404 Not Found

Not Found

The requested URL /spam2/p001.txt was not found on this server.

Avoiding Internet Harassment, Part I

Actu­ally, there is absolutely no way to be com­pletely immune to harass­ment on the inter­net if you ever com­mu­ni­cate with any­one anywhere—none. Some ran­dom creep could, at some point, tar­get you—because he doesn’t like your email address, or your views on a tele­vi­sion show, or where you work. It doesn’t really mat­ter where you’re hang­ing out on the net, or whether you ever express any opin­ion about anything—creeps are creeps. If you just surfed web sites with­out any per­sonal infor­ma­tion any­where in your web browser and never chat­ted, used email, or posted in any kind of forum you’d be unlikely to run across any harassment—but you’d be miss­ing out on much of the value of the internet.

There are, how­ever, some kinds of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that make it eas­ier to annoy you than oth­ers. The fol­low­ing are some of the things I’ve learned over the past sev­eral years of both deal­ing with harass­ment myself and help­ing oth­ers who are being harassed.

This started as one arti­cle and turned out to be really, really long, so I’m split­ting it up into sev­eral parts.

First—guestbooks. Yes, those cutesy CGI things that were cool back in 1995 or 1996. If you put a guest­book on your web site, it is very easy for some­one to write nasty things in it that you really don’t want asso­ci­ated with you or your web site. There are few rea­sons to have a guest­book, really, so just delete it. If you insist on hav­ing a guest­book, make sure that you can delete entries if nec­es­sary, and it is prefer­able to be able to track the IP addresses of the peo­ple who make entries. If pos­si­ble, block access to the guest­book from ser­vices like Anonymizer.

Sec­ond, chat rooms in gen­eral. Unless you chat only in com­pletely pri­vate areas known only to you and those with whom you cur­rently wish to chat, at some point some­one will come into the chat room you’re using and be rude, or nasty, or offen­sive. Some will offend you inad­ver­tently. Some will be delib­er­ately try­ing to annoy or upset you or some­one else in the room. Limit your­self to well-policed chat areas or accept that this kind of thing can and will hap­pen. If some­one threat­ens you in a chat area, you should cer­tainly report it to their ISP, to who­ever runs the chat server, and to law enforce­ment per­son­nel. (You’ll need time and date-stamped chat logs to file that report, and if other peo­ple were in the chat room at the time, it would be help­ful if you could get those peo­ple to swear out affi­davits, as well).

If some­one is sim­ply annoy­ing you, that’s just part of being on the net. Don’t respond—that’s what they want. If it’s a rea­son­ably “safe” chat area, the sys­tem oper­a­tor should be able and will­ing to per­ma­nently ban any­one who is truly harass­ing peo­ple on his sys­tem. If the sys­tem oper­a­tor can­not or will not do that, find another place to chat.

In part two of this series we’ll talk about instant mes­sag­ing pro­grams. In part three we’ll dis­cuss unmod­er­ated forums.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished Decem­ber 12, 2000

Leave a Reply

Comments links could be nofollow free.