Cyberstalking: throw the book at him

A logo of a bunched fist punching out of a computer monitor with the international symbol for NO superimposed, captioned CYBER BULLYINGI definitely approve of a high-profile case which should clarify the public understanding of the range of behaviours that qualify as stalking.

Stalking is not just something that unreasonably-infatuated people do (and even then it is NOT a “compliment”, it’s a passive-aggressive move in a social dominance game), it’s also something that bullies do. Bullies probably stalk others much more often than people who feel “romantically” obsessed by someone, and the ubiquity of information about people online has made it easier than ever to exploit the information found by cyberstalking, as many cyberbullied people are horrified to discover. Cyberbullying is a rancid canker that needs to be squelched, and a well understood system of legal consequences is long overdue.

ABC: Facebook sleaze could lead to 100 stalking charges

The creator of a Facebook page which listed Ballarat women in a derogatory way could face 100 stalking-related charges. The page, called ‘100 Biggest Sluts of Ballarat’, has since been taken offline.

Detective Sergeant Craig Dooley says 60 of the 100 women listed have come forward. He says detectives have interviewed one person but are yet to lay charges.

“The actual charges are stalking charges,” he said. “Stalking covers quite a large range of actions and one of them is using the computer to offend or harass a particular person. So for each person on the actual site, that’s a charge, so if we get 100 victims, it’ll be 100 charges of stalking.”

SMH: Facebook sleaze creator may face stalking charges

Associate Professor Jeremy Gans of University of Melbourne’s law school said the case showed that stalking didn’t always mean following someone in the street.

“There’s a huge list of ways you can stalk someone. It’s not the page that’s illegal. It’s the conduct,” he told The Age.

Associate Professor Gans said there were specific legal provisions about publishing on the internet a statement or other material relating to someone which causes fear. He said police analysis would look at the effect of the page rather than the content.

“Then it’s just a standard criminal law question of whether you did that either intending to cause harm to someone or arousing apprehension or fear or safety.”

Facebook also really needs a better way to handle the continued bad publicity from people using their service to create these exercises in cyberthuggery. A simple flagging system tied to a name-field filter for pages and groups that people create, filtering by known terms of abuse and denigration, would alert the page creator and other Facebook users right from the get-go that their content was objectionable by community standards and likely to be reported and taken down.

Categories: law & order

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6 replies

  1. If you aren’t a member of a federally protected group, Facebook isn’t going to do anything to stop bullying or hate speech. Just check out all the groups that hate fat chicks (Atchka from Fierce Freethinking Fatties has been trying to get them shut down). He’s working on a campaign to get rid of those groups, and to get Facebook to be more accountable when it comes to hate speech of all kinds, but Facebook is equivocating, saying everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to express said opinion.
    Facebook seems to bring out the worst in people, unfortunately. I’m seeing that in my husband’s extended family, with family members posting all kinds of nastiness about each other for everyone to read. Makes me sick, that people will post things online that they don’t have the nerve to say to someone in person.

  2. I’m interested in the outcome of this. I don’t know if anyone was caught when Anonymous Lefty (now outed) was cyber bullied but that was nasty, nasty, nasty. AFAIK they hacked his blog, published his name, and made phonecalls to his employer. Certainly something needs to be done to punish that type of behaviour.
    In fact this is currently on his wordpress blog:

    Pretending to be Me
    Bizarrely enough, there are a few sad m*r*ns out there on the intertubes pretending to be me – commenting on other blogs as “MrLefty” or “Jeremy Sear” (using the same image of Blackadder), copying my posts into new blogs (or trying to steal my actual ones) but slightly changing the text to invert its meaning, and generally being obnoxious in an attempt to sully my good name (or pseudonym). So if you see something purporting to be from me that seems to be completely opposite to what I argue here (for example, if I suddenly start suggesting we need tax cuts and more religion in government and I’m not being sarcastic) – then it’s not me. It’s one of the trolls. Please delete the spiteful hack’s drivel.

    So it looks like it’s still happening.

  3. I really hope Facebook gets its act together. Just the other day, my SO un-friended an associate of his who, within one session on FB, had joined both “Fuck Off, We’re Full” and a group equating the sexual assault of sex workers to shoplifting.
    It did have me thinking up witty one-liners to launch at the person in question, should I ever meet him (I’m visibly ethnic). Oh, the stammering and attempts at “I didn’t mean you/it like that” backpedalling that would follow!

  4. The issue of ‘outing’ is one I’ve only just recently begun to think about. I had a particularly vicious troll, who claims to have political affiliations, hint to me that zie could blow my anonymity. This is alarming for someone who expresses controversial views and also works for government-funded services, because of the potential for it to impact on my future or current employment – I’m the sole breadwinner in a family with dependents.
    It’s made me re-think what I say, and what information I make visible in the blogosphere – a form of silencing, really.

    • Linda, I can see why you would be alarmed by such threatening hints, and I know exactly what you mean about feeling silenced by the concerns that raises.

  5. This is why I get annoyed at the occasional netizen who thinks it would advance the cause of transparency and openness for everyone to blog/comment with their real identity revealed. Remember Jack Robertson, the commenter on LP who’d include his street address as if he was a letter writer in an election campaign, and said everyone should do the same? This is a classic case of someone being a relatively nice guy but completely failing to see their immense privilege. This way of thinking is closely related to the media cliche, “The anonymity of the web is destroying civility and turning everyone into bullies!1!” No, it isn’t. It’s allowing many of the bullied, marginalised or intimidated to become articulate and to argue back and to make their voices heard.

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