting of intimate images without consent is a criminal offence by itself which is commonly known as revenge porn. Any other unwanted communications, which happen on more than one occasion, would be covered under harassment law.

If your ex published a website about you, this would also be considered as harassment even if the website only contains one page and was only posted once to the internet. Make sure you report this to the police. If what your ex has posted is pictures that you have taken of yourself, you will own the copyright to the pictures and you will also be covered under the common law right to privacy. If the police are unhelpful, consider making a civil claim against your harasser in relation to any or all of the above-mentioned wrongdoings.

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Save The Harassment Data

Depending on your phone, you may be able to take a “screenshot” of the data. If your phone is not capable of doing so, you can use a camera to take photos.

You will also want to “Lock” or “Protect” each harassing message. But you still must be sure to have backup copies in the event that something happens to your phone so your data is not lost.

Combating The Evolving Cyber Threat

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Our adversaries look to exploit gaps in our intelligence and information security networks. The FBI is committed to working with our federal counterparts, our foreign partners, and the private sector to close those gaps.

These partnerships allow us to defend networks, attribute malicious activity, sanction bad behavior, and take the fight to our adversaries overseas. The FBI fosters this team approach through unique hubs where government, industry, and academia form long-term trusted relationships to combine efforts against cyber threats.

Within government, that hub is the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force . The FBI leads this task force of more than 30 co-located agencies from the Intelligence Community and law enforcement. The NCIJTF is organized around mission centers based on key cyber threat areas and led by senior executives from partner agencies. Through these mission centers, operations and intelligence are integrated for maximum impact against U.S. adversaries.

Only together can we achieve safety, security, and confidence in a digitally connected world.

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Take Precautions If Your Child Has Retaliated

If your child or teen retaliated with their own cyberbullying, you also need to include a full discussion about the inappropriateness of their behavior and what the consequences will be. The assertion that “the other kid started it” is irrelevant. Your child cannot blame their choices and behavior on anyone else and must be held accountable. If they want justice for what was done to them, they need to expect the same yardstick to be applied to any cyberbullying they committed.

Upon Completion Of This Report Process You Will:

  • See the words: âYour online police report has been submittedâ.
  • You will then immediately receive a temporary police report file number and an email informing you that we have received your report and that it is pending review. A temporary file number will appear in this format: T11000999. Temporary file numbers cannot be used for insurance purposes.
  • If you do not receive an email with a temporary file number, please check your Spam or Junk-Email folder.
  • A police officer will review your report and either Approve, Reject or request additional follow-up information from you. You will be advised via email of the status of your report. Do not reply via email to any of these automated messages as these accounts are not monitored. Follow the directions provided on how to respond regarding your report.
  • Once your report is approved, you will receive a permanent report number â this number appears in this format: 11-123456.
  • Be able to print a copy of the police report to keep for your records only. This copy cannot be used for insurance purposes.

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Dont Engage In Harassment

Its a natural human instinct to defend oneself when being attacked. But in the realm of the internet, firing back at an abuser is like adding oxygen to a wildfire. By engaging with their insults or threats, you are giving them exactly what they want. Therefore, whenever possible, its best to stay silent and not risk escalating a situation.

We Know About Criminal Harassment In Canada

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1.3.1 Police and Court Reported Data

The most current Statistics Canada police and court data relating to criminal harassment reveal the following facts:

From 1999 to 2009, the number of victims of criminal harassment reported to a subset of police servicesFootnote 14 increased by 65%, from 6,411 victims in 1999 to 10,589 victims in 2009.Footnote 15 Such an increase is not uncommon following the introduction of a new law. It is difficult to assess, however, whether the rise is due to an increase in the number of criminal harassment incidents, increased reporting by victims, or a change in the way police respond to and record such incidents.

1.3.2 Victim/Survivor Survey Reports

Given that over half of the people who are criminally harassed do not report this crime to police,Footnote 16 it is helpful to look at sources other than police-reported data to get a more complete picture of criminal harassment in Canada. Statistics Canadaâs General Social Survey on Victimization provides self-reported data on criminal victimization. It is an important complement to crime rates, as it measures both crime incidents that come to the attention of the police and those that are unreported. The 2004 GSS reveals the following facts about criminal harassment:Footnote 17

Risk Factors
Characteristics of the Stalking
Impact on Victims

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Impact Of Criminal Harassment On The Victim

The cumulative effect of harassment causes victims to experience intimidation, as well as psychological and emotional distress. Psychologically, stalking can produce an intense and prolonged fear among victims. This fear usually includes an increasing fear that the frequency and nature of the conduct will escalate and is accompanied by a feeling of loss of control over the victimâs life. The constant fear and stress can result in mental and physical exhaustion, which can in turn lead to various health problems.Footnote 35 In addition, stalking targets may face considerable financial consequences as a result of the need for psychological treatment or therapy, and time taken off work.Footnote 36

Some common responses by victims to the trauma of being stalked include the following:

Other Examples Of Criminal Harassment

  • watching or tracking you, your children, or others close to you
  • threatening to harm or damage your property or pets
  • sending you things you dont want

Criminal harassment can also include vandalism or other minor criminal offences, if they are part of a deliberate pattern that leads the victim to fear for their safety.

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What Is The Criminal Penalty For Online Harassment In California

Cyber Harassment 653.2 PC

Cyber harassment is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, by a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Cyberstalking 646.9 PC

Cyberstalking is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, by a fine of $1,000, or both.

However, several aggravating factors can extend the sentence. If the offender commits cyberstalking in violation of a temporary restraining order, injunction, or other court order, the sentence can be increased to state imprisonment for two, three, or four years.

If the offender has been convicted of sexual assault or criminal threatening, the sentence can be increased to two, three, or five years in state prison.

In addition, a person convicted of felony stalking can be ordered to register as a sex offender.

Cyber Exploitation 647 PC

Cyber exploitation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the county jail, a fine of $1,000, or both.

Multiple amplifiers can increase a perpetrators sentence. If the offender is being convicted for a second or subsequent violation, punishment is increased to up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

If the victim is a minor at the time of the offense, then the crime becomes punishable by jail for one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

Threats 422 PC

Communicating criminal threats is a misdemeanor under California law and is punishable by imprisonment in county jail or state prison for up to one year.

S To Take After Reporting A Cyberbullying Attack

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After reporting or pressing charges against a cyberbully, you may want to help your child or teen increase the strength of their friendships to reduce the feeling of isolation victims often experience. Depending on how deeply the cyberbullying has impacted your child, you may also choose to set up appointments with the schools counselor or ask the schools counselor for names of therapists who have expertise in working through the effects of the cyberbullying.

Find the right cybersecurity solution for you.

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Can A Court Make Your Harasser Remove Posts From The Internet

Whether a criminal court has the power to request that the offender removes the offending posts from the internet under a normal restraining order, was questionable in the past but now it is clear that the court can make an order to this effect.

A restraining order may only require the offender to refrain from taking action as opposed to requiring him or her to take positive action, such as to remove internet pages and posts. Furthermore, if the offender is sent to prison, it is clear that any requirement of him or her to take positive action to remove an offending or harassing webpage is not going to be practical.

However, the court can make an order for your harasser to stop harassing you and by definition this means to remove any online posts that are harassing by nature. If your harasser does not comply with the court order to remove harassing internet posts, they can be brought before the court again for a separate offence, which is then breaching a court order. They can be sent to prison if found guilty.

What Steps Should You Take If Youre The Target Of Social Media Harassment

Windham-Bradstock advised taking the following steps if you become the target of social media harassment.

  • Save screenshots of everything to use as evidence.
  • Notify social media outlets via the channel that they suggest that someone is using your name inappropriately.
  • Use social media channels to connect with decision-makers.

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Be Proactive In Reporting Cyberbullying

Don’t wait to see if the cyberbullying goes away. Take immediate steps to address the issue. Your child needs to know that you can and will help them.

Report the cyberbullying to the school

If your child experienced cyberbullying, the chances are high that the negative fallout has spilled over into their school experience, even if the cyberbullying didn’t occur while your child or their abuser were on school grounds.

Research your state’s cyberbullying laws

Ideally, you are already aware of your state’s cyberbullying laws, but it’s more likely that you haven’t had a reason to familiarize yourself, until now. Don’t worry you can research online to find the laws, ask your child’s school resource officer , or ask for info at your local law enforcement office. One excellent online resource is the National Conference of State Legislatures website’s comparison of cyberbullying and cyberharassment laws, but you should also be able to find this on your state’s website, or request this information by emailing one of your elected officials.

Request information from your local police department

When inquiring about cyberbullying laws, bear in mind that awareness of recent cyberbullying laws may not have trickled down to all officers and you may need to ask them to look this up. Then ask what steps are taken when cyberbullying is reported, how well other cyberbullying victims have been protected, and what steps are taken to ensure the cyberbullying doesnt escalate.

What If The Police Refuse To Take Your Evidence Of Harassment

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You should leave a file with evidence of your harassment with the police at the police station. The police cannot refuse to take evidence from you. It is their job. Once they physically take the evidence, they must do something with it. They cannot simply throw it away. Leave the file with the person that sits at the desk of your local police station.

Online harassment is a crime and you have a legal right to file your complaint and have the police investigating your case. Insist on being given a crime reference number. You will need the crime reference number later on as to be able to chase the police or if you decide to take your harassment case down the civil route. Report anything thereafter and ask for it to be added to the same crime reference number.

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How To Respond To A Negative Attitude From The Police

What if the police tells you that there is nothing they can do. Until the police are equipped to help people who are suffering from internet harassment, when you report your online harassment, the police may tell you that it is not a case for the police to investigate and that there is nothing the police can do to help.

As you persist, the police may try to send you away and ask you what you want the police to do, countless times, which can make you feel lost and helpless and exacerbated. The most important thing is that you persist and persevere. Do not let the police put you off. Insist on your right to report a crime at a physical police station where you can also hand your evidence to a real person there and then.

Unreasonable Reaction By Victim

If a victim is overly sensitive, a defendant might argue that the victim’s reaction was unreasonable. An element of criminal harassment requires that the defendant engage in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or harm. Say a person allegedly fears for their safety because their neighbor plays rap music. The neighbor could rightly argue a reasonable person would not have reacted this way.

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What To Do If You Receive Threats From Anonymous Internet Users

People who are in the public eye often receive rape and death threats via social media. In most cases they do not know who they are from. You should consider reporting the threats to the police. For the police to help you, you need to make sure to document everything. Every single piece of information that makes you feel harassed and stressed is important evidence. Take this important information with you when reporting harassment to the police. Tell them that you are being harassed.

If it is more than one time, it falls under harassment and malicious communications laws. However, the reality is that the police desperately need more training and education in this area, particularly when the threats are posted on social media. Some pernicious harassers have learnt how to game the system and mask their IP address to avoid detection, which makes it even harder for the police to identify who they are.

What Are Examples Of Internet Harassment Or Cyberbullying

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Internet harassment, also referred to as âcyberbullyingâ, is the term used to describe the use of the Internet to bully, harass, threaten, or maliciously embarrass. It can involve behaviours such as:

  • Sending unsolicited and/or threatening e-mail.
  • Encouraging others to send the victim unsolicited and/or threatening e-mail or to overwhelm the victim with e-mail messages.
  • Sending viruses by e-mail .
  • Spreading rumours.
  • Making defamatory comments about the victim online.
  • Sending negative messages directly to the victim.
  • Impersonating the victim online by sending an inflammatory, controversial or enticing message which causes others to respond negatively to the victim.
  • Harassing the victim during a live chat.
  • Leaving abusive messages online, including social media sites.
  • Sending the victim pornography or other graphic material that is knowingly offensive.
  • Creating online content that depicts the victim in negative ways.

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