As a child, when I was distraught over a comment from a classmate, my mother’s response was to, “consider the source.” She wanted me to stop and think
about whether the person making the comment was someone whose opinion I valued. More often than not, the critic was just a bully who verbally attacked anyone she couldn’t control.
Today, with the advent of the internet and social networking, bullying has become viral and all the attacker needs is a computer and an agenda. The practice has become so common that it’s been renamed “cyber-bullying.” The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyber-bullying as the use of technology to “send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”
For the most part, cyber-bullies hide behind pseudo-names or unidentified web personas. These people are truly sick individuals with low self-esteem. Their goal is to hurt someone they have chosen to attack.
Cyber-bullies have no credibility.
Often, a cyber-bully chooses to attack their subject’s character instead of addressing the real issue for their aggression. These tormenters do not use rational arguments and do not discuss facts. They choose to defame their target with unsubstantiated claims or innuendoes.
Often, they are jealous of their victim and resort to name calling and accusations to
tear down the character of their prey because they feel this will elevate their
own status. Wikipedia notes that adult cyber-stalkers usually target someone
“whose life the stalker sees or sense elements lacking in his or her own life.”
Stated bluntly, they are jealous.
It’s difficult to stop a cyber-bully, and once they start their campaign to discredit someone, they continue to convince themselves they are justified and they believe their own lies. This often leads to another newly coined term called, “cyber-stalking.”
Cyber-stalkers attempt to damage their subject’s earnings, employment or reputation and sometimes even their safety. This involves the use of libel, or written defamatory statements that are recorded with some degree of permanence, which includes email or online forums. The stalkers use weblogs, message forums and even commercial websites to voice their opinions.
Wikipedia cites studies that reveal that most cyber-stalkers attempt to directly affect the economic condition of their victim, but the motivation is due to competition on the part of the stalker. Some cyber-stalkers choose to defame a carrier, corporation or an association just to further their own cause.
Procter & Gamble was the subject of attacks from cyber-bullies who accused the company of ties to Satanism and falsely claimed that the president had appeared
on a popular talk show to discuss the subject. Despite repeated denial on the part of Procter & Gamble, the emails still circulate, even today. In 2007, Proctor & Gamble won a $19 million lawsuit against four Amway distributors who had spread the unsubstantiated rumors since 1995.
Numerous websites have been created for the sole purpose of defaming carriers. Internet savvy drivers have designed message forums to start a campaign against their (usually former) company. Some use names that are similar to the company name to create confusion and imply an official connection.
Since cyber-stalkers are often obsessed with their target, a large percentage turn their virtual harassment into a real, physical one. It’s important to take each threat seriously, especially if you feel the stalker is mentally unstable.
While there are very few laws in place to stop cyber-stalkers, there are ways to protect yourself or your company from these bullies. Keep personal information guarded and be wary of those who seem overly interested in you or your activities. Document all of the stalker’s accusations in the event you need them for legal action one day.
Don’t try to defend yourself against the accusations, because it will only agitate the stalker and increase the attacks. Remember, these people have no credibility. If you feel physically threatened, contact authorities to document your fears.
If someone decides to make you or your company the target of cyber-stalking, remember my mother’s reminder to “consider the source.”