What is classed as online harassment
You should only tolerate online harassment for a very short period of time as your harasser might just go away and you will never hear from him or her again. Your online harasser might get bored or something might happen in their life, which will change their mindset altogether. However, don't be so hopeful and if the harassment persists, take control of the situation as quickly as you can. If you don't, you will find very quickly that your online harasser has taken over your life.
If you are feeling harassed by any online activity that is directed at you or your business, this is online harassment. Understanding online harassment is often the first step in winning the battle against your harasser. For harassment to be committed, there must be a 'course of conduct' (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The posts online do not necessarily have to be threatening in nature, but must be oppressive and need to have caused some alarm or distress.
Online abuse often demonstrates itself by way of harassment. The abuse is intended to ridicule the victim and either deliberately or inadvertently, cause the victim harassment and distress. Many of our clients who approach us for online abuse legal help, do so after a long period of silence, having been advised by various authorities to ignore the online abuse, as if that would make it disappear. This type of advice is the same as asking a bullied child to shut her ears and close her eyes to make abusive comments go away and disappear.
Often, if you are a victim of severe online abuse, legal help will reveal to you that the most relevant criminal offences that are committed against you, are harassment and malicious communications. For harassment to be committed, there must be a course of conduct (occurring two or more times), which happens on the internet by default even if the abuse has only been posted once. The penalties for online abuse can include fines, imprisonment or both.
Online abuse is often a course of conduct which causes the victim to feel alarmed and distressed. Each individual had their own level of tolerance so although not every abuse is necessarily harassment, whenever the online abuse is starting the cause the victim to feel distress, it is safe to say that the abuse is in fact harassment.
Often you will find that harassment on the internet is not being taken a seriously as it should. People might not understand why you feel harassed by something which is written online. The reality is that online harassment and offline harassment are the same thing and in terms of the law, they should both be treated the same way.
However, the reality is that the authorities tend to treat harassment which occurs offline more seriously than harassment which occurs online. The reason for this is that often the police do not understand online harassment and how the internet works and as a result police officers often tell victims of online harassment that unless there was a physical aspect to the harassment, the police cannot help. Many victims of online harassment don’t know whether to plead with their harasser to stop harassing them. Although in most cases, you can predict how an online harasser will react to such request.
"I've had torment all my life. Bullying for me has been horrendous and it took too long. I must say it has been hard for me to really speak up and even my own parents didn't actually realise how bad it was because I kept it to myself."
You should never engage with your harasser. If you engage, it is likely that this will negate an element of the harassment, which often involves unwanted contact. Because of the lack of understanding of online harassment by the police, victims of online harassment often are left unaware of what areas of law are being broken by their harasser, which means they don’t know what can be done to stop the harassment. They only know how they feel. Often hopeless and isolated, in the same way that victims of offline harassment feel.
Public organisations that are meant to help victims of online harassment, can’t or don’t, for whatever reason. Victims of online harassment are often told that there are no areas of law being broken when they report the online harassment to the police. Possibly understandable, due to the complexities of Internet Law cases and the global reach of the internet. Possibly understandable due to the lack of knowledge or education by front desk police officers but not understandable to the victims. Rejection by those that you turn to for help can push you lower.
You may be considering private prosecution for online harassment but are unsure about what is involved. You may wonder if you can obtain an urgent or interim injunction to stop the publication of something online that is impending. There are other options too, such as asking a lawyer to engage with your harasser on your behalf. This often can be a practical solution to ensure that your harasser is starting to become aware that their harassing behaviour is unlawful and that there could be consequences to them should the continue. The key is understanding online harassment, how it works and how to best handle each of the situations.
We are passionate about helping people get their lives back after the multitude of issues that they have faced with the online harassment campaigns against them and we will do whatever it takes to take it to the end with successful online harassment cases with tight long term remedies. We see each case as a personal mission. You can read here about frequently asked questions about understanding online harassment. Do get in touch and see how we can help you: 0800 612 7211.