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Last Updated: 29-Oct-2013
Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services: Online Harassment

What is Online Harassment?

Online harassment is the use the of electronic communications directed at an individual that causes that individual substantial emotional distress and which serves no legitimate purpose. Some forms of online harassment include...

  • Unwanted / unsolicited e-mail
  • Unwanted / unsolicited chat or instant messages
  • Defamatory or derogatory statements about you posted on web pages, message boards and in guest books
  • Unsolicited comments about you to others
  • Encouraging others to harass you

Stalking includes the additional element of involving a threat with a direct intent to cause imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury.

Obnoxious people, unpopular ideas, "spam" e-mail, or simple disagreements are not harassment.

What should I do if I am being stalked or harassed online?

  1. Tell the harasser to cease and desist, once. Be straight forward: tell them once, and then break off all further communication with them. If you are in IM or chat, log off immediately and stay off-line for at least 24 hours.
  2. Do not respond to anything else the harasser says. No replies to emails, taunts or lies said about you. Harassment is a form of power over you. If you take that power away from the harasser and refuse to play their game, most of them will lose interest quickly when they don't get the reaction they seek.
  3. If the problem only exists IM or chat, go off-line and change your online identity. This means changing your nickname and all the information you have listed in your profile. Everything must be changed.
  4. Block the user from your social networking page or from e-mailing you.
  5. If you are being harassed via email, contact the harasser's ISP (Internet Service Provider) and make a complaint.
  6. Stay out of problem chat rooms.
  7. If the threats are posted on a Web page, save the entire screen, including the URL, and print it. Bookmarking it is not enough, because the harasser/stalker can alter their Web site.
  8. Don't give out your online ID except to trusted friends and tell them not to give it out to anyone else.
  9. Be certain all of your online profiles do not contain any personally identifying information about you, such as age, sex, address, phone number, school attended and teams you play on or where you work.
  10. Be sure logging is enabled in your IM and chat clients and keep emails. You need to keep all log files and emails that pertain to your harasser for evidence.

  11. If you feel that you or your family is in physical danger from a stalker, or the stalker knows where you live and has made physical threats against you - CALL YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IMMEDIATELY!

Stalking and harassing via electronic communication is illegal in Montana. Persons convicted of these offenses face both fines and jail time.
MCA 45-8-213 Privacy in communications
MCA 45-5-220 Stalking

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Can cyber stalkers really be dangerous?
YES! If a stalker takes it off-line and you start receiving snail mail or harassing phone calls from the stalker then they know where you live. Contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. When a stalker takes it "off-line" they are far more likely to pose a physical threat to the individual being stalked.
Online Safety Rules
 •  Don't respond to flaming (hostile and insulting communications)
 •  Choose a gender neutral screen name
 •  Keep your passwords secret and change them frequently.
 •  Save all offending messages as evidence
 •  If you are threatened in a chat room, message board, notify the moderator or Web site operator and log off
 •  Don’t confront a stalker/harasser, this only arouses more anger or emotional attacks
 •  Don't give out any personal information about yourself or anyone else
 •  Do web searches on yourself to make sure no personal information is posted about you:
    · Type in your first and last name in “quotes” (“John Doe”).
    · Type in your telephone number - no spaces, using dashes one time and parentheses the next.
    · Type in your full street address in “quotes”.
Note all sites and URLs that contain your personal contact information. Contact those sites and ask them to remove your information.

 •  Don't flirt online, unless you're prepared for the consequences. This is just like real life. Yes, you have the right to flirt. And you have the right to use a provocative nickname. But the more obvious you are, the more likely you are to arouse unwanted attention.
Report Security Incidents
Report stolen devices (laptops, PDAs, etc) and suspected computer break-ins to ITS immediately. The sooner we know about an incident, the sooner we can respond, potentially limiting any damage.
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