Internet defamation describes online statements that injure another party’s reputation. However, it can take several forms depending on the intentions of the attacker and how the statements are used against the victim. It normally falls under one of three types: cyberbullying, cyber stalking or cyber harassment. Here is the difference between the three.
Cyberbullying is a direct attack against an individual, usually a child. It is a continuing pattern of taunts and emotional abuse meant to embarrass and mentally compromise the victim. Like classic bullying, the behavior also encourages cyberbullying by proxy where others join in the direct attacks through text or messenger apps or on the victim’s social media platforms.
The reason experts limit cyberbullying to children is because its motive is rooted in peer acceptance, power, and control. It is not necessarily about destroying online reputations. While victims face psychological impacts, that distress is not the main intention of the bully, although they will likely feel little to no more remorse about it.
Cyberstalking is the use of defaming material to stalk, manipulate, threaten, control or make unwanted advances towards an individual or group. It distinguishes itself from other forms of defamation in that it involves a credible or implied threat of physical harm, destruction of online reputation or mental distress.
Cyberstalking efforts include false accusations that lead to arrest or imprisonment, death threats, threats of physical or mental harm, monitoring and surveillance of the victim online (and sometimes, in person), identity theft, damage to personal property, and release of personal information online without the permission of the subject. Personal information includes real names (as opposed to screen names), birth dates, home addresses, employer information, and even bank account, credit card, and social security numbers.
The research, discovery and release of that personal information is known as “doxing” and it frequently places cyberstalking victims in immediate danger. It normally accompanies an instance of cyberstalking. A frequent example includes online threats of death or violence followed by posting the victim’s home address or employment information. However, it can be less personal. Businesses facing cyberattacks or hacking of their customers’ personal information also suffer from a form of cyberstalking.
Online threats can result in criminal penalties–if the victim finds the perpetrator. More commonly, social media accounts and platforms like YouTube frequently respond to cyberstalking threats by removing offenders from their communities. This at least reduces the access stalkers once had to their victims.
This is the more common form of Internet defamation. Cyber harassment involves repetitive personal attacks for the purpose of creating anxiety and manipulating and controlling the subject. However, unlike cyberstalking, cyber harassment does not include a credible threat of harm. It is emotional or social abuse of an individual based on their gender, race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual orientation.
This area also includes attacks that seek to reduce a victim’s professional standing in the community and their reputation. Unlike cyberbullying and cyberstalking, it seeks to damage by information dissemination rather than direct attacks against an individual on their social media or email accounts. Sensational accusations like rape, child pornography, drug dealing or mass international conspiracies receive Internet hits and attract gullible followers. As these stories spread, they can lead to investigations against professional licenses and even criminal charges.
Cyber harassment includes the threat to release information or spread damaging rumors unless the victim falls in line with a desired behavior. Even if the offender spreads untrue claims, the damage still applies due to the expansive nature of the Internet and the attraction readers may feel towards the shocking information.
Paul J. Sulla, Attorney at Law, practices real estate law and estate planning in Hilo, HI. Due to effective client representation, he once faced a flurry of Internet defamation and cyber harassment and understands the distress involved. For assistance with your case, contact our office today to schedule an appointment. We have remote options to assist with physical distancing during COVID-19.