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OUGD501 - Facebook Cyberstalking (Case Study)

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Los Angeles -- A warning about the information you put out on Facebook: What you share with your many "friends" could make you an easy target for cyber stalking.

Becky, who asked that we not use her last name, accepted a friend request from Arutyan Haroot Pashayan. It seemed innocent but she says it turned her life upside down. What Becky didn't realize is that Pashayan was keeping a close eye on her Facebook posts.

If she posted she'd be attending a party, Becky says Pashayan would show up.

"He actually believed that he knew who I was and I was meant to be with him. That I was in love with him off of what he read on my Facebook," she said.

Becky deleted and blocked Pashayan on Facebook, and also filed a restraining order which states he must stay away and stop all forms of communication. But that didn't stop him. What happened next, terrified Becky. She doesn't understand why Pashayan hasn't been arrested even though she says he violated the restraining order.

Her advice to women on Facebook -- don't accept friend requests from people you don't know, and be cognizant of all the information you put on your status. People could be following your every move and you may not even know it until it's too late.




Trolls and Cyberstalkers



For now, until I can compile a good write up of my own, I have listed here for you the resources I suggest follow up on. These resources and new sites will be maintained and added even after I publish my own write-up.


Trolls

What is a troll? An Internet troll is an person who constructs an online identity and use it on message boards and discussion groups for specific abuse purposes. Note that when trolls operate in teams they are more difficult to recognize. What do we mean by teams? Usually, if a person has caused havoc on an online community, and have been banned, they will have friends join in. Usually this is more for a personal agenda.

What motivates trolling? 

There are many motives but the most common is attention. It’s been my experience that most troll’s objectives are to gain the attention of the community or particular members. They will create fake personas or change their persona to better fit the interests of their targets.

How do I recognize a troll?

 It is never easy to tell them apart from genuine posters especially when they do not disclose their goal immediately. We have seen cases where trolls took several months to build support in the community before starting their trolling activity in the open. Contrary to what most people may imagine, their contribution to the community may be positive and supportive at first.
Spamming troll: Posts to many newsgroups with the same verbatim post.
Kooks: A regular member of a forum who habitually drops comments that have no basis on the topic or even in reality.

Flamer: Does not contribute to the group except by making inflammatory comments.
Hit-and-runner: Stops in, make one or two posts and move on.
Psycho trolls: Has a psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad.

How to deal with them? Trolls are best to be ignored.

DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. This is our best recommendation. Use the Ignore button at the top right of the posts and avoid the topics that look artificially controversial. Do not reply to these bait posts and do not communicate any personal information. In support communities, the troll will often pose as a victim. They will seek your support and trust.

Even if your reaction sheds light on the troll or exposes them in some fashion, these type of people will thrive off any attention you give them. Trolls have no impact on a community if people do not respond to them.

You should not publicly post about troll suspicions, PM the webmaster if you feel that there is a case for a potential troll. Usually, and experience webmaster is already onto the troll. A troll will thrive on your attention and those who will follow you. Whether the attention is positive or negative it serves the troll’s purpose. The best course of action is to shun the trolls and not address them or talk about them at all.


Cyber-stalkers


Sadly, 3 of the Troll Police Webmasters have had to personally deal with cyber-stalking. And, I, will admit it can be frustrating and very easy to react in a negative way. I myself has lost control and reacted in an unbecoming way after my husband and I was followed and harassed for 3 years by a “scorned” woman. Soon after my initial reaction I realized my mistake. It’s natural to want to defend your rights as an individual and your family.

My personal experience was with a woman that my husband met prior to meeting me. She simply could not accept that he was not interested when they met, and when it was discovered down the road that he had met me, she came back online and relentlessly harassed us. I am much more vocal about it now and the experience was a partial catalyst for this Web site. Half way through the ordeal I started doing research. Of course, I had already had my fair share of experiences with trolls, so the research was beneficial in many ways. Prior to my own stalking experience, I had helped another webmaster and friend deal with her own. I suppose at the time I couldn’t really appreciate her situation. It wasn’t until a year into my own experience did I realize how frustrating it can be.

As I said, my original reaction wasn’t a positive one. And when the situation presents itself again, it can be difficult to maintain the higher ground. But Will prevails. I have re-evaluated the situation and realized that I have the unique opportunity to do something POSITIVE about it, after all, I made my career from the Internet. So, what to do? After getting together with my husband and some friends, it was pointed out that I was rather good at tracking down trolls — and busting them. Troll Police became realized. It is our intention to bust and reveal the most hardcore cases of trolling and cyber-stalking that we encounter. It’s not fun when a troll becomes a victim of their own game, especially if they use the Internet to create fake personas for ill intent.

I have found that the idea of sharing our experiences and exposing some of the trolls and cyber-stalkers that has crossed our paths, its both a creative and healthy outlet for us and the victims. It serves several purposes:

1. Informs the public and potential victims that could be a target of trolls and even a stalker.

2. Illustrates how trolls work by providing actual cases, screen names, forum examples and behavior.

3. Exposes the troll without giving them direct attention. But does get the point across.

Now, being a person of integrity, I will admit that there is some satisfaction in taking action against some of the trolls and stalkers that I and my colleagues have had to deal with. And, although I focus on personal experiences of mine and my colleagues, revenge or vendetta is not our purpose. Our purpose as Webmasters and people is to fight back in a positive way.

The profiles are not a shot at the troll. But we don’t have the inclination to protect their identity either. After all, they’ve showed no respect for others and in our opinion should be exposed. Additionally, this provides actual examples of what trolling is, some of the motives and how to identify trolls on your community. Also, it illustrates how a person can use the Internet to stalk their target… and what can be done about it.

Here is an excellent source of information about Cyber-stalking:

Do you know who the CS is? Do you think you know who it is? Do you have the CS’s online identity, e-mail address, other information?

What:

What information does the CS know about you? What kind of information do you have posted online? (e.g. photos, profiles, signatures, e-business cards, personal ads, messages, family web pages) What information is available about you on the web? Do a web search with your name in quotes. (e.g.“Jane Doe”) Is your telephone and address listed in the white pages? When, Where, and How … Collecting Evidence:

Do you have e-mails, voice messages, letters, etc… from the CS? Save EVERYTHING! Did you keep your own notes about the events? These can be used to create an events journal.

Preparation:

According to Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) 35.87% of online harassment cases are resolved by contacting the harasser’s ISP/e-mail provider. While this will work in many cases, be prepared to take more drastic measures. If you are under 18, tell your parent or guardian about the harassment. It may be awkward or embarrassing, but you must remember SAFETY FIRST! Secure your house.

Local police departments will usually be happy to have someone stop by and give you pointers and tips on how to do this. Come up with a plan. Think about different situations where the CS might have access to you (home, work, shopping) and think about what you will do if the CS shows up (Yell, “get away from me” loud enough for the world to hear, carry a small air horn that will draw everyone’s attention, run, fight if necessary) Thinking about these things clearly and logically before hand can greatly assist you should the events become reality. Imagine different situations and how you would get out of them. Understanding where the CS got the information from will assist you in determining your level of security and plan for any future action of the CS. Let friends, family, teachers, and co-workers know about your situation. Tell them not to give out any information about you or your family to anyone. This will also help to assure that your acquaintances will not be caught off guard or think you are overreacting if the CS shows up.

The response:

Now, it is time to take action. Respond to the CS ONE time and ONE time only. Your response should be short, simple, and to the point. No explanations are needed. After you send this letter DO NOT EVER send any more. This might encourage the CS to continue. (Sample letter: I am ending this relationship. Do not contact me in any way shape or form or I will take legal action.)

Follow-up:

Alright, you took action. Now it is time to make sure you watch out for your safety and collect any further evidence.

Do not hesitate to contact your local police department if you feel uneasy. Make sure you keep track of any events in your events journal. Remember not to talk to or write to the CS. Hang up, log out, but do not respond. If the CS decides to call you at home, you may want to have an answering machine with removeable tapes available. If the CS leaves a message remove the tape, label it to coincide with your events journal and place a fresh tape into your answering machine. Continue to save letters, e-mails, chat logs. Save any messages you might find on message boards that the CS posted about you. If the CS created a web page or website on you save the entire website to your computer. Also, have a trusted friend or family member save a copy to their computer incase something happens to yours.

Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) offers assistance to victims of online harassment. You can locate them on the web at http://www.haltabuse.org

(source:http://www.nccasa.org/teen/TheScoop/DealingwithaCyberStalker.html)

Finally, something is happening legally: Cyber-stalker faces sentence today.

Some resources:

WHOA is a volunteer organization founded in 1997 to fight online harassment through education of the general public, education of law enforcement personnel, and empowerment of victims. We’ve also formulated voluntary policies which we encourage online communities to adopt in order to create safe and welcoming environments for all internet users.
http://www.haltabuse.org

Cyber911 Emergency: These are the most frequently asked questions we receive about cyberstalking and/or harassment. We have more extensive information about cyberstalking and cyberharassment, as well as one-to-one help and a self-help interactive guide and tutorial.
http://www.wiredsafety.org/cyberstalking_harassment/stalker.html

Cyberstalking: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberstalking

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