Sunday, May 25, 2014

CyberHarassment: Exploring Solutions

Online abuse is, unfortunately, a common problem. It seems that there are some people in this world who simply get a lot of pleasure out of abusing others and the online world is a fertile ground for finding vulnerable victims. By vulnerable I’m not really referring to people who have any particular physical, emotional , or psychological vulnerabilities but rather the fact that we are all vulnerable in the online world to having our personal and professional reputations injured or destroyed. All knowledge and information about us which is out there is available to be twisted, misrepresented, distorted, exaggerated, lies invented based on it, and otherwise abused to present us in a negative light, in public, amongst those who either don’t know us or only know us casually.

We are also vulnerable to this abuse in real life but it’s harder to do and requires more structure and organization. It’s also harder to prove that it’s going on in real life. In the online world where nothing ever really gets deleted (despite the harassers attempts to remove the evidence) it can almost always be located and therefore the allegations proven.

Someone, somewhere has almost always archived it for posterity.

So, while the lies never get erased, your refutations to the lies also never get erased. If you’ve done your job properly the truth can and will overwhelm the lie and the liars even if they outnumber you.

However, going through that process is time consuming and often quite painful because those who engage in cyberharassment and stalking often have nothing else to do. They can (and do) spend hours doing this because they are dysfunctional people living dysfunctional lives whereas those of us being targeted with this abuse are trying to lead active, normal lives and this nonsense takes us away from that.

While these stalkers and harassers are usually incredibly stupid people, they do excel at lying so you will be dealing with their false allegations with the police, social media sites, friends, family, etc. sometimes for years. In the case of psychopaths, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll be on your case for years or until they get themselves incarcerated in prison or a psych ward.

This is one reason why this type of harassment can’t be ignored or swept under the carpet. The lies, if left to fester can and do take on a life of their own and become ‘truth’ by virtue of the fact that there is nothing out there refuting them.

When it comes to one’s personal and professional reputation these lies can have a deep and often immeasurable impact, especially vicious ones like the current ‘call everyone you hate a pedo’ rage.

The more seriously mentally ill the cyberharasser/stalker is, the further they will go with their abuse and lies.

If you:

  1. Challenge their story by challenging the fact that they have no evidence? Voila, evidence gets fabricated in the form of fake photoshopped screenshots, fake pedo web sites set up under the targets personal name as the domain, quoting known liars or people who have an obvious bias, etc.
  2. Expose their lies and their cowardice? Voila numerous false allegations/complaints filed with police, social media sites you’re a member of, government agencies, employers (past and present), schools, social service agencies (if you receive assistance), etc.
  3. Confront their lies? Voila they recruit other stalkers to spew them for them so that they can claim ‘they aren’t the only ones that hate you’. Suddenly you’re surrounded by a goon squad wallowing in its own filth of lies, the intent being to overwhelm the truth with the lies.

So, what are the solutions?

What can we do to deal more effectively with such lunacy online. Aside from having those who engage in this abuse carted off to their local Psych Ward in strait jackets or to prison. While that will certainly help resolve the problem, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and in the mean time we all have to survive the crazies.

While we can’t change the fact that there are seriously disturbed people out there in the world, many of whom have access to the Internet and are going to be problems… there are often small things that can be done that end up having a big impact.

This recent article from Wired provided some interesting examples and insight into this issue:

According to the article, a simple process like providing a specific and detailed explanation for why someone was banned reduced the recidivism of the bad behavior dramatically whereas not providing an explanation resulted in a ‘disturbingly high’ recidivism rate.
The team also found that it’s important to enforce the rules in ways that people understand. When Riot’s team started its research, it noticed that the recidivism rate was disturbingly high; in fact, based on number of reports per day, some banned players were actually getting worse after their bans than they were before. At the time, players were informed of their suspension via emails that didn’t explain why the punishment had been meted out. So Riot decided to try a new system that specifically cited the offense. This led to a very different result: Now when banned players returned to the game, their bad behavior dropped measurably. 
–Extract from Curbing Online Abuse Isn’t Impossible

A solution like this actually accomplishes three things which are excellent for the consumer of the service.

  1. The user has a clear understanding of what the behavior that was considered negative is, and knows that if they want to stay on the site they can’t engage in that specific behavior again.  This creates a solid deterrent for that negative behavior.
  2. The support staff are required to properly examine the issue and provide a specific reason, presumably with the evidence that the person did indeed violate the rules. This has the benefit of ensuring that Support staff do their jobs properly and can actually justify the suspension (or lack of suspension based on a complaint). That is they can justify it based on actual written policy rather than just an arbitrary spur of the minute, get this off my desk fast, decision or I feel sorry for person A, I’m on their side and will help them even though the person isn’t doing what person A says they’re doing, etc.
  3. Most importantly, any sense of injustice or unfairness at the decisions is also removed because everything has been properly explained and justified. This, in and of itself, can lead to self-correcting behavior. Justice has been done.

Of course, the person might find the standard itself objectionable which is a different issue but one that should be addressed by any social media site which actually wants to be a comfortable place for their users. They could have a special forum where these types of discussions can occur directly with Support staff or Development staff. Explanations will resolve 90% of the issues and the other 10% probably need to be fixed. If they can’t be fixed, people are kept informed and things are unlikely to get out of hand. Or, at least less often, than they would without these measures in place.

The reality is that the current recidivism rate for ‘bad’ behavior is disturbingly high on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and the decisions to remove or leave items being objected to are arbitrary, inconsistent, and frequently not based on the written site rules/policy.

Frequently items which obviously violate the social media site’s policy are left while items which don’t are removed and the posters suspended, banned or otherwise punished despite the fact that they didn’t violate any policy or rule.

I’m currently in a battle with Twitter and have been for a nearly a month to get my business Twitter account unsuspended. Twitter refuses to interact with me to provide any explanation, rationalization, or justification for their arbitrary (and unjustified) actions.

I have provided a detailed refutation to Twitter (in several emails now) including the tweets that I was tweeting at the time my account was suspended based on a false complaint, and screenshots of Twitters own interface showing that at least one allegation is completely bogus and without any merit. This has, so far, been completely ignored.

Not only is this frustrating to the user who is the target of cyberbullying / harassment and being further victimized by false accusations of allegedly doing what is actually being done to them, but it enables and encourages the cyberbullies and harassers to take things further and further. After all, their scam worked.

And you can rest assured they will be smugly gloating about the fact that it worked while coming up with ways to escalate things even further. Of course, they’ll blame you for the escalations. How dare you stand up to their abuse and do so publicly. That’s cyberbullying them according to their sick and twisted thinking. Lol.

To Facebook’s credit, they have banned Michael Babcock from Facebook because of his ongoing bullying and harassing behavior, defamations, lies, etc. They closed down over 20 Facebook sites set up by him for no other purpose than to personally attack, defame and spread lies about social activists on Facebook. Particularly anti-pedophilia social activists. Babcock is just one of a group of people that are part of this current harassment campaign and instigating numerous Tard Krews into senselessly targeting innocent people who are anti-pedophilia social activists.

All this accomplishes, of course, is to protect the real pedophiles since those who are going after them, the anti-pedophilia social activists,  are being discredited and defamed by this group of people: Antonio F. Lopez (impersonating UK teen Kree Love) et al, Thomas Schroeder aka Thomas Cook aka Juliet Biehl et al, Julia Ann Larson aka Rusalka Sireen aka Javeria Laila et al, Christopher Joseph Erwin aka Jason Steele, Michael Babcock aka N2KMaster aka CoderHyguru aka Coder Hyguru.

The article proposes the following and I agree because it’s focusing entirely on the behavior that’s exhibited rather than the content of what is said. What is said only matters when it leads to negative behaviors and on those grounds free speech has always had some limitations.

You can’t shout ‘fire’ in a theatre because of the impact that will have on behavior.

CyberBullying and harassment are the same. When you falsely call someone a Pedo or Pedo enabler and post it all over the web in numerous blogs, web sites, torrents, pastes, on DarkNet with personal information in Doxbin, etc. etc. there is an impact not only to the person targeted but to others who might decide to interact in negative ways with the target because of those false allegations.

So, this isn’t about free speech. It’s about bullying and harassing behaviors.

Extracted from the article:

What would our social networks look like if their guidelines and enforcement reflected real-life community norms? If Riot’s experiments are any guide, it’s unlikely that most or even many users would deem a lot of the casual abuse, the kind that’s driving so many people out of online spaces, to be acceptable. Think about how social networks might improve if—as on the gaming sites and in real life—users had more power to reject abusive behavior. Of course, different online spaces will require different solutions, but the outlines are roughly the same:

  • involve users in the moderation process,
  • set defaults that create hurdles to abuse,
  • give clearer feedback for people who misbehave,
  • and—above all—create a norm in which harassment simply isn’t tolerated.
–Extract from Curbing Online Abuse Isn’t Impossible

Update May 27, 2014: Babcock has returned to Facebook. Whether this is with or without Facebook's knowledge is unknown at this time. His usual game is to sneak around using socks. However, his pages and sock accounts are being closely monitored by quite a few people. Any defamatory libel, abuse or pathological lies about anyone will be immediately reported. Babcock created numerous pages whose sole purpose was to harass and defame innocent people with the lies he likes to fabricate. Facebook did the right thing to remove these harassment pages. There are no constitutional protections for people to lie and defame others. If he wants to call innocent people pedophiles or peophile enablers he should provide the evidence or shut the fuck up. While he claims to have Gigabytes of evidence, it's all nothing but misinterpreted nonsense which has for the most part been taken out of context and doesn't mean what he alleges it means. He's either a pathological liar, has extremely poor reading skills (elementary school level at best), or so mentally ill that he can't even interpret the written word correctly. His technical skills are so shoddy that he can't even interpret the simplest forensics software results correctly either.
 
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