The Nutjob On Facebook

So there you are pecking at your keyboard, happily engrossed, busily filling in every field, hitting the Like button for anything that even remotely floats your bobber, updating your status, playing Farmville, creating friend lists, etc..

-You know the drill – just another day on the Zuckerphucker ant farm.

Perhaps you have experienced a de-friending incident or two, and/or witnessed the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory first hand, but it’s nothing that you’re going to get misty-eyed about. But what do you do when a casual, harmless (or so you thought) pal goes bugfuck insane and starts uploading pornographic images with your face P-shopped onto the body?

Or suddenly announces that you were arrested last summer for shoplifting or worse?

Or emails your contacts with lies & hearsay knowing full well that the outcome won’t be pretty for you?

You can do one or all of the following:

Get angry;

Have a nervous breakdown;

Contact the Facebook abuse department;

File a police report;

Get some payback.

Allow me to clarify that last option – I didn’t just encourage you to violate any laws and/or get all Old Testament on the fucktard who is besmirching your online rep. That would be counter-productive to this article.  I am not a vindictive person.

…said the desk jockey who swims with some of the nastiest bags of douche on the planet after the oil companies, Wall Street banks & Congress.

First, let’s address the dangerous aspect – if someone on the Internet (not necessarily Facebook) is making physical threats against you and/or your family, then contact law enforcement immediately. If they cannot or will not help, then contact the local FBI office, but be advised that anything less than a death threat is inadvisable.

Basic Steps

If what is happening is harassment, defined as someone else’s words or actions that are angering, annoying or otherwise inflicting emotional distress upon you, then you should do the following:

  1. Save everything electronic or snail mail (if applicable) especially any emails, chat logs, or screen captures (or hard copy printouts) from the harasser of any website pages where the abuse is occurring.
  2. Explicitly tell the harasser to stop his unwanted behavior and/or contacting you. You don’t need to launch into an explanation. Just keep it simple and then save that communication because you will need it as proof against the harasser.
  3. After you tell the harasser to fcuk off, don’t respond to any further communication from him. As is very often the case, Internet nutjobs are just looking to get a reaction. As much as it would give you satisfaction or enjoyment, don’t give in because the harasser will only turn it around on you and claim that you are harassing him, not the other way around.
  4. Report/Block the harasser if he is contacting you via your Facebook inbox.

If the Harassment Doesn’t Stop

If the unwanted behavior and/or contact does not cease, then your next step is to notify the abuse department and/or the nutjob’s ISP. Since we’re using a Facebook example, let’s take a look at their Help Centre page, specifically, the Reporting Abuse section. Facebook has a concise FAQ consisting of four different scenarios and their response (if any).

Essentially, the abuse department will tell you that not all of the content you are reporting will be removed, and then they will, no doubt, refer you to the site’s Statement of Rights & Responsibility page.

Note here -just for shits & gigs- Item #4 Registration & Account Security. When you created your account, you did register with your real name, and, you are not, nor have you EVAH used any false info, right?

Also, you have been diligent about accurately updating your contact information, as well, correct? If not, well, then you are in violation of the commitment you made when you registered with the site.

Incidentally, Zuckerphucker & others like him have a fond desire to have the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA) stretched & contorted to include any violation of a Terms of Service made into a criminal matter. This means that if a judge grants their wish, then everyone on the planet who disregards or does not read a TOS will be a criminal facing fines & incarceration or both.

You always read (and take very seriously) the Terms & Conditions of a website before you register & use it, right?

But, getting back to our topic – You will also probably receive copied/pasted boilerplate language regarding “certain circumstances” and “severe action,” but realize that this is happy horseshit speak for only if you have a lawyer who is threatening legal action, in which case you should direct your attention to Item #15 Disputes on the Statement of Rights & Responsibility page because Facebook’s slick legal team certainly will do just that if your complaint isn’t dismissed out the gate.

Here, you will determine that any claim or cause of action that you may have with Facebook necessitates that you submit to personal jurisdiction in state or federal court in Santa Clara County, California. This means that whether you live in Oradell, New Jersey or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or any location on planet Earth (and maybe even Neptune) your ass (as well as that of your attorney) will be visiting the west coast of the U.S. for any court proceedings.

The way it usually works is when there is a dispute between two parties & they reside in different parts of the country, a federal district court closest to the injured party (the plaintiff) is selected.  Not so in this scenario.  Facebook adds insult to injury by making you fly to (and file your complaint) in Santa Clara County.

Hey, quit yer bitchin’ -Santa Clara county is home to Silicon Valley. You probably won’t find a job there now, but at least you can say that you know where it is.

But in all likelihood, you won’t ever have a claim for, say, false & defamatory statements (Which is how harassment can & probably will be construed & played out by Facebook’s legal counsel in front of a judge.) You see, Facebook is immune from such litigation via Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Oh, and just one other tiny detail while we’re discussing the Dispute section – Please direct your attention to 15-2 which states in pertinent part:

If anyone brings a claim against us related to your actions, content or information on Facebook, you will indemnify and hold us harmless from and against all damages, losses, and expenses of any kind (including reasonable legal fees and costs) related to such claim.

This means exactly what it states. But let me give you a quick translation into layman’s language as to what it means to the average person:

If harassment from another Facebook user is anything short of a death threat, then you have the option to spend a whole lot of time & money on an attorney, in which case the outcome will be tantamount to a roll of the die.  Or you can just opt not to have to deal with such unpleasantry.

Behavior Avoidance

You actually have the ability to not involve yourself with this level of bullshit in the first place. If it is currently happening (or has happened) then you already know first hand exactly how problematic it is to stop  harassment. But this article is predominantly about avoiding it and protecting yourself from crazies on the Internet.  Once it happens, your only option is to find informed advice and heed what you’ll be told such as in the four bullet points referenced above.  Hope for the best is usually the outcome assuming the harasser grows bored with you and/or finds someone else to annoy.

But all too often, the harassed will not do what is suggested.  Case in point: Previously, I was a volunteer with an organization whose mission was to attempt to help people being harassed and otherwise try to educate them as to how to avoid it, but that experience was like trying to shovel shit into a tsunami.

Many of the cases I dealt with directly involved behavior that the person who was receiving the harassment brought upon herself.  I don’t mean to sound sexist here, but the great majority were female.  And not only did their online behavior inspire a harasser (usually male) to become obsessed, they reveled in it.  Getting them to follow advice was a lot like finding a hundred dollar bill in a water fountain.

After a little while, I soured on the whole activist thing because my endeavors were useless.  The so called victims did not want to take advice, and, when the harassment continued (as it always does) they were strangely excited (and fearful) at the same time. But the excitement/attention of having a harasser was almost always a turn on for the victim.  The only time it wasn’t was if the victim had a significant other and he suspected that the harasser was a spurned virtual lover, which, more often than not, was the truth.

To describe the job as thankless does not begin to touch the tip of the iceberg. I felt a little like a police officer who is called to quell a domestic disturbance, and after pulling off the 250 lb. male who was beating on the petite female, she smashes me over the head with a bat and cries about how I just broke her boyfriend’s arm.

The best way to avoid harassment is to educate yourself and not engage in acts of dumbassery on the web. And I know it may be difficult to accept, and, it may even seem like I’m blaming the victim, but to be fair, the victim did -in fact- whether aware of it or not- bring about a cause/effect series of events.

Internet harassment does not happen in a vacuum. Obsessive people usually do not just arbitrarily pick someone out of a chat room (or a Facebook profile) and focus their mental illness on someone minding her own business.  It begins as almost always a 50/50 interaction and turns bad when the harasser is handled like an annoying high school boyfriend rather than being told firmly to get lost. And the victim usually contributes to further behavior because she is secretly flattered by the attention and enjoys responding to further communications from the harasser with snappy comebacks.

Note here that I am not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule.  This is not applicable 100% of the time to 100% of online harassment cases.  Every victim’s situation is different.  But from what I have seen up close when I was a volunteer anti-harassment advocate, the victim’s contributory behavior is almost always part & parcel of an online harassment story.

Applied in a Facebook context, I am specifically referring to dubious behavior such as:

Sending/Accepting a friend request to/from everyone and his dog.
Disclosing a physical address, contact numbers & naming every relative with a Facebook account in your profile (This includes other family members/friends who have named you in their profile for anyone with an Internet connection to access the info.)

Refusing to lock down your profile either through laziness, ignorance or both

Getting into arguments with strangers over stupid shit

Getting way too chummy way too quickly with strangers

Uploading provocative/sexually explicit photos of yourself and/or making provocative/sexually explicit comments to strangers.  In fact, the best way to get harassed by a nutjob/stalker is to be a tease.  (I’m including both genders in this statement because females can be just as obsessive/crazy as males. See also Lisa Nowak.)

If you or someone you know is guilty of any of the above, then log into your Facebook account right now and:

Remove specific info such as contact info & address

Make the profile accessible to only those friends you know and/or trust

Be selective as to who you accept friend requests from, or lock down the profile so that strangers don’t have access to personal info that the trusted friends have.  (You can learn how to here.)

The lesson you should be taking away from this entry is that if you don’t want to be the prey, then take steps not to attract the predator, it’s that simple.

I want to show you what a locked down profile looks like.  Be advised  that you must be logged into Facebook to see it.   If you want to send a friend request, then please direct your attention to the right side of this page and go to the Prattle On, Boyo page.

Additional References

Cyberstalking laws by State

Moreno MySpace privacy case

©2010 Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™ with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Responses to The Nutjob On Facebook

  1. THREE says:

    Oh (loving) the irony in the sense of (false) hope of being helped when being a victim of such douchebaggery only to find out we’ve been Zuckerfcking with ourselves by signing the whole T&C ‘contract’ thingy in the first place… the unseen fine print (due to overt laziness on our part + heck we asked for it). XD

    I agree: douchebags *are* desperately looking for a reaction, like the attention(deficit)whores they are. (Though unfortunately sometimes their constant provoking and testing of our patience can eventually get them the attention they seek – i.e. getting on our nerves).

    This has to be one of the most enjoyably LOLable posts about FB I’ve read on Prattle. Good one, PF. 🙂

  2. Brent Allard says:

    Great post and a reminder that yeah, the best method is being prepared because FB won’t be much help bailing you out! I recall everyone being concerned that phone numbers were being made public or something and I just thought, well, not mine!

    • Excellent point, Brent. Just today I saw a warning distributed en masse from a contact that FB was making phone numbers available to everyone. This is grossly inaccurate. Facebook has not made anything available to everyone that wasn’t already included in the profile, and, secondly, this particular warning was a simple case of just another FB user who has not bothered to lock down her profile, but who still cries “wolf” nonetheless.

      If you’re not going to bother to understand how privacy settings works, then the best rule of thumb to follow is not to include any info in your Facebook profile that you wouldn’t want scrawled on a men’s room wall. I would imagine for most people that this would include items such as a telephone number.

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