The risks of being an internet tough guy
There seems to be a bunch of people who like to practice intimidation online, whether by nasty e-mail, exposing psuedonyms or eveh physical threats.
They seem to think that they can remain immune from the realities of legal action and police investigation. Remember, every unhinged blog post and e-mail creates a trail of what could be evidence
1) At a minimum, their ISP can be contacted to have their service shut down. While this may not seem like a serious punishment, it is time consuming. It also makes you look bad if the police get involved.
2) Blogposts are now part of the pre-employment process. Too many weird ones can cost you a job. If you rant on and call another blogger a feminist dyke bitch, you are telling a future employer that you might have issues with women and that could lead to an expensive harrassment suit.
3) If you harass someone or cause their place of employment to be so disrupted by calls and e-mail that they lose their job, you can find yourself in court. Even if the suit is groundless, fending one off is expensive. Expensive enough that you might lose your home and time consuming enough that you could lose a job or business.
4) If you're accused of a crime, violent blog posts could work against your defense. Let's say you don't like your neighbor, and one day his dog winds up poisioned. When the cops start poking around, if they find a website where you're calling for people to fear you smacking them in the face with your dick, it will not help you. A propensity to threats and violence can harm you even when innocent.
5) Threatening violence online is a crime. If you threaten to harm someone, if they feel it is a serious threat, you can face civil and criminal legal action.
It's a weak way to handle a disagreement, to threaten violence, but what I don't think people understand is that while most of these threats are by silly, weak people unable to confront anyone in real life, the people they threaten may not see it as such.
You may find that "I'll slap you in the face with my dick" threat regarded as a terroristic threat and you could wind up in serious legal trouble.
Most people pass it by. Most people respond and let it be part of their day, or laugh it off. But the risk is someone will have the money or time to turn an internet spat into a legal case.
The solution: don't threaten violence on line, don't publish addresses of people online, realize that posting online is an act of publication and people who publish threats may face legal action.
You know, civility isn't a tool which is used to hammer people. It's been an old standard online because there is a line between public behavior and private behavior. Which is why I can keep e-mails off the record.
When I was discussing this with Jen, she said that there was no law free space online, and she's been online since 1985.
It also indicates a propensity for irrational behavior if there is a pattern of these unhinged public statements.
People who think they can act like thugs online and then go whining may find a receptive ear in the traditional media, but will find cold comfort in the courts.
posted by Steve @ 6:37:00 PM