CHANGE THE WORLD: Cyberbullying Isn't Just for Teens
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 2011
10:00 A.M. PDT
CHANGE THE WORLD
CYBERBULLYING ISN'T JUST FOR TEENS
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE THE VICTIM OF TROLLS, HATERS ... AND WORSE
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>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Hi, everyone. We are going to get started in just a minute. I would invite you to move toward the front if you're all so inclined. If you don't want to, you can remain where you are, but feel free to come join us up here a little bit closer.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: We are going to start in about two minutes.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: If you are going to Tweet this session which we would love if you did, use hash tag BH11 cyberbullying. That's the longest hash tag ever! Feel free to shorten it. C bullying, cyber, whatever. That's really long.
Use #suckit, too.
And we are missing Shellie Ross. Unfortunately she couldn't be with us. Her husband is ill. And she may or may not be following on Twitter. So you might be able to Tweet at her and she may respond with some of her stories and anecdotes. But unfortunately she couldn't make it.
>> AUDIENCE: Hard to hear you back here?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Sorry. I have a tendency to mumble. I'll do my best not to. We'll wait for our final panelist while you guys get settled.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: All right.
Autumn has arrived!
Hello, everyone. Welcome to cyberbullying isn't just for teen, which we have all learned as most of us live a lot of our lives online. I'll have my fellow panelists interests dust. I'm Erin Kotecki Vest otherwise known as Queen of Spain.
(Cheers and applause.)
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Thank you. It's very nice to be here at BlogHer '11. Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourselves very quick. Very brief bio. Let them know why you're up here.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: My name is Autumn Sandeen. I'm on the LGBT site, Pams House Blend, which is moving over to Fire Dog Lake in a few weeks.
I'm up here because I'm transgender and experienced cyberstalking based on my identity as transgender.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: I'm Andrea Weckerle. I have Civilination, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, dealing with cyberbullying for adults. Our mission is to foster
Did I lose it? No? Our mission is to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth based exchange of ideas and information without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: For those who don't know my story and why I got tapped to come and moderate this panel, is this past year my family and I received death threats and there's currently an active federal case pursuing the as salient who went after my children and myself as well as my kids' school, threatening to blow their brains out, to blow my brains out, go to the school and blow up the school, so on and so forth.
This was public all through Twitter. I harassed my sheriff's station to take the case and they finally picked it up and we can talk a bit about how you can get your local authorities to pay attention to what happens to you online. And then the F.B.I. eventually picked it up when it was found that there were more victims of this person's online attacks.
So what I would like to do in true BlogHer form and those of you who have attended a BlogHer forum before know that this is interactive. We want you to engage and we want you to take away what you need for your communities or your online life. Weapon are here to hopefully give you that information. There is a microphone in the middle. I believe Jane is also going to mic rang he will for us. We want to make this as interests active as possible. Please, questions throughout. There isn't going to be any sort of stand up and give you guys a big long monologue. We want to make sure you're a part of this. You can take away some things for your communities that you need.
So I guess week start if you like, Andre I can't, going over some of the differences on how your attacks online, if you have been the victim of a troll, if you have been the victim of someone who is a little bit more serious perhaps in their attacks, how you know those reached the level of taking it to authorities.
And the difference between a civil case or a criminal case or something along those lines. We have a slide, if you would like to pull those up.
And Andrea can speak a little bit to that since she is the.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: First can you hear me? Is my mic on? How is that?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: There you go.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: All right. So most people have a very broad understanding of what civil law and criminal law is, but they don't know what some of the specifics are. So what we have done is created a very general slide that draws on some of these differences. You'll see that in just a second up here.
There we go. Okay. In a civil case, you are the plaintiff and the person who has committed the act is the defendant. In a criminal case it is the government against the defendant. And you are the complaining witness.
How do you know if something is civil versus criminal law? Well, you do this through state or federal statutes. But you generally have a very good idea. If somebody is saying something to you online that is defamatory, then that would be a civil suit. Generally if they are making death threats against you in the extreme, that is a criminal case.
So it's really a good idea to know what some of the differences are. Again, you can just have a quick look up here. In a civil case, you would file a claim. We are going to talk about some of the procedural steps of doing that, how you go to your local police department, for example, what you have to have, what sort of information you need to provide them.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor or some other government representative is going to file the case.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Quickly, how many of you have been the victim of a troll or someone attacking you online?
Almost everyone in this room! Welcome to the online world, hmm? How many of you have taken that attack to your local authorities?
(Two hands raised.)
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Just a few. Now, I want to hear come up to the mic. I want to hear why some of you haven't reported that.
Did you think you couldn't? Did you not report and there's there's a mic right here. Hop up. Come over. I want to hear what stopped you from going to the police or the sheriff's station. Please.
>> AUDIENCE: Melissa Ford. I write Star Points. And I think because there's a line where it may make me feel very uncomfortable, but the police are not going to act on it or say that this is a real threat, even though I may feel threatened. And I think that's often the case is that people stop kinds of right on the side of the line so that you feel profoundly uncomfortable. You know that this could be a very real threat. And even kind of farther back there's normal trolls who are out to ruin your day.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Right.
>> AUDIENCE: My person stopped right on the side of the line where I said I could call the police and nothing is going to happen and I actually, we were out with some lawyers and I said, you know, what should I do about this? They said there's pretty much nothing you can do. They are trying profoundly to make you uncomfortable but not doing anything criminal yet.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I hate hearing that. I hate hearing there's nothing you can do. I don't believe that. I don't believe that at all.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: That's one of the issues we find with online attacks and online hostility. There's a broad spectrum of behavior. It can be anything from somebody expressing their opinion in a very inappropriate way, which is not legally actionable. To, as we've heard and we'll hear some more today about people making death threats against you, your family and loved ones. Huge spectrum.
Some of those things you can pursue legal remedies for. Some of those you can't. We are going to try to focus a little bit more on the ones that you can. But we also in today's panel want to address about how to deal with some of the things that are psychologically extremely damaging, but you can't get somebody to stop and how to deal with that. Go ahead.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Elisa Sherman. I think there's two things. One, I think that women have a hard time with boundaries. And I think that we are not really sure where the line ends up being crossed.
But with me, it was a person who was known to my family. They were on the other side of the country. They sent in he e mail they sent me comments that I was moderating. They never went public, but they progressively began threatening me and my daughter, my little girl.
And they were vaguely worded. But you could really extract exactly until the point where the person, female, was saying, you know, you and your daughter should go hang yourselves. And then it wasn't quite her saying that she was going to harm us, but she was suggesting harm on us.
So it was just that little threshold line that never crossed.
But having been in an abusive relationship in college, I know that you just have to report, report, report. Document and document.
I called the Anchorage police department. I live in Alaska. I said you know what? This may not be a crime to you, but police, please, can someone make a record of this? I want to begin tracking this in case something does happen or something criminal is said, that you have a record to show.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Absolutely. That is my number one piece of advice. Before it escalated to death threats on my end from my attacker, it was just harassment, typical online trolling that was making me very uncomfortable. I was not feeding the troll. As we all know, I would feed the troll if it was not for people like Denise Tanton who keeps me in line and tells me not to feed the troll, I like to do because I thrive on debate and argument.
But you need to document everything, even if you don't think it crosses the line. Document it. Keep it in a folder and when you get really uncomfortable, you take it to your local authorities. They may not be able to do anything about it, but they need to start a file, as Elisa said. You must start a file and you must have them at least document it.
And then when the day comes where they do cross a line in your state that is considered a threat, you already have this nice big documented folder at either your sheriff's station or local police station and on your computer with all of your screen shots and everything else. They are ready to move on it. The detective has a little less work to do because in a way you have done it for him or her. So make sure you document absolutely everything. Even if you don't think it crosses the line. If it's just that troll that comes to your blog all the time and you don't even let those comments go through, screen shot it. Keep them any way and keep them in a folder.
Autumn, you can talk a bit about some of the hate crime statutes and how that comes into play in your state.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: First of all on one of those raise your hand things, how many of you blog as minority blogs or minority issues such as race, disability?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Quite a few.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Depending on your state. I live here in California. Depending on your state, your hate crime statutes might cover you. In my case, gender identity is one of the protected classes in California for hate crimes.
So if necessity do cross a line, I need to know what the elements are for my state. I have to know certain states only have certain kinds of crimes that are covered such as violent crime. Other states like California have a broad spectrum. In my case, just read one line here from the comment the person made in their e mail to me: I rest knowing you will get what you and your kind deserve soon enough.
So there was a definite veiled threat there, but it was also specifically targeting me because I was a member of the minority population blogging on the Web.
So like everybody
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: We all see a lot of things like that. They are veiled. They are not exactly direct. You are not sure if you can do anything about it. If you should do anything about it. Do you just let it go? Do you leave it there?
One of the things that you can do if you are on a group blog or even for your own personal blog. Set up those community guidelines so you know what is acceptable on your blog and what isn't.
For a large community like BlogHer, we obviously have very robust community guidelines to make sure that people feel comfortable coming in and engaging in some hot topics, but they know they won't be attacked. You can do that on your own blogs as well. Even if it's just your own personal blog. Set up those stringent community guidelines so no one can come in and make those veiled comments. You know you have every right. It's your blog. Block them. They are not going to play by the rules? Too bad.
That's one of the easy ways to do it. Andrea?
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: I wanted to add regarding knowing what your state's law says. I realize that the law is written in stipulations very complicated, not reader friendly language, but you really want to try to look at your state's laws and find out what the elements are within the law that covers stalking or cyber harassment or things of that nature. Elements are basically portions that you need to be able to prove occurred against you to have a legal criminal case, for example. Or even a civil case.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: You would be surprised, you do need those screen shots. Those detectives may not be taking all those screen shots you think they are taking. You need them all. You have to back yourself up. Don't think the police are going to do all that work for you. You keep your own fall. Francine?
>> AUDIENCE: I come at this from two different angles. First of all, I'm older than your average blogger and most of, a lot of people online who answer back to me and are trolls and detractors really don't know that. They have never met me. So they think they are talking to, I don't know who they think they are talking to.
But those kinds of people, I've tried to meet in a very interesting way and it might not work in your case, but I let all the comments that are like that go through and I try to give them a sort of serious and loving answer, you know?
Now, a friend of mine's daughter who is schizophrenic did that to me and told me I should go back to Israel where people would like my people, you know? I responded to that by asking her how she was feeling. And then the community can come in and help you because not everything is actionable in a court. And trust me, the justice system sucks. And it's hard.
>> AUDIENCE: It's hard to get taken seriously. So not only do you have to get in the habit of reporting those things, but you have to get in the habit of outing them and taking care of yourself.
The male blogging community that I know really well has a lot of ways of doing this. I'm really a good friend to Robert Scoble and he has thousands of trolls and has gotten death threats. And the guys have really discussed ways of dealing with them that come from everywhere from not feeding the trolls to in extreme instances contacting the justice system.
But mostly they let the community they out these people and let the community take care of them.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: How many of you have taken some of your harassments or threats or anything to a law enforcement agency? For those of you who have, what sort of reaction did you receive? Because I know, it took me three months of constantly contacting my local sheriff's agency before they finally sat down and assigned a detective to it. Even after they assigned a detective to it, it took the detective several months before he got going and really got anything working.
How many of you have attempted to take it to the police or anything like that?
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Well, I have, too.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Pardon?
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: I have. The result once I told them again, protected class stuff since I could identify that this was related to me specifically being out as transgender, the response was, they quickly came over and I said, you know, we can tell they have not crossed the line yet, but again we need to document this because very much this is a real possibility.
But they were really, really receptive to that. Again, I'm in a State that takes hate crimes seriously and in a jurisdiction that tacit seriously. They took it seriously and put it on file.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Going to the lie
>> AUDIENCE: Should she still be my friend after that?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: We'll just speak up loudly now. It sounds like we may have blown the system.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Can we get the sample remedies and laws slides, please? Next one.
Part of the issue is people really need to be able to understand if they have a legally actionable case. And obviously, local law enforcement should be able to help you with that. An attorney from your jurisdiction should be able to help you with that. Prior to pursuing that, what you really want to do is go online and look at the language of your local statute, of your local law, even if it's somewhat difficult to understand, to see if you have a case and move forward.
And for example, in some jurisdictions you're going to find that intent, president intention of the perpetrator matters and it's an important element to move forward and proceed with the case.
Did they intend to instill you with fear and so forth. In others, intent is not an element. Their actions as such have to be actionable, but not the intention behind it.
You really have to be well versed even with something that in one jurisdiction you would be able to pursue and in the other you would not be able to pursue. You need to know what the facts are to be able to move forward. That's extremely, extremely important.
What Erin said I would also encourage you if you at all feel uncomfortable with something that somebody is doing, definitely start creating a record of it as she was mentioning, as Autumn was mentioning.
If you want to, go ahead and start that file or see if you can open a file at your local sheriff's office or police department. They may roll their eyes and say here is someone overreacting, right? They deal with a lot of physical issues and they want to see extreme issues.
You may have a case. To start making them aware of the fact that you are concerned and in fear. You are not going in there to say my feelings were hurt. You say I am frightened, I am scared about this. By making this veiled threats, I'm extremely uncomfortable, severe emotional distress and get the ball rolling that way. The tendency people have is to wait too long to do it. That's my tendency because we feel ashamed or silly and don't want to appear hysterical. We need to overcome that and doing the opposite and take actions to legally protect you.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I want to kind of expound on what you said about feeling silly or ashamed.
One of the first things I heard when I got the threats that I got was well, you asked for it. You're out there. You put yourself out there. You put your family out there. You talk about your illness. You talk about your politics. You talk about your life. Of course this is going to happen. This is just part of how it goes.
I absolutely refuse to accept that. That is not part of civil society when we are all here face to face. You wouldn't be able to say to me you are going to blow my brains out sitting right in front of me. Why is that acceptable online? Because it's coming from someone with an anonymous name? No, I refuse to accept that. I made my local sheriff's office refuse to accept that. They didn't understand Twitter. They had no idea what I was talking about when I talk walked in with all of my screen shots and my iPhone, you know, showing this new account that popped up that was threatening me.
They had no idea, but I educated them and I made them learn. For a while I was at my sheriff's office every single morning for about eight days straight because every night, the night before I was getting attacked online and I was documenting all of it.
They were going to take me seriously whether they wanted to or not. I just persisted. And I kept going in. Eventually they opened a case. Carolyn?
>> AUDIENCE: Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: Am I on? Let me just talk loud. My issue is a little different because there was never any threat. I mean, there was a wish. I mean, the person who was after me wished that I would die, but they didn't explicitly threaten that.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: It's that fine line we keep talking about.
>> AUDIENCE: Not only that, but what they were doing is taking what I said and substituting their own fantasy world for what I said. They were saying bizarre things and attributing them to me. So it was a really weird situation because there didn't appear to be anything where they were actually violating laws.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Uh huh.
>> AUDIENCE: Except to me they were clearly violating laws and violates MySpace and directly trying to wreck my reputation. It took, in my case well, law enforcement wouldn't do anything. I talked to lawyers. I didn't actually go any farther than going to lawyers. They said gee, I'm sorry, you are oh he screwed because they kind of know how to do this without giving you without having action taken against them. But it took basically mobilizing people on Twitter to report this person over and over and over again until finally Twitter said all right.
By the way, it wasn't until this person went after a couple of other people that then it was like oh, well, okay.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: You used your community.
>> AUDIENCE: The community is so effective. It's way more effective. By the time you get to the justice system to make a decision, you have been living with it for months.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: But here is I love the idea you all have done this for me sometimes when you've seen the attacks and you contacted Twitter and said absolutely. I appreciate that.
But I felt the justice system needs to evolve. And they need to start taking these things seriously. And treating them seriously. And opening up more cyber divisions. And becoming more educated on Facebook and Twitter and blogs so that they can use the law the way it's supposed to be used. And while I appreciate everything the community does, and sometimes it's all we have, I feel like we are now in a position to educate law enforcement and to help them. That's exactly what I've done with my local sheriff's department. Who they probably curse me and praise me all in the same breath, but you have to. Because we as women online cannot live in fear doing what we love and engaging with our community.
And I know many have left the online world because they don't want to put up with this anymore. And I look at that as friends lost because of a couple jerks. And I'm not going to stand for that. You know, I was lucky that my husband supported me and said yes, I realize our whole family is threatened and there are deputies escorting our kids to school, which was scary as hell. But I refused to give up all of you who have given me so much, for one jerk. I'm not going to do it.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Yet, I can't tell you how many people don't do what Erin did and decide that it is not worth quote unquote the risk. They just can't put up with that anymore. I'm sure a number of you know people like that. Friends of yours or that live in your community. I know them because of the work that I do. That's a shame. We shouldn't allow that to happen at all.
We really have enormous power as an online community to change the tone of online discourse and to come support those people that this is happening to. Believe me, whether they show it or not, they are living this. It is horrific. They are in fear of their safety and their mental health. You name it.
I did want to raise one thing. Even if your case is not criminally actionable, after BlogHer go check out your state statute or e mail me and I'll help you decipher it if you need some help with that.
There are some civil remedies you can take. We have a slide about that, too. Just some sample things that you can pursue in a civil arena. You've all heard of defamation, libel and slander. Slander, a good way of remembering that is spoken. And libel and slander, spoken and the other is written.
You've got a course of action that you can pursue. It's called intentional infliction of emotional distress. Public disclosure of private facts. That's something that people maybe able to pursue if there's private information about you, assuming you are not a public figure or limited purpose public figure. That people have no business sticking online.
If you're put in something called false light or appropriation of your identity, if somebody is assuming your identity, you can pursue a civil case.
There are pros and cons to taking that course of action. You have to find out how much it will cost you from a money perspective, from an emotional perspective. Things often get worse before they become better. But you do have legal recourse in a lot of cases. You just need to really, really become familiar with what your legal rights are.
The requirements are that you need to prove this, but you can very often pursue a case that doesn't involve physical threats but does involve perhaps putting all sorts of crazy stuff about you online.
>> AUDIENCE: There are a couple of.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: There are a couple of intermediate things you can do that I would like to talk about as well. As we mentioned earlier, there's robust terms and conditions of service or community guidelines, whatever you call them on your website.
Where you spell out exactly what behavior is not allowed. And then if somebody does it, then you, or engages in unacceptable behavior, then you literally not only block that particular person, you can, most of the programs now you can block the IP addresses of people.
A lot of times if you quiet them online, they don't follow, they lose interest because they can no longer cause you fear. Other things you can do, in the case of the person who harassed me, I checked up what their IP address was and who was their Internet provider. I contacted their Internet provider. Before I contacted them, I looked at their terms and conditions of service as to what behavior they allow their system to be used to do. And I actually contacted we had the same provider because this person happened to live in San Diego where I live. And contacted my provider, which was their provider. And said they are violating this rule, this rule, and this rule in your terms and conditions of service.
Then even give them the link to their own terms and conditions of service. What happened was, the person had their account suspended. So there are a number of different options.
One of the things that I recommend people learn how to do is discover IP addresses and how to look them up. Using stuff like the ARIN, which is a search, if you do a search on them. There's other places like go daddy has a who is" search, if you plug in that number from who is contacting you it will tell you who their service provider is.
That's another option.
There are always things you can take and do as a control mechanism to, just as they are escalating, you can escalate one level up, too.
>>: We have somebody waiting a long time.
>> AUDIENCE: I'll talk really loud.
>> AUDIENCE: Oh, it works. I'm Jennely Wright. I have a, I talk about limb differences. There's a woman in England who I was able to quell before I got too creeped out. I'm starting to hear from other little tiny sites talking about prosthetics and limb differences and this woman is scaring the crap out of these people. I'm just noticing that she is spreading.
She's in England. Ahhhh.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Right. I have a question on Twitter, what if the cyberbullying is in the U.S. and the victim is in Canada? The international issue. How do you handle the international issue? Autumn brought up one of the best ways when it comes to international things is the service provider because you can definitely find the service provider across the globe. And find out what those terms and conditions are, even if you have to get a translator. That's one way to tack em the international issue tackle the international issue is the service provider.
I'm not sure, Andrea, if you can speak at all to the international issues.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: One of the big challenges is the Internet is, across geographies. You get into a lot of complications there. I can't tell you, because we could come up with a bazillion scenarios here, what the definitive law is regarding that, except it is very complicated. That's not a satisfactory answer, but it depends on the specifics in a given case.
One thing that could be looked at if somebody is being harassing online, but emotional harassing, not creating a threat, not creating reputational damage as such, but it's creating headaches and you're losing sleep and so forth. There are ways to try to cut communication off. To check, have they negatively affected your online reputation? Is there anything that they have done to affect your means of income or anything like that? If that is the case, there are other things you can pursue. Cleaning up your online profile. I mean, there's a variety of things that you can try to do successfully.
But you also need to then think about what is the level? Is this a credible threat? Is this somebody popping off? Are people believing what this is or who this is or what they are saying? If it's just some whack owe out there, well, you can't stop them from saying crazy things. The thing to do is stop them. Some people are more vocal and outspoken and some are more rough and tumble like Erin. They need to learn when to engage and when not to engage. My recommendation in general, as we had somebody who said well, I tried to reason with them and tried to take a soft approach.
You can tell very easily if somebody just has a different position from you and really trying to talk about the issue or trying to get under your skin. If they are getting under your skin, I learned the hard way if you reason with people and are compassionate with them, they will see the light. No. No. Their goal is to intimidate and hurt you. Don't engage. The worst thing you can do is give them the attention they seek. They may escalate for a brief amount of time and amp it up and try to get your attention. If they do something that is legally actionable, you've got them. If not, they will go away and find a softer target. Not you.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: The first thing I did was went to Twitter. I will tell you right now, they were a bunch of bumbling idiots. I also went to Facebook. No help there either.
It was like trying to talk to school kids about a serious problem.
>> AUDIENCE: They are school kids!
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: It was trying to talk to a frat house when you're trying to get them to take you seriously. I was getting form letters, e mails in response. It was extremely frustrating.
I wanted to scream. But eventually with the help of the community, we got Twitter's attention. And then they flagged most of my incoming reports and they knew immediately, okay, there's now an open case in the sheriff's department, but my sheriff's department had to contact them. I'll tell you right now my detective was attempting to get information from Twitter, and Twitter absolutely refused to put, to give him anything without a court order, which I understand. We all engage online and every website needs to protect itself and to protect the privacy of its users. I get that. I'm big on privacy.
When my detective is putting in emergency court orders from judges, giving them emergency threat of life, you need to hand over this information, their response was: Fax us. They wouldn't give my detective a phone number to call them. It was you can fax us with your information.
My detective's response is, what happens if this is a kidnapping and she's Tweeting from the trunk of a car? And I'm doing my best as law enforcement to get Twitter to give me information and their response is: We don't give your phone number. Fax us. He can't talk to anyone in person.
Here we are with emergency court orders and everything else and he can't get anybody on the phone.
It's difficult. But you have to pressure them. And you have to use your community to pressure them. I think we have a question over here and then one back there. Don't forget over here, too.
>> AUDIENCE: She has been waiting.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. Sorry.
My name is Mia. I blog, called Start the Change. Obviously I'm a teenager. So ...
But I started getting bullied at school. It was physical. Things like getting picked up by my hair, locked in a locker and then I had to switch schools and it became online. And a girl told me that they were like glad I left and stuff. And then she wished I would kill myself sorry. And I tried to tell Facebook, report her. Nothing happened so I just blocked her. Tried to stay away from her.
And then one of my friends told me she was writing posts about me saying things like Mia is stupid and things like that.
And I couldn't do anything. And especially since she was a kid I didn't feel like I had any power over her or like any way to get help to feel better. And it was just like so powerless.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Right. First of all, I want to thank you for your bravery for talking about this.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: You have an entire community of women here who will support you. And help you through this. Because of that one or two jerks who are bullying you. There are 3500 women here who will support you.
And I know it's difficult. God, I hated that age. I feel for you. But you know what? You're not alone. It does get better.
If Facebook isn't listening and they should be. You need to blog. Keep blogging. Keep your voice strong. Keep telling the world what is going on. And continue to be brave about it.
Because the more light you shed on it, the more light we all shed on it, the quicker we are going to get responses and the quicker we are going to get people to do things like this.
>> AUDIENCE: Don't be afraid to tell us all because we will
>> AUDIENCE: We'll go kick her ass.
>> AUDIENCE: No kidding!
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: We are a community of adults here. We are talking about primarily cyberharassment and cyberstalking of adults. We need to realize that it starts with the youngsters, the middle school aged children on up and that they don't have the mental ability, the understanding that it will get better.
>> AUDIENCE: And neither do their parents.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: I'm a parent by of two elementary school children, and there but for the grace of God it has not happened to them, but maybe some day it will. We have to step up as an community and say it's unacceptable. It's happening to our children, neighbors' children and it is unacceptable that it is happening to us.
It is not a question of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means we have the ability to express ourselves in an online environment for example without fear of threat or attack. Whether those are uncomfortable opinions or controversial ones, we should be able to engage in a civil way online without going home and having some sort of attack. Please get in touch with me later on. I would love to chat with you.
The other thing that you need to do, I'm sure your parents are doing this as well, find out what the cyberbullying, if there's a cyberbullying law in your jurisdiction, in your state. Find out what your school is doing. Even if this is happening off premises, meaning it didn't happen at school, there are some laws that are saying that schools are allowed to sanction students, assuming it's the same school. A lot of it depends on the specifics again.
But if it's affecting your learning ability, your ability to behave and learn and be active in your school community, the school does have a right to sanction the other student.
You need to know what the facts are. I would love to chat with you afterwards and you're going through a very, very difficult period. I'm very sorry. It makes me angry and all of us in here, we should perhaps sometimes we feel fearful, but what we should be is pissed as hell.
>> AUDIENCE: Amen!
>> AUDIENCE: I'm not fearful. I'm pissed.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: As a community, this is where we rally together. This is where we use that incredibly powerful voice that we all keep talking about we have. Think about the first BlogHer we attended and second BlogHer up to now. You walk in. For those of you who were not there in the early days, I will tell you we are a far cry from where we were. We should take that power and use it for things like this. Making sure that we can continue to do what we love without fear.
>> AUDIENCE: Make it better for our daughters.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Exactly.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Let me give not only one quick perspective. I'm a civil activist. Last year I handcuffed myself to the White House fence over the repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell. If you look at photos of that protest, I'm the woman in the Navy uniform standing next to Dan Choi.
Sometimes direct action and media attention gets more results and if it's a school environment.
If this is a school environment where this is coming from, there's nothing like putting a protest of students and parents non front of the school where it's happening and then when they and notifying a couple of your local television stations. There is nothing like hanging out in front of the office of the principal's office day after day, making their lives as difficult and hard as others are making your life difficult and hard.
So again, we have to assume we have power to do something.
>> AUDIENCE: Right!
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: We don't need to assume it. We absolutely do have power.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: We do have power, but we often perceive ourselves as victims.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Refuse to be the victim. Refuse. Cecily?
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Cecily on Twitter. For me the long held practice of do not engage is failing as a practice to deal with these guys. It's just, I mean, they are not going away. They are getting worse. I think, the way it's moved to Twitter is worse than it was when it was just on blogs.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: It's so immediate.
>> AUDIENCE: So immediate. I have had death threats and very abusive rape threats on Twitter from people. You know, I tend to call them on it. Certain people I just block, but I think you have to say: Look I'm going to swear now, but look, asshole, I see what you're doing. It's wrong and messed up. Stop. It's uncool. It's just, I don't think ignoring the trolls, don't feed the trolls, there are just getting to be more of them. It gives them the freedom and comfort to think that what they are doing is somehow okay. Because there's this whole group of people that feel like they're setting the record straight by creating somebody very wise said to me, what they do is create these personas about us that have no basis in reality and begin to hate that persona and build a whole fantasy around that persona. And saying, you know, you're full of shit, that's not true. I think needs to be said. I feel like if we continue to just ignore them I don't want to feed them and tease them and make it worse, but acknowledging them and say I see you, what you are doing is wrong. It is not okay.
I think that has to be done because I really don't think the ignoring is really doing much to solve, to deal with it, you know?
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: My comment is you start and that's where you start and then you try and not feed the trolls. And then you escalate just as they are escalating in the sense of again, my message is they are trying to make your life hard. You make their life as hard as they are trying to make your life. That's, take the position of strength that I have the power to stop this and I will get others to stop this or to help me stop this. And whether it be community, whether it be service providers, whether it be police, whether it be you
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: The platform you're using.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Right or take it to the brick and mortar world. These all have impact.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Patty Fitzgerald, I have a company and blog called safely ever after. I talk about safety in the real world and online, especially with the middle schoolers. One of the things that I find is that I really like how you said take it to the brick and mortar world. There seems to be a disconnect. We think of the real world and we think of online. It's really just an extension and I do think that it's important not to feed the troll but also to document all of that.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Absolutely.
>> AUDIENCE: But I have a question. If you are being stalked in the real world, you can get a restraining order.
Is there any kind of equivalent for an online restraining order? I know laws, they just keep coming up with new laws because law enforcement can't seem to catch up with what's going on in cyber world. Is there anything like a restraining order? A cyber restraining order? Or would you have to find out who your stalker is and then get a restraining order?
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: The question of the identity, again that again depends on the particular state or jurisdictional requirement. Absolutely, there is something.
I mean, you can preclude somebody from contacting you in an online medium. You can absolutely do that. It oh he not like they are just prevented from going to your doorstep. They can be prevented from sending you direct e mails or things of that nature. You can do that, there are provision also around that.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I want to do that.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: I hate having to give that answer, it depends
>> AUDIENCE: You are blocking someone from viewing you or is there a legal action that says cannot comment on this person?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I don't know that I've seen that in a legal document.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: No, no, no. There's a difference between saying they may not comment about you. They just render an opinion, I don't like her dress, she is stupid, whatever the silly things are that are hurt full but not actionable. They can be precluded from sending you a direct e mail. They can be preclude you had from having any direct contact with you where they address you directly, where they are sending you communications. That is absolutely an option.
>>: (Off microphone.)
>>: Do you have to get the
>> AUDIENCE: Is there an online service that
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: You usually have to go the legal route for that.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I think that would be the course. That may be something that could come out of this. I have never seen something you're talking about. Programs in documented cases of harassment or criminal issues online, we could come up with some sort of online restraining order where I've gone through court and this person is now by decree of the judge unable to go where I go online.
And I don't know if that's even
>> AUDIENCE: How is that possible?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I don't know how it would be enforced but it's a fabulous idea.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Again there's intermediate ways to do that. You can get service providers foundationally do the same thing. In other words, say if you keep commenting on this person, we are going to drop you and not let you ... you know.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: We have about 15 minutes left. I want to make sure we get to all these questions.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: You have been waiting a long time.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. I'm Maureen. My question just goes sort of, yeah, I think the information on blocking the IP address and the service provider is great. It kind of goes back to Twitter and how to deal with that and by blocking them, that's great, but they can still include my handle in their conversation.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Right.
>> AUDIENCE: And it's still out there. I feel like there's nothing. I am oh he not responding, but not responding, it gets worse.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I know one of the tactics that my stalker took was to not only include my handle but go after the people that I was talking to.
So I might be talking to you as Queen of Spain online and Cecily, because she's sitting right in front of me, they'll go @CecilyK, did you know that Queen of Spain is a big liar about ... blah blah blah blah blah and they go to that.
I can speak about Twitter. Getting Twitter's attention is not easy. You have top continuously file and show them stuff. You know, their TOS is fairly easy to decipher, but they tend to pick and choose when they want to enforce it. You have to literally go over their TOS, pull out the line that applies to the Tweet that came to you, show them the Tweet, show them their TOS, their terms of service and exactly what it says in there and send it together. Every single time I would report something to Twitter, it was always an immediate rejection. We don't like to get involved in disputes between two parties. No, if you take a look, this isn't a dispute between two parties. This is one person saying they are going to kill me tomorrow. That's a really big difference.
Obviously, they have some general form letter that goes out for every single report that comes in. You need to go back. And show them again.
>> AUDIENCE: What if it's just on a day to day basis
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Earn document the harassment. Document it document it.
>> AUDIENCE: Ignore?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: My advice is to block. As my detective said, tell them once this is unacceptable. I'm reporting your behavior. Be it to law enforcement or anything else, or you don't have to get that specific.
You tell them once. That's all they get. And then you continue to report it to Twitter until they take you seriously. And that might mean five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, a dozen times. You have to continue to push them. They get millions of these a day. And they don't have time to investigate every single one. Until you push them to.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Right.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: You have to just keep documenting that harassment.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: One of the things, too, is to bundle. When you start doing one at a time, okay, well, then the third time they do it, include all three. Then the fifth time you do it, include all five. The issue then becomes, the more you hand them all at once, bureaucrats, whether they be in government or whether they be in business, bureaucrats tend to respond to documentation and if you don't if you provide them lots of documentation and just swarm them with multiple things all at once, I know when I was working in the U.S. Navy, if I saw a big stack of something supporting somebody's point of view, I wasn't going to read the whole stack. I was just going to assume the stack was functional. That's the way lots of people who function in the bureaucratic way function.
So bundling stuff up together so it's not just a single issue nine different times, but they can see it's nine times the same issue.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Don't expect them to do the work.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Yeah.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: They will not. You have to do the work for them. That's the way it is. It sucks, but that's the way it is.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: Same with IP providers, everybody. You do the work.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Yeah.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. Is this on?
I write a blog about mothering a gender nonconforming child and pre, mothers pre homosexual or gender nonconforming, transgender kids, so I get a lot of hate mail, threats. Is it different when the threat is against my child?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Yes. Because there were threats against myself and my kids, we had to open different cases. So when they were targeting my daughter, there was a separate file and a separate case with our sheriff's department than there was with just me. It was part of the overall case, but we did have to open a separate file for her and there were different laws that pertained to harassing threatening a child, a minor. Than there were adults. Actually, some of the felony counts that are coming out of my case which is now with the F.B.I, there are more felony counts with the counts with my daughter than with mine, believe it or not.
Just because the way the laws worked out and the way the kids were a bit more protected than I was.
So yes, you have to open separate files and there are separate laws that pertain to protect your kids.
I think there was someone over here. I want to get everybody.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: While we are looking, trying to identify the next person who raised their hands, have a look at the screen and make a mental and/or written note about some of these basic steps that you need to take. And the bottom line here is keep copious and detailed records. Nothing is going to be too minimal. Because you want to leave that up to the Court, law enforcement, prosecutor, a civil lawyer if you pursue it in this arena. But you need to keep records of everything.
It also helps if you create a timeline. It's an easy to follow document. It also helps because it shows the authorities that you know what the situation is. You are not some emotionally distraught person coming non and fabricating some information. You have a stack of printouts and screen shots and so forth to show what happens. You can show the timeline and you're well versed. And somebody who knows their rights.
So just have a quick look at that over there.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: That remained me of something I wasn't prepared for that happened over the course of my case. When the detectives came in to talk to me and the F.B.I. came in to talk to me. They were very nice and polite, but they also asked me and did their own investigation into my background. Even though I was the victim. And they asked a lot of pointed questions about, you know, what was this mouthiness online at this date and why were you so harsh?
Things I wasn't exactly ready for. Because they interrogate you, to a certain degree, when you move forward with these things. You need to be ready for that. When the detective was walking and the house and saw the picture on the mantle of the president, there was a whole discussion about my politics and did I bring this on myself.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Which is inappropriate to do, but that's a different issue.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: But they want to make sure that you are not lying, too. And they are going to look at your background.
Be prepared for that. Be prepared to be interrogated to a certain degree yourself even as the victim. With truth on your side and your voice as strong as it is, it's one more hurdle to overcome to make sure these people are behind bars where they belong.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm curious if there is a difference between online posts versus e mail. From a legal standpoint, if the person engages you via e mail, gets your e mail address and gets you that way versus engaging with you on your blog or community forum.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I know for me, the only difference came between getting we had pizza delivered to us by the stalker as well as some mail. And then we had the online threats. And they didn't treat the e mail or the blog or any of the Twitter stuff any differently. They all just considered it all online.
But they did treat the real world mail delivery and pizza delivery and things to the school differently than they treated the online stuff.
But they kept all the online stuff the same, be it blogs or e mail or Twitter. There was no difference that I noticed, at least with the federal government.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Generally it's considered online communication. A blanket category.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: How many of you blog under your own real name?
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: How many use a pseudonym.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: One of the things that people are not aware of, for about $12, somebody can find out where you live online by doing a, like an Intelia search on your name and address.
There is an organization for me, because I'm transgender, I contacted TCops, transgender police officers. And one of them told me what you need to do is to get a box, a mailbox and not a Post Office Box. If you go to the post office, for a dollar they can find out what your real address is. So someplace that won't give out your home address.
And then start sending everything to that address. So in other words, when somebody does an online search of you, they find a post office box as opposed to finding your home address.
The other thing that they suggested doing is you can contact these organizations like Intelias and say I do not want my information on the Web. And they are well, they'll block your information. That is, they are sensitive to privacy attack stuff.
So again, some of the things that you can do is set up barriers so if you think they might be going to harm you at home, in fact I would suggest that for anybody who is blogging and especially if you are starting to get some public interest in your blog is to make it more difficult for them to find where you live.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: It makes a lot of sense, but I also resent it to a certain degree. I resent I have to go through all of that because of these idiots. It makes me angry. I understand it. It makes perfect sense and you need to protect yourself, but it makes me mad that we have to do that.
>> AUDIENCE: (Off microphone.)
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: Right.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: They found our address easily and they used Google Earth and described the cars in my driveway and the people next door and tried to scare us that way. What is with the white van in your driveway? They use these tools that we all use for our community to frighten you.
>> AUTUMN SANDEEN: As always with these kind of things it is not that you are ever going to be able to block all the information. But if you make it harder, then you're giving another layer of protection. I mean, if they want to go into the brick and mortar world and hire a detective, they will be able to find you. That's how that works.
In a lot of states your driver's license, if somebody requests a copy of your driver's license or your information, the States will give it to you.
>> ANDREA WECKERLE: I agree with what we are saying here. You need to take whatever necessary precautions you can. Yes, we can be all upset about the way this works. That's fine. But that is not really going to get us anywhere at the end of the day. If you're a homeowner, they can discover what taxes you paid, where you live and so forth.
If you are not, then you are a little bit safer in that regard. I encourage everybody, if your DMV allows you to do this, request that your home address is not on the DMV and business address is on there. Get all of your bills sent to a different address. When you buy a URL for an extra fee you can make sure that your but address is not revealed. These are stall steps but important. My home address is not online because of the work I do. It is not on my driver's license. Somebody would have to jump through extra hoops, or at least one extra hoop to try to find out where I live. Take whatever precautions you need to. This is not paranoia. This is real world facts.
Let me caution you with one more thing. Assume you write the most benign blog. You have two readers. It doesn't matter. The neighbor next door or your PTA person or whoever the heck it is may take a dislike to you and may decide to take some sort of action against you online and start trashing your name. You may be doing nothing. You may be somebody that nobody knows about. Yet you need to protect yourself.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: Use your voice, though. Don't be afraid. Use your community. They are there and we are all here for you.
One more question over here.
>> AUDIENCE: If you're looking forward into the future, you know, the steps that you are recommending today are great. But at some point I believe we are going to have to find the solution.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: I agree.
>> AUDIENCE: It has to center around identity because a lot of I'm not saying your real identity. I'm saying if you have an identity, there's got to be some way to authenticate that and give trust into those authenticate the identities, whether it be under a pseudonym or not.
>> ERIN KOTECKI VEST: It will be interesting how it all evolves and how what used to be our handles have become the real us and how online and offline are now the same.
Thank you, everyone for coming.
(The session concluded.)
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