LOG OUT A Guide to Surviving Cyber Harassment

About Cyber Harassment

What is cyber harassment?

Cyber harassment is the willfully harmful intent to directly or indirectly undermine the character of a person, group, or business through digital mediums including texts, videos, photos, and forums. There are different types of cyber harassment including cyberbullying, revenge porn and sexual harassment, and cyberstalking. Some tactics used by cyber harassers include threats, continued hateful messages, doxxing, DDoS attacks, swatting, and defamation.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when a minor is being cyber harassed. Usually this kind of cyber harassment is done by school classmates as a way to ostracize their victims from the social group and undermine their self-esteem. The minor may be harassed in person as well, but cyberbullying is the online component which the victim finds challenging to escape because of how important smartphones are to social connection, entertainment, and more in this modern age. Cyberbullies may impersonate targets to mess with their friend groups, post insulting comments about them on their pages about their target, and spread rumors throughout the school or community via digital mediums.

An example of cyberbullying on Facebook

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn is when photos or videos of a person in the nude or in sexually explicit situations is leaked onto the Internet without their consent in an attempt to ruin their reputation and humiliate them. Revenge porn is a form of sexual harassment, which includes sending such material to friends, family, or peers of the victim through social media, email, or instant message. Some people even try to make money off of revenge porn by setting up extortion websites where victims must pay a fee of several hundred dollars to remove the harmful material of them that wasn't even uploaded by them or with their consent.

What is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is basically stalking through the Internet. The stalkers obsessively follow their target (which they call a "lolcow") on their social media secretly, compile information on all their victim's embarrassing moments and failures both online and offline, and then post this information on public image boards and threads anonymously to tarnish the image of their victim and humiliate them. Stalkers can even go as far as to befriend their victims only as a means to acquire more information about them to entertain themselves and the mob. All the while, because of the anonymity of the attackers and the sheer volume of abuse, the victim will feel utterly helpless and distressed especially if unaccustomed to the attention.

Screenshot of Kiwi Farms

What is doxxing?

Doxxing is when an attacker discovers the real identity of an Internet user and releases it on the Internet without the user's consent in hopes that others will attack the user. The information released by doxxing can include full names, aliases, home addresses, emails, phone numbers, social media links, and more. Doxxing is often a big part of cyberstalking as it provides more ways for cyberstalkers to extract information - and distress - from their victim.

What is a DDoS attack?

A DDoS attack (or a Distributed Denial of Service attack) is when a harasser overloads a victim's Internet router with so many packets of data that the victim's Internet service gets knocked down for a period of time. A DDoS attacker will grab the IP address of the target and use it to send their attack, which is usually done by paying a service. This attack is often seen during competitive online multiplayer video games like Counter Strike where toxic players can get very aggressive and resort to attacks like this to hurt an opponent's chances of winning a game.

What is swatting?

Swatting is when a harasser calls law enforcement (usually SWAT) on a victim with a made up emergency situation like an active hostage situation or shooting. Typically this kind of cyber harassment is done on somebody who is livestreaming on a website like Twitch because then the harasser can see their target getting swatted in real time. This is one of the most appalling forms of cyber harassment because it can lead to innocent lives being taken. In a deadly case in December of 2017, an innocent father in Wichita, Kansas, USA was shot and killed by a SWAT sniper after a hoax caller angry over a video game bet gave authorities a false address.

Swatter's screenshotted tweets as evidence

Who perpetrates cyber harassment?

Anyone can be a perpetrator of harassment and stalking, but usually the perpetrator is somebody who knows the victim: a friend, an aquiantance, an ex lover, or a peer. Sometimes in the case of popular personalities on the Internet, however, it's usually ex fans or strangers in their same community who add fuel to the fire. This NY Magazine article speculates that many cyber harassers are driven to attack vulnerable people with mental illnesses or eccentricities due to feelings of envy, jealousy, or insecurity about their own mental illnesses or eccentricities. Although currently some of the most popular websites for cyber harassers to congregate are Kiwi Farms, Encyclopedia Dramatica, and some chan boards on 4Chan, 8Chan, and Lolcow.farm, cyber harassment can occur in many different ways anywhere where users can interact including even mainstream social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Some other notable sites are Pretty Ugly Little Liar (shut down on 7/20/2020) and Guru Gossiper.

Is cyber harassment bad?

Yes, cyber harassment is bad. Besides the fact that all forms of cyber harassment are illegal, cyber harassment can very negatively affect the mental health of a victim and/or the livelihood and personal safety of a victim. Often the target of cyber harassment is somebody in the public eye and/or someone who is already weak and vulnerable mentally, and this kind of targetting only serves to worsen their situation and can push them to acting even more erratically out of distress. If public cyber harassment doesn't hurt the chances of somebody getting a job or result in them receiving bodily harm, it will most likely drive victims to leave the Internet for good, abandon their former identity, or worse - engage in self harm or even commit suicide.

How do I prevent cyber harassment?

To read more about this, go to the page about cyber harassment prevention.

What do I do if I am a target of cyber harassment?

To read more about this, go to the page about fighting cyber harassment.

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