7 Types of Online Harassment to Watch Out For [Infographic]

Bullying has transitioned from the physical playground to the cyber playground in the form of online harassment. According to a study in 2017 by Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans have personally experienced online harassment. In addition, two-thirds of those interviewed had admitted to witnessing abusive or harassing behavior to others online.

While online harassment can happen to any age group, it’s common in adolescents and teens because they’ve grown up in the age of the Internet. It was reported that over half of them had been bullied online.

One of the issues with online harassment is that it’s not always black and white. Because of this, kids may be unsure of when to tell their parents or have someone intervene.

A sign that your child may be bullied could be anything from being emotional or upset when using the internet or phone or visible nervousness when receiving an instant message or text. As you can see, the signs that your child needs help can be vague as well.

If it is clear that your child is being harassed online it’s important to react the right way. Here are some tips on how to respond:
  • Take your child seriously. Listen to everything they have to say and make sure they feel safe having this conversation with you.
  • Block the bully on all social media accounts. Be sure they they can’t reach out on a connected account.
  • If the bully goes to the same school, contact the school to let them know what is happening. Many schools have anti-bullying practices in place.
  • Know your rights and the laws. Be sure to document the behavior in case you need to use it later in court.
Not sure what the laws are? Panda Security has an infographic (featured below) on 7 types of online harassment and their legality. The visual also gives advice on how to handle or prevent the types of harassment.

Type 1: Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is when someone uses the internet to systematically and repeatedly harass, threaten or intimidate someone. There are many ways this can be done. Some popular forms are through email, social media or chat rooms.

Cyberstalking is a federal offense. Many states have cyberstalking laws in place as well. Cyberstalking can also be ruled under anti-stalking, slander and harassment laws. If your case applies to these, it will be punished similarly.

If you are a victim of cyberstalking there are a few ways you can report it. Minors should tell a parent or trusted adult. If you’re a victim, you should collect evidence of the conversations and document times when you attempt to shut down the person or people harassing you. Once the information is collected, present it to the authorities.

To be safe, you should also block the cyberstalker on all social media accounts. You should also change your email and passwords to keep your information safe.
Also Read: When Was The Last Time You Googled Yourself? (Infographic)

Type 2: Online Impersonation

Online impersonation is when someone uses the name or persona of someone online without their consent with the intent to harm, intimidate, defraud or threaten the person.

This has become popular in the form of fake social media accounts or phishing schemes. Phishing schemes have become very detrimental to businesses, increasing by 65% in 2017 and costing mid-sized companies an average of $1.6 million.

Online impersonation can be tried as infringement to a person’s identity. If it seriously damages the person’s reputation (and it’s documented) it can be prosecuted in criminal law.

To prevent online impersonation, maintain an adequate identity theft protection on your devices. If there is an imposter account, report in to a social media moderator, editor or site manager. If the situation is damaging your reputation, contact a lawyer to help build a case.

Type 3: Catfishing

Catfishing is when someone on the internet creates a fictitious identity for the purpose of starting a relationship. This scam has become more and more common in the age of online dating.

The most popular case of this was when Manti Te’o, a football star, was catfished by his girlfriend. She supposedly died from leukemia mid-season which got a lot of media coverage. It was later determined that the girlfriend never existed but was faked.

Catfishing is not illegal. If it leads to more serious issues, such as a transfer of money, it may turn into a different crime.

There are some common signs of catfishing that can help you recognize the situation. First, the person if the person is too good to be true (a model, actor, glamorous profession) they might be. Their profile might be new, incomplete or inconsistent. They could be in a rush to move the relationship along in order to achieve their goal. Lastly, they won’t want to meet up in person.

Type 4: Doxxing

Doxxing is someone’s personal information is published online with the intention of others harassing them. This could include anything from their address to phone number to information about their family.

Doxxing happens a lot in the gaming world. The most famous example is the Gamergate incident of 2014. Zoe Quinn, a video game developer, was publicly accused of sleeping with a journalist to get a review. Her ex released her address and she was harassed online and in person.

If the information that is released is public, doxxing is not a crime. If the information is private or the person broke the law to obtain it, the case can be illegal. It also become illegal if you can prove the intent is to threaten or harass.

To prevent doxxing, be sure your information is private. Google yourself to see what information is published and take steps to remove it. Make sure all your internet profiles are private and use a VPN to protect your location. Proactively delete your data from data broker sites.
Related: Cyber bullying on the rise as the use of social media increases

Type 5: Swatting

Often times doxxing can lead to swatting. Swatting is when someone’s personal information such as an adresse is released and there is a call made to law enforcement about a made-up dangerous scenario. The SWAT team arrives at the target’s location due to this fake call. This scenario is very dangerous and is used as a scare tactic for the target and their family.

Swatting is illegal. As a result, if the person at fault is found guilty of conspiracy to provide false information or reckless endangerment, they can be forced to repay municipal funds, which can be anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, and will face jail time.

To prevent swatting you’ll want to purchase a VPN to shield your IP address. If you believe this will be a future threat, inform your local authority to prepare them.

Type 6: Trolling

Trolling is when someone makes unsolicited comments in an online community that are random or controversial, in order to provoke emotion. These people are called “trolls.” A troll can cause a fight or upset people while hiding behind the safety of their screen.

There are many types of trolling on the internet. Some are mild while others are more serious and severe. In one variation, the person acts as a fan or supported and then gives constructive criticism to show their hostility. Another one is called “gaslighting.” When someone is gaslighting they present a false narrative or information to make the person doubt their reality.

Another popular variation is dogpiling. In dogpiling, a group of trolls work together to overwhelm the target. They use many different tactics in combination to question, threat and insult the person’s social account and silence, discredit or humiliate them.

Trolling is not a crime. There have been extreme cases in which a trolling action can lead to other criminal offenses.

You should not respond or provoke a troll because that’s their whole goal. If they can’t get a rise out of you they will likely stop. You can also report the abuse to the social media platform and block the person.

Type 7: Revenge Porn

The term “revenge porn” refers to nonconsensual pornography and the act of distributing private, sexually explicit images or videos without the person’s consent. More often than not, this is done as a form of revenge. It can be both extremely invasive and traumatic. Nonconsensual pornography of this nature can stem from sexting, which is when people text each other nude photos. If these photos are unwanted or get into the hands of someone they aren’t intended for, it can lead to a revenge porn case.

Nonconsensual pornography is illegal in both civil and criminal law. Forty-one states and Washington DC have specific revenge porn laws. In addition, if the individual is under the age of 18, the person can also be charged with crimes relating to child pornography.

To prevent revenge porn, don’t send nude or sensitive photos. If a photo is published, contact the platform administrator to remove it. From there, you’ll need to take legal action.

Online harassment can be difficult to pinpoint. The definition of online harassment can vary between people and cases. Mild situations can escalate quickly. The bully can manipulate you into thinking it’s not as bad as it may be. The actions of others may seem to be out of your control.

While this all may be true, now that you these 7 types of online harassment and their legality, it will be easier to spot a case before it takes a turn for the worst.

How to Handle and Prevent Online Harassment - infographic
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