Is someone using video to harass, defame, or threaten you online? If so, what can you do about it? One such person talks with ReelSEO about her recent experience, how she was able to get it stopped, and shares her tips on how to fight back against video 'cyber-bullying.'
What is cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying generally falls into several categories...
- Pursuing a romantic interest;
- 'Playground' bullying. (E.g., usually done by a younger generation);
- Someone who feels slighted and is seeking revenge;
MySpace, the largest social networking site on the Web, has an FAQs page on what it considers content and activity that would fall into "cyber-bullying", and that would be illegal or prohibited to post online:
- Harasses or advocates harassment of another person;
- Exploits people in a sexual or violent manner;
- Constitutes or promotes information that the perpetrator knows is false or misleading or promotes illegal activities or conduct that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory or libelous;
A victim's story
Our guest, Meri, had a situation that fell under the last category - someone seeking revenge. "A person who used to be a friend of mine and my family felt I slighted them in some way." She says. First the perpetrator starting blogging about her, escalating to the point of mentioning her name, where she worked, and talking about her children and directly to her children.
"It just got progressively worse and worse," Meri says. "I did not respond to it, but I got very upset about it; and word got back to him that I was upset so he kept escalating it."
The last thing was a video blog the perpetrator made publicly available on MySpace and YouTube. "He hosted it on MySpace since it was 30 minutes long, and YouTube stopped at 10 minutes. He actually emailed my son telling him not to look at it, which of course, being human nature, he went and looked at the video blog and told me about it," which was the intention of the perpetrator. "I became very upset."
Why taking action against video cyber-bullies is important
Meri says she takes what's posted about her online that could affect her reputation online very seriously. "I'm a teacher (in the computer area), so I do watch my reputation online because I work in a relatively public manner. I want to make sure that my reputation is always clean and above board, and I like to take control of it."
"It's becoming a common practice for employers to do a Google search, check MySpace, check Facebook... Anybody should be very careful about content they personally put up, and they should monitor their reputuation online."
While the perpetrator didn't specifically use Meri's full name, she says anybody who knew of them would have known that it was her who he was talking about. "They were very offensive, untrue things... He was going beyond just posting things about me. He had gone to the YouTube video channel on my school, and was posting things that were completed unrelated to me, but were about me. He had also stated in an email chat to a mutual friend that he was going to try and make me lose my job. I didn't feel that I should have just sat there and taken it."
Do your research
The first step Meri took was to researched all she could about cyber-bullying and online harassment. Meri also recommends that you should check into what the laws in your own state are about cyber-bullying. In Meri's home state of Illinois, its a pattern of harassment if there are two or more incidents.
Contact the Internet companies
The next step is just about getting the offensive content removed, and further instances prevented as well. Meri says she didn't want to see the person punished; she just wanted to see it stopped.
Meri first started with MySpace, since that was the area with the full video content. MySpace does have an automated complaint procedure, although Meri's situation required going past that and getting a specific response. "I explained that their other steps wouldn't solve my problem, and that I really wanted and expected their help in having the content removed."
By going about it the proper way, Meri was actually more successful than she expected. "Within 6 hours, they had removed not just that video, plus several other videos he had put up that they deemed to be offensive." She says.
When should you bring in law enforcement?
The best way with most cyber-bullying situations is to only involve the legal authorities as a last resort, but it may be necessary if you can't get it stopped. Fortunately for Meri, her actions so far seem to have it stopped. "I have accumulated a lot of documents that I do not want to do anything with, but should it continue, my next step is to go to the legal authorities." She says.
Tips for fighting video harassment
Here are some tips on how others can manage their reputation when it comes to online video:
- Do your research. Regularly research your own name and various spellings on Google and other major services. Look for yourself in video sharing sites like YouTube, and just be aware that there may be content out there on you. Remember that since video that isn't tagged with your name can't show up in search results, you may need to be creative about finding video content that's about you. Consider searching using keywords that would be very closely associated with you, especially where you work and whom you've worked with.
- Look for a pattern. "If someone is harassing you, it takes a pattern of harassment to be able to get help from the police." Says Meri.
- Know the law in your state. "Many police departments are not trained to handle this sort of personal attack, though there are laws against it and its being taken seriously." Says Meri. "MySpace and Facebook are very much against this sort of thing, and they will work with the police as well. I did go and ask both MySpace and YouTube to take the video down.
- Keep a record. One thing that Meri learned is if you want any record of what was up online, you would need to have a police or lawyer contact them to get the content from the site vendor. So what Meri did was use a screen-capture program and recorded the video about herself (with the voice recording on as well). "I have them all saved, I can show a pattern of harassment and I'm in a place to take legal action," should the harassment continue at any point later, she says. Some good, easy-to-use, and inexpensive video capturing software utilities are TechSmith's SnagIt for Windows, and Ambrosia's SnapZProX for the Mac.
- Automate your monitoring. The free "Google Alerts" program can be set up to manage and monitor automatically send you updates via email on any search term of your choice, at any chosen intervals, including filtering alerts for video content.
- Look for professional assistance. If you feel the need to trust a professional service to monitor your online reputation and protect your privacy, consider ReputationDefender, which has plans for between $5 - $15 per month, based on the scope and length of service. Its worth considering for at least one month of service, to compare what its able to turn up that you might have missed. If you find you need to involve the legal authories, Meri also recommends checking out CyberAngels. "They will help you after you've contacted the police, and work with you on helping you get a resolution." she says.