The Real People: The Targets of Online Shaming
This isn’t about exploiting people, it’s about helping those that have been quietly suffering believing that no one understands their pain.
After I wrote Google Bomb and Shame Nation, I was literally bombarded with so many emails from people all over the world! I realized I was not alone and this was an epidemic that growing on a daily basis – keystroke by keystroke. I also realized that so many people didn’t understand how it felt to be hit with these cyber-bullets – the long lasting effects of them or how they truly can damage your life offline just as much as they damage your online reputation.
SHAME NATION started off as me — wanting to help so many people, that still so many years later, continue to write me about — “how to do you recover from an online lynching?” and it has grown into so much more. Bringing the amazing Melissa Schorr on board, with her brilliant writing and investigative reporting, we will go so much deeper into the cyber-shaming world. We need to — online hate to be taking over the Internet and we need to turn it around.
I want to share some of emails, names redacted (with permission) that was received through the years. Again, I believe everyone has a chance to help another person. One of the worst feelings is believing you are alone.
Today it’s more than cyberbullying. It’s cyber-shaming, trolling, stalking, revenge-porn, doxing, sextortion, Internet defamation, digital drama and more. The world-wide-wide has become a virtual playground for all sorts of predators and today legal lethal weapon, in most cases, that can take people down with only a keystroke and a click of mouse.
We often hear of children and cyberbullying, however rarely talk about how grown-ups are treating each other online.
If you are experiencing online abuse, please know you are not alone. Here are a few examples of what others have shared:
I am a small business owner. I fired an employee who then began internet slander of me personally as well as my business. She posts falsehoods and accusations under anonymous names. She has communicated on a complaint website with two dissatisfied customers in an effort to defame my reputation and damage my business. She posed as a customer and unsucessfully reported me to the Better Business Bureau. Luckily, in this case, she was forced to use her real name and the BBB withdrew her complaint. She was served with a cease and decist letter from our business attorney but we believe she is still writing postings on the internet. I have lost potential customers and have suffered extreme emotional damage due to her accusations of my character. I am currently writing a letter to the editor of our local newspapers. I am thinking of starting a website for victims of internet slander and libel. Do you have any advice for me? I am willing to take my case as far as I can possibly do so. Thank you for all you have done to protect victims’ rights.
I have a licensed childcare center. I had a mother and grandmother posted their reviews on local childcare.com. I did hire an attorney and he said due to the defendants source of income (works five months out of the year) I would be out of a lot of money. I had clients and former clients post their comments about the defamatory, negative reviews and it turned into quite a battle. I had no idea that a website could post such horrible things to try to destroy someone’s business and life. Please let me know what you think, and if I should find another attorney because time is running out. Thank you
For the last year I have been a victim of this e-venge thing that is going on. I did not realize that someone else exists that has had a situation as severe and as similar as mine. I have been going through this for just under a year. I was stunned to hear you describe the effects that it had on you, they are so parallel to my situation. The agoraphobia, depression, embarrassment at having to tell someone your last name wondering if they have read anything on you, having your children slandered and brought into it……it is at times too much.
My own brother has been cyberbullying me for over three years now. He and his girlfriend do not work and are Internet trolls who think they are experts on everything. I just need some direction on the motion to file. Thank You and God Bless you and your family for running/withstanding the web gauntlet in order to help others.
I was targeted by a cyberpath and harrassed, stalked, slandered for about 3 years. I had a nonprofit horse rescue, and the person who became our benefactor (I never met her, the relationship was online) engineered a crisis which cost some of my horses their lives. It is a long story. But after it all happened I began to piece together what actually occurred.
I was also stalked, harrassed, slandered, by others on the Internet on rescue forums. I have been homeless, have PTSD, and do not take medications. I am standing strong.
The benefactor who was the cyberpath tried to kill us. I had 46 horses and we had emergency snow conditions when she stopped her funding – it was all a setup, she is still on the Internet and I always am scared she’s going to target another nonprofit rescue and endanger or try to kill the animals.
The father of my 4 year old little girl (never married, never lived together) and I had a very rocky relationship for 6 years (3 before our little girl and 3 after). I worked for him for about a year and a half of which time I was verbally abused at every angle. When he fired me just before Christmas of 2008 (second Christmas in a row that he did) I finally took a stand and said enough is enough. When he refused to pay child care I hired an attorney. We have been in a custody battle since February of 2009.
He has accused my older children of parental alienation all the while our little girl would come home from weekends with him and for up to 2 days tell me how much she hates me. Over the past 4 months he has joined many “Father’s Rights” groups on Facebook. At the beginning of August I started receiving hate messages on a singles site through Facebook calling me many nasty names and telling me that my child had a right to be with her father. I couldn’t figure out what was going on so, as he has is “likes” open on Facebook I started looking at the sites that he has joined. I came across a “note” which he had posted in the middle of July in many of these sites which was also sent to CBC news. In this note he grossly distorts the fact and makes me out to be a horrible parent and my older children out to be “statistics” of a single parent. He also states that I refused to allow my older children see their father. I won’t go into the big details but to say that my ex-husband of 9 years was charged with molesting my oldest daughter. My older children have been through hell and back and have made some mistakes along the way but are now thriving and succeeding in life. In this “note” which was posted was a picture of me and our little girl when she was 2 days old. He renamed the title as “in better times”. When you clicked on the link to this picture it actually states my full name as well as our daughters. It took me 2 weeks and numerous emails to facebook as well as the threat of a lawyer for them to finally remove his “note”. In total I received approximately 7 hate messages on Facebook due to his posting.
When speaking to lawyers they don’t want to touch it as they say that even though to them I definitely have a defamation case it is too costly. When I confronted him on the phone about his post his comment was “well I guess you can prove it in Court”.
What do I do in defense? Nothing as I don’t have the money to fight him and I am not like him in that I can’t go out and find an “army” to take my side. Things are so frustrating and I sometimes wonder why I continue to fight. On these days I look at my little girl and she reminds me as she is my reason.
I owned a high end photographic studio which ceased operations last year due to financial impossibilities. I have been employed one year as a Marketing Manager with a company I enjoy very much.
A disgruntled past client (mother of the bride) whose wedding was four years ago has formed a Facebook newsgroup, gathered 8 other brides whom I had notified about the business closure BUT assured them they would still receive their wedding albums, and together they are posting malicious untrue statements about me on the site, and actively soliciting people to join & harass me. Keep in mind when you read all the following that monetarily, I owe this entire group, cumulatively, only $8,500. Facebook has been notified repeatedly and this group reported, as they are in clear violation of several TOS agreements, but to date, no action has been taken.
She photographed my home and posted the picture and address to her home page and put it on her personal Facebook site, as well. She made her false allegations to the local news station and sent an investigative reporter to my current place of business even though our corporate attorneys told them to stop and to never mention their name in relation to her issue with me. Instead she posted my current employers logo and website link to her group home page, included my work number and fax number and encouraged others to call and fax me and harass me.
She presents to the public that I took their money and I am living a lavish lifestyle and defrauding them, although she knows I went through foreclosure this year and now bankruptcy. She uses the ‘proof’ that I live in a nice home as evidence of this, although my ex-husband makes the rental payments on the home for the children’s sake. She sent a harassing fax to my office saying, “I put your face all over the news and pictures of your house too. What more will it take to get you to give me what you owe me?” She posted my 23-yr old daughters identity & relation to me on her site (my daughter is a glamour and Playboy model), enabling anyone who views the public group to know the exact whereabouts of my daughter, informing stalkers and other crazies to find her at home. She informed the group on how to take screen captures of my copyrighted design work in order to have another photographer duplicate it in the future. She commented on some of my glamour model photographic work posted on-line (no complete nudity, no breast or genital exposure) that it appeared one of the pictures was an underage girl with no top on, implying that I was guilty of child pornography!
I addressed the ill-informed ‘investigative reporter’ in a long email regarding the issues, the discrepancies in the clients truth versus mine, the hugely exaggerated amounts of money she claims I owe, and other pertinent information, but refused to be cornered and personally attacked in a ‘live’ interview. However, the reporter made several more attempts to catch me, returning to my workplace and interviewing my company’s business clients in the parking lot as they arrived here to do business, and following me to a restaurant at night & chasing me on foot across a parking lot. The reporter ran her ‘story’ yet did not present but a small portion of my material (everything I say is fully documented and substantiated by years of scrupulous receipts, records, bank statements, tax forms) and presented my side of the story with a negative slant.
This client is also going to internet consumer reporting sites and making as many negative false claims as she can regarding my services.
Because she did not garner enough attention or results with her first investigative report, she has contacted a second news team, and now the main newspaper in town is calling me non-stop at work trying to get an interview. I was also recently served legal documents claiming I must report to court and show proof of my assets.
I was a very well liked and well known photographer with a distinctive style I worked diligently to create. I was a ’boutique’ studio and had tried to position myself in the marketplace to be one of a kind and command higher prices. I had hoped, indeed planned, to return to photography part time in the near future and gradually get back to my artistic career full time. Those plans and hopes are completely crushed. She told me in an email which I of course still have that if I didn’t give her what she wanted (all her money refunded, a copy of all the retouched, digitally painted wedding images full resolution on CDs with copyright release AND her album) that she would spread the word and make sure I never worked in this town again. At least she told the truth about that. Not only that, but her actions are putting my current position in jeopardy. Although my employer likes me very much and my work, they cannot be associated in the media via me in a negative light. Needless to say, in this town, in this economy, should I lose this job I would be devastated in all ways.
I have been harassed on and offline for years now. My neighbors simply don’t like me.
Dec. 2007–with multiple postings accusing me of being a child molester, prostitute, redneck, etc. The stranger newspaper slog had 48 postings accusing me of being crazy a crack whore among other things. May 27, 2008. I have been assaulted with anonymous hate emails and phone calls or just annoying calls in the middle of the night. I am mobbed at the store and on the street. (community based harassment. workplace harassment too. ) Multiple profiles have been set up under my name–which is an unusual one. Friends and family have also been contacted with news that I am on a watch list and I have even been stopped at the Canadian border for this watch list. Google mobbing and more.
Last year around this time I acquired a cyberbully. As a school counselor, I knew quite a bit about cyberbullying and how to help kids. However, when it happened to me, I found out I didn’t have much recourse as an adult. Your lawsuit gave me hope. I went between studying your website. My bully is a Bankrupt. I saw a lawyer myself. The lawyer told me (according to the cyberbully’s record) the bully has a long history of hanging around in the court system. She has no money, so to speak, but lives on a pretty hefty child support settlement from her ex-husband, a doctor. She has lots of time to be on the internet.
I decided to let it go, and she has stopped. Her last grand attempt was to write an email to one of the parents of my school telling them I said negative things about one of their children. Lucky for me, she was one of their former tenants and they considered the source. Nonetheless, last school year was very stressful. I worried for my reputation. When I Google my name, her blog about me is the first thing people see. She names me by first and last name.
I’m telling you this, because your story gave me hope. Thanks for all the good things you do!
My husband is the G.M. of a water dist. He has been there about 30 yrs. There is a group of people & 2 board members that are trying to get my husband fired. They write outrageous lies about my husband, on their web-site, but don’t sign their real names. This is very complicated, but it is destroying our family. My husband is so stressed that I worry about him having a heart-attack or stroke (myself also). Our 17 yr. old grandson lives with us & it has also upset him. He is a cancer survivor & has been through so much & now this! We just bought a new home & these problems are causing us unbelievable stress & depression. My husband is the hardest working, most honest & dedicated person you could meet. He doesn’t deserve this.
They also constantly print lies in the newspapers.
We have talked to attorneys & they just say if you are a public figure, people can say anything they want about you. Thank you.
I’ve been doing some research on this subject, and found your website. Long story short, my husband and I live in a small town (my hometown), and he is the high school principal. Need I say more. We have endured years of abuse from several local websites, is there anything we can possibly do about it? My husband is a great man, neither of us perfect, but we are hard working individuals. There are also political ties that help fuel these websites energy. My goal is to do anything I can to hold website owners responsible. My husband believes that ignoring the attacks is all we can do. I hope you can say that we can do more. I am sick and tired of being drug through the mud. It’s hurtful, for not only me, but my family as well.
My son alerted me that he was one of dozens of his peers who received a defamatory email about me stating that I am a sexual molester. I do not have any arrest or criminal record for anything.
My son defended my honor verbally since he knows his dad is not a criminal.
This email led to my dismissal as a teacher, a sixteen-year career ended.
Many of the boys’ parents were alerted by the recipients about the false statements and the rumor mill went out of control.
My family attorney stated that this was defamation per se since she knows I am not a criminal. She is not a defamation attorney however. I am unable to find an attorney to assist my son and me to recover from the damage. I am preparing to sell my home to help pay living expenses. I am the sole caregiver for two middle school age sons. This has been very difficult on us.
These boys are old enough to know that they were able to destroy my career by spreading this material throughout the community. The children who sent the email are from wealthy families, one family owns fine silver shops in two southern cities. So, they are able to assist in my recovery.
I know that you do not provide legal advice.
Thank you for reading my note.
Since the summer I have been being terrorized (and I do not use that term lightly) by a cyberstalker who is a very ill man in Pakistan. We once did business with him in the interim while we were shifting our manufacturing to Canada. This man specifically held back orders of our smallest clients and began contacting them scaring the heck out of them saying they were scammed and join him because he is trustworthy blah blah.
When this did not work he absolutely lost it and my phone began ringing day and night. My Skype would go off with demon sounding voices threatening myself or my child. He would text me to meet him in hotel rooms with promises of our money back. I would get texts constantly of “You are a horrible business man who did not fulfill orders” and things like this that he was responsible for doing.
It has been just a continuous beat down of me mentally. I have been losing focus, wrongfully feeling guilty, and absolutely just terrorized.
I called the police in Pakistan who told me once that because I was not Muslim a crime was not committed and once where I was told if I identify the man he may be physically harmed.
So what are you to do? Be responsible for someone you believe ill to be harmed?
This man has cost me major deals with large celebrities we were doing business with because they don’t want their name around the controversy.
Reading more about links you have posted to information I can see exactly how these sick people focus things to make their victim look guilty.
Everyone I have tried to approach to say anything to tells me to “suck it up” or even laughs. This type of thing isn’t taken seriously at all.
I am Native American, our community suffers extremely high suicide rates and a lot of it is due to stuff like this. I am a big boy, but I also have a lot of these young people who look up to me as almost “one who made it” and now that I have become the victim of a weird obsession and my name I have built over years with absolutely no negative feedback until this is tarnished I’d like to speak out about it.
I didn’t know if there was a possibility of a blog post on your site where I could discuss what can happen to even adults. I think there is a discussion to be had and I think someone like yourself who has been a target understands exactly what this is like.