In this modern age, the internet and social media have made us more connected than ever. While this has its benefits, it has also created a whole new set of issues with cyber harassment, digital defamation, and cyber stalking. And unfortunately, this is one area where the law often doesn’t provide adequate protection.
There are a few unique challenges involved with seeking legal assistance to cyber harassment and other online issues, which make legal action much more difficult.
1. The Anonymity of the Internet
It’s easy for someone to remain anonymous online. This can be a good thing, but not when you’re the victim of cybercrimes. The problem is that because people can post things anonymously on many websites, it emboldens them to be more malicious than they ever would be if they had to reveal their identities.
If you want to file a police report or sue someone who has been harassing you online, it’s up to you to find out who it is.
There are ways that you may be able to obtain a person’s identity with a Doe subpoena, which you file with a site owner, an internet service provider, or another intermediary to find out someone’s identity.
However, these types of subpoenas have their limitations and are sometimes ineffective in actually getting the identity of the attacker. Without being able to determine your attacker’s identity, there isn’t much you can do to stop them.
2. Lack of Assistance from Law Enforcement
Cybercrime is fairly new and not always taken seriously, so law enforcement is often either too inexperienced in these matters to help or doesn’t take them seriously. There have been cases where victims of cyberstalking have attempted to file police reports against their stalkers, only to be told that without an address for the stalker, there was nothing the police could do.
Law enforcement agencies sometimes don’t consider cybercrimes as important as real-world crimes, despite the real-world consequences of those crimes. Even if they do, they may lack the resources or the skills to do anything.
If a police department is already shorthanded, they’re going to focus their attention on the most high-priority issues, and sadly cybercrimes rarely fit that description. There’s no standard procedure for dealing with cybercrime, so even when the police want to help, they may not know what steps to take to do so.
It can be difficult enough for the police to do anything about cybercrime when the victim and the perpetrator both live in the same area. It becomes even harder if the perpetrator lives in another state or another country.
There aren’t any international agreements in place about cyberstalking, which allowed one cyberstalker to harass an American woman online for over six years while the police were unable to do anything. She needed to hire her own cybercrime expert and lawyer to prosecute her stalker.
3. Digital Defamation Doesn’t Go Away
Despite those previous two hurdles, you could still end up successfully taking the perpetrator to court, winning, receiving damages, and getting any defaming content taken down.
This is good news for you, but it doesn’t mean things are back to normal. Just because the perpetrator removes the content doesn’t mean it’s not online anymore. Other people could have saved the defaming content and uploaded it on new websites.
Your court case can also result in news coverage, and that coverage will go online. Even though the content itself may be gone, your reputation could still have this incident tied to it, because the first thing anyone will see when they search your name online is news stories about your court case.
If you type your name into Google, the first suggested search results may be related to the case, so even someone that wasn’t looking for that could still find it.
What to Do
Your digital reputation is important, and you can’t rely on the law to protect it. There are ways that you can keep yourself safer online. It’s best to share as little as possible online. Any sensitive media or information that you share could be used against you.
Type your name into Google and run a search every month or so to see what comes up. You want to make sure that any information about you is accurate and that the results are from high-quality websites.
Google Alerts can notify you if any stories pop up about a specific topic, so you can set a Google Alert for your name for an extra degree of protection.
To protect your digital reputation and have harmful content removed, you can use reputation management through BrightPast. We can remove URLs from Google for you, provide monthly monitoring, and even create positive content to enhance your online reputation.
It doesn’t cost anything to get started, and it’s a great way to keep your digital reputation strong.