Have you ever been harassed on the internet? Perhaps someone like a disgruntled ex stalked your social media accounts and harassed people on your posts. Often they will tell (provable) lies about you to your business associates or harass people on your business's social media account. In extreme cases they may even threaten to send people after you on a public chat server. If this has happened to you make sure to document it as this person is violating the law and you don't have to take it.
These aren't minor laws where they wouldn't even come looking for you in the county it happens in either. Due to the rise in these types of crimes in recent years many of these crimes carry stiff penalties-- Some up to 5 years in prison! Let's take a look at some of these laws and their consequences.
The laws about cyberstalking in my home state of Georgia are very clear. They read:
"A person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person. For the purpose of this article, the terms "computer" and "computer network" shall have the same meanings as set out in Code Section 16-9-92; the term "contact" shall mean any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device; and the place or places that contact by telephone, mail, broadcast, computer, computer network, or any other electronic device is deemed to occur shall be the place or places where such communication is received. For the purpose of this article, the term "place or places" shall include any public or private property occupied by the victim other than the residence of the defendant. For the purposes of this article, the term "harassing and intimidating" means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear for such person's safety or the safety of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which serves no legitimate purpose. This Code section shall not be construed to require that an overt threat of death or bodily injury has been made.
A person commits the offense of stalking when such person broadcasts or publishes, including electronic publication, the picture, name, address, or phone number of a person without such person's consent in such a manner that causes other persons to harass or intimidate such person and the person making the broadcast or publication knew or had reason to believe that such broadcast or publication would cause such person to be harassed or intimidated by others."
To translate that legalese gobbledy-gook, the law does not distinguish between online stalking and physical stalking. It treats them the same. If a person has demonstrated a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior they are guilty of cyberstalking. They do not need to threaten you with violence. Anything that effects the well being of the victim such as threats of arrest or causing them to possibly lose their job applies. They do not need to do this themselves either. If they talk about someone in such as way that is likely to cause other people to harass that person then that person is guilty of cyberstalking.
Stalking can be a misdemeanor or a felony in the state of Georgia. As a misdemeanor it carries up to one year in prison and as a felony it carries from 1 to 5 years in prison. In addition, the judge has the power to and usually does have the offender evaluated for mental health problems. If found to have mental health issues the person can be committed and then they are at the mercy of their psychiatrist who can hold them indefinitely until they feel they are ready to reenter society. This is particularly true if that person has already been diagnosed with mental health problems especially if that person is taking psychiatric medication. However, if threats of violence towards another are involved that person is probably guilty of an even more serious crime.
The state of Georgia defines the crime as:
"A person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence, to release any hazardous substance, as such term is defined in Code Section 12-8-92, or to burn or damage property with the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise causing serious public inconvenience or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. No person shall be convicted under this subsection on the uncorroborated testimony of the party to whom the threat is communicated."
To translate, a person is guilty of terroristic threats when they threaten to commit any act of violence against another person. The court will not take your word for it but if these threats are transmitted over the internet such as on a public chat server then a simple screen shot of the threat should be sufficient to prove the crime. In Georgia this is considered a felony and that person faces a prison sentence from 1 to 5 years.
While the laws we've looked at so far provide stiff penalties to those that commit them, so far none of the penalties do anything for the victim of the crime. However, defamation laws may apply and these allow the victim to get financial reimbursement from the offender for their actions. Defamation laws apply when someone transmits information that they know is false or did not do due diligence to check the authenticity of their claims and harms another person's reputation. While you may be able to prove some of your financial losses because of these false claims, you will not be limited to provable claims if the false statements "charges another person with a crime punishable by law", "with being guilty of some debasing act which may exclude him from society", or "refers to the trade, office, or profession of another person, and is calculated to injure him".
When crimes such as these are committed on the internet it is very important to document the occurences. Screenshots serve remarkably well for this purpose. While these things can be photoshopped, image manipulation software always leaves traces so your authentic screenshots will prove valid. When these things happen on a site such as Steemit than this is even better since these remarks are now permanently documented on the blockchain. Even if these comments are erased or edited their original form has been permanently documented and can be dug up by someone with sufficient knowledge of blockchain technology to find the original blocks.
If you experience problems such as these I sincerely hope that person stops their harassment of you. However, now you know you do have some protection against these practices. These do have to be directly aimed at you but if they are you can take action and make sure these crimes stop being committed against you. Be safe and happy steeming!