Monday, April 30, 2007

women bloggers and cyberharassment

For the last 10 years, I have been working on protecting people online. While I am perhaps best known for our work in protecting kids online, we actually started by protecting women from cyberstalking and harassment.

Over the years, after handling thousands upon thousands of cyberstalking and harassment cases through our corps of trained volunteers at's cyberstalking and harassment team, we have seen a few shifts. Women used to be the victim of any cyberstalking case at least 90% of the time. The same percentage represented the ratio of men as cyberstalkers. But in recent years, we are seeing some changes. Women are more often cyberstalking each other and men, than ever before. We are seeing about 60% of the victims still being women, byt the poercentage of cyberstalkers who are women has increased from about 10% to about 40%.
we are also seeing large increases in women cyberstalking other women.

Most still have a relationship to their stalkers...former romantic relationships, work relationships, family relationships...something in real life.

Real or imagined.

But when women are cybercelebrities, this all changes. Just like their offline counterparts, cyber-celebs have their stalkers, fans and hate groups. But it's alot easier to harass someone online, when you think you are invisible, anonymous and won't be held accountable for your actions.

"Free speech" is shouted in the blogosphere...for good reason. The Internet is a place to share ideas, controversial and mundane. But words can cross the line into unprotected speech...defamation, hate, threats...none of these are protected. And those misusing words may find themselves on the losing side of a lawsuit, or behind bars, even.

what can we do?

protect ourselves, first and foremost. Use privacy settings and tech controls to lock out crackpots, and keep an eye-out for any hateful or harassing comments, rankings, images or campaigns. Make sure that all comments are moderated, so you have to approve anything that goes live. You can delete a crackpot's comment far more easily before it is posted, than afterwards.

Google yourself and set alerts for you online, to spot things before they grow out of control.

(check this out at

and get help.

don't make it worse by announcing the attack, don't give them the attention they are craving.

and stand together.


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Parry Aftab is interested in hearing ideas and questions about digital safety, privacy and cybersense. Please do not advertise or promote services or products or include a link, video or image in your comment.

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Note that Parry Aftab does not respond to legal questions and cannot address specific issues about reported abuse.She cannot be retained as legal counsel online, and any prospective client must sign a retainer agreement before becoming a legal client of Ms. Aftab. Any legal discussions are educational and informational only and anything submitted may be made public on this blog.

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