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CYBERSTALKING, TROLLS and CRIMINAL INTENT

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What is a cyberstalker, a troll, a kook? What, if any difference remains between the three?

According to this site, there is a fine line of distinction between them and the definition is as follows:

    What is “Cyberstalking?”

    Because cyberstalking is often viewed as simply a cyberspace version of “stalking,” it may be helpful to start by defining “stalking.” While there have been a number of definitions offered in the literature, the common elements of the definitions seem to be:

    (1) repeated and unwanted behaviors whereby one individual attempts to contact another individual, and

    (2) the behavior causes the victim to feel threatened or to feel some sense of fear or dread.

    Most definitions do not require explicit threats of harm or violence. Nor is there any requirement that the stalker intends to cause the victim to feel threatened (even though some laws do require intent for criminalization of the behavior).

And of trolls:

    But what about “trolls” and “net kooks?” How do those terms relate to “cyberstalking?” Within the commonly accepted jargon, a “troll” is a person who baits a group, trying to get a response or to start a “flame war.” The troll’s behavior is not targeted to a specific individual but to a “general audience” of anyone the troll can snare with the bait. Unlike a stalker who pursues an individual, a troll shows up and tries to get others to respond to him or her.

    ….kook

    [Usenet; originally and more formally, `net.kook’] Term used to describe a regular poster who continually posts messages with no apparent grounding in reality. Different from a troll, which implies a sort of sly wink on the part of a poster who knows better, kooks really believe what they write, to the extent that they believe anything.

    The kook trademark is paranoia and grandiosity. Kooks will often build up elaborate imaginary support structures, fake corporations and the like, and continue to act as if those things are real even after their falsity has been documented in public.

So that is the distinction, a wink on the part of the troll diffentiates them from a stalker or a kook. Okay, so if I were a victim of any of these types of harassment, what tools are at my disposal to decide what action to take?

I would have to be keenly aware of the poster’s intention, sense of humor and mental state. I should read carefully their statement and discern through the invisible lines that this person is A.) going to kill me, B.) make me cry, or C.) off the meds and out of the funny farm.

I don’t have a degree in psychology so my ability to decipher the intentions of an anonymous troll/stalker/kook is somewhat limited.

But what does remain relevant, is that this is unwanted commentary on a public forum in an open environment where people are encouraged to speak freely. In order to maintain this forum, do sites, private or public have any options to deal with what is clear and obvious harassment? Is there even a reason to be concerned? According to this report, the answer is yes:

    Anonymity leaves the cyberstalker in an advantageous position. Unbeknownst to the target, the perpetrator could be in another state, around the corner, or in the next cubicle at work. The perpetrator could be a former friend or lover, a total stranger met in a chat room, or simply a teenager playing a practical joke. The inability to identify the source of the harassment or threats could be particularly ominous to a cyberstalking victim, and the veil of anonymity might encourage the perpetrator to continue these acts. In addition, some perpetrators, armed with the knowledge that their identity is unknown, might be more willing to pursue the victim at work or home, and the Internet can provide substantial information to this end. Numerous websites will provide personal information, including unlisted telephone numbers and detailed directions to a home or office. For a fee, other websites promise to provide social security numbers, financial data, and other personal information.

So what makes this threat (again let’s use this definition – (2) the behavior causes the victim to feel threatened or to feel some sense of fear or dread. Your dread is compounded with the knowledge that the person making these comments could be RIGHT NEXT DOOR, and while they may know everything about you, you are at the uncomfortable disadvantage of knowing NOTHING ABOUT THEM.

Well, according to many ISPs you are given the honor of complaining about abuse as it occurs, but what if any action is ever taken? This site offers some statistics about those cases that are reported through their agency.

Here is some advice when reporting abuse to an ISP, which apparently from my personal experience and implied here is rarely ever addressed and even less rarely dealt with.

The only complaints that seem to be addressed are those with EXPLICIT threats involved. Anything falling out of the realm are discarded and left to the victim to deal with, which in turn empowers the the harasser to continue with his or her covert behavior.

It seems clear to me that the only way the internet is going to address this problem is if the ISP’s live of to their “TERMS OF AGREEMENT” that each person must agree to before being given internet access. Why bother having this rule in place, if you are going to allow repeated violations that create and hostile environment for benevolent users? They are greedy and neglecting their duties as a company is giving access to those whose sole intent is to victimize innocent internet users.

Just like anything that is morally and ethically imbalanced and clearly a violation of law, if no one complains about the abuse EVERYTIME, then trolls/kooks/cyberstalkers will continue to grow in abundance. And as they grow, they will feel bolder and more powerful because of the lack of action on the part of the internet community at large.

When an unbalanced mind become emboldened and bored with his efforts, he will always up the ante. It will take more people being harmed physically, mentally and financially before ANYONE will bother to take notice. By then it will be too late to unhurt the victims.

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About Dawn Olsen

  • Eric Olsen

    Very thoughtful and troubling report Dawn. We are in the same terrain as with troubled teens: it’s very difficult to know when the threat to society is real or just a passing phase. IN the case of the Internet there are all kinds of free speech issues, but I agree that something should be done when the victim FEELS threatened rather than only when there is an explicit threat.

    I’d be interested to know how many people out there have had similar problems, and whether it happens more often to women.

    Thanks.

  • Dawn

    I linked to a site that gives statistics about the victims and the perpetrators, in most cases it women as the victim and men and the perp.

    Not suprising really. The internet merely mirrors and distorts the reality of life.