VA Law Fights Anonymous Harassment

What a great step forward in the fight against cyberstalking and bullying! Virginia’s new “Andi’s Law” fights anonymous harassers on the Internet Ms. Geloo had an advantage in that she IS a lawyer, of course, but the new law sets a precedent that could help move forward legislation in other states. I will be speaking to Georgia legislators to encourage them to follow Virginia’s lead, for sure!

Which Behaviors Are Most Likely to Lead to Problems?

A new study published in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has contradicted much of the common advice given by internet safety authorities. The behavior most likely to lead to victimization is not simply sharing personal information online. Communicating with strangers is far more dangerous, especially if the communication is sexual.

Pattern of Behaviors Linked to Online Victimization

…the study found that talking with people only known online under certain conditions is associated with online interpersonal victimization, but sharing information is not.

“Aggressive behavior in the form of making rude or nasty comments or frequently embarrassing others, meeting people in multiple ways and talking about sex online with unknown people were significantly related to online interpersonal victimization,” they continue.

“With one in five youth who use the Internet reporting an unwanted interpersonal victimization in one year’s time, identifying effective Internet safety messages is an adolescent health issue of great importance,” the authors conclude.

Connecticut Woman Charged After Using Internet to Harass Ex-boyfriend’s Wife

When strange men started calling a Waterford woman’s house last summer, saying they had seen her profile on an adult Web site, her husband booted up his own computer to investigate.

The woman’s husband discovered someone had created a profile for her on several Internet sites and included her home and work phone numbers and high school yearbook picture, according to a court document.

Then he found out the person who posted the information was Pilar Stofega, a woman he dated eight years earlier and who, he told police, had harassed him after they broke up. (From Harassment Charged After ‘Vindictive’ Profiles Posted.)

I’m sure the (happily unnamed) couple who were harassed don’t feel fortunate right now, but at least the police in their area took the problem seriously and did something. Charges of second-degree harassment and breach of peace, plus a restraining order, may not be as satisfying as they might have hoped, but the woman is experiencing significant consequences. In addition, their names were not spread around in a web-searchable way (as far as I know) to cause potential problems later on.

How long will it take for this kind of criminal prosecution to be standard instead of newsworthy? Well, it has already taken eleven years too long for our family, and in Georgia, at least, nothing seems to have changed. According to people who have contacted me in the last six months, it is still nearly impossible to get any law enforcement official to take any action at all based on internet activity that isn’t obviously about child pornography, “grooming,” or the like.

Obviously, those aren’t unimportant crimes, but neither should they be the sole crimes police are willing to investigate.

As Jenny Wieland Ward, executive director of Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims, said regarding another case:

It’s good that police are pursuing people that commit Internet crimes…

“More and more the Internet is used to victimize people—whether it’s to children or adults—people are finding ways to use it in a destructive manner,” she said.