“Adult” Cyberbullying

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So. . . I was on TV last night. Not for the fun crafty stuff that I do on occasion. But for something far more severe. I’ve always known that cyberbullying is serious, but now more than ever after becoming a target of a particularly awful flavor: revenge porn.

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Two weeks ago I woke up to several messages and new friend requests on my phone. I’m not a terribly popular person so this struck me as strange. I ignored the friend requests, then looked at messages on facebook. Then on twitter. Then in my email. A few of these messages were from “friendly” strangers informing me about some awful post about me.

What is going on?

After I replied to an email with, “I’m not clicking on some random link.” One stranger spelled it out for me.

He replied: “Someone posted nude photos of you online. . . I wanted to alert you ASAP so you could have them removed ASAP.”

Now I’m thinking, WHAT THE WHAAT?!? I know for a fact I’ve never been in front of a camera naked, so this was very strange. I finally clicked. I was horrified.

Someone stole photos (real photos) from this blog and posted them next to gobs of particularly disgusting naked photos of someone else. If someone didn’t know me personally, they would have easily thought it was me before doing a double-take. And then. . . they wrote about things that I would “do” and linked to my personal Facebook profile.

This site had a clickable button offering to remove the post, however they wanted hundreds of dollars to do so. Extortion much? They should be the ones paying me for slander and stealing my copyrighted images. This one page alone got over 60,000 hits in less than two weeks.

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There were tears. Sobs, even. It felt personal and the violation was real. Like the creepy slime from perverted individuals was closing in on me. In my own home.

More awful than the piles of messages with gross solicitations or any threat to sully my online reputation these disgusting creeps managed to steal my time. They ruffled enough of my feathers that I lost out on precious family and work time. NOT COOL.

Progress is stalled on getting the post removed as the site seems to be registered from an “unfriendly” country that doesn’t recognize internet policing. Frustrating. It’s unfortunate how common this particular abuse is becoming. So what to do to prevent it? Basically nothing. Although, I’m sure sexting/snap chatting is probably not a good idea.

What to do if cyberbullying happens to you?

  • Make sure your social media is on lock down. There are loads of configurations for privacy on facebook. I’ve got mine just about as private as one can get.
  • Contact authorities. The FBI handles this kind of issue. Submit a complaint to IC3.gov, it’s actually pretty quick and convenient.
  • If you’re getting emails from creeps, anonymous jerks or friendly strangers; get their IP addresses. You can find that out by searching “view long headers in your email client“. Pass those along to the FBI.
  • If you’re being targeted by an extortion site, NEVER pay. If no one buys into the filth, perhaps we can starve these disgusting sites together.
  • Do what you can, but then move on. Don’t let it ruin your day or they’ve essentially won.

Who knows if this issue will get completely resolved. Maybe that post will get filtered down by all the other disgusting porn out there. It’ll be a tiny speck inside a drop in the large bucket of the gross underbelly of the internet and I’ll never think of it again.

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My hope is that anyone who has been victimized by cyberbullying in the past, present or future will know they’re not alone. There are things we can do about it (although I wish DDOS-ing the website in question were an option). Speak up and don’t take crap from bullies!

To end on a more inspirational note, I love this antibullying campaign published by the LDS church. It goes beyond religion – in my opinion – and strikes a chord that I think we can all relate to.

All images by Sarah Wilkes.

UPDATE: I’ve found a few great resources online talking about this very thing. Read how this woman basically dropped everything to take down an evil sitemaster running several revenge porn sites. Even comedy sites take these kinds of attacks seriously. Utah legislation passed a revenge porn bill, now it’s up to the governor to sign off on it. There’s not a whole lot government can do about this kind of thing, but raising awareness is a good start. If you want to get legislation to pass a revenge porn bill in your state, speak up about it here.

Watch the segment on Good Morning America for more tips from experts.

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    1. Jennifer says:

      I saw your article on AOL. This is the very reason I keep photos of me and my teen daughter off the internet. No facebook photos, no blogs, nothing. When we put a photo up (such as for Twitter, Facebook, YELPing, or Pinterest) it is always my daughter’s American Girl doll that looks like her. There are a lot of good folks out there and a lot of people who do harm. Stay safe!

      • Melissa says:

        It’s such a difficult situation. You want to protect them, but in my case, the thing that has saved me is the fact that I have a backlog of 8 years of images associated with my name that had more juice than those featured on the extortion website. It motivates me to create positive content associated with my name and my kids’ names.

    2. Elizabeth says:

      I’m really sorry this happened to you. I hope resolution and justice are swift.

      Protect your images, everyone! My face has been used, without my permission, to advertise products and services I have no connection with or knowledge of. In some cases, I didn’t understand what I was signing when I was 22 and gave away all rights to my images, and in other cases, my contracts were simply ignored.

      I feel I just don’t have the wherewithal to pursue any compensation in the cases where my contracts were ignored – the arithmetic just doesn’t make it seem worth the effort. I understand the other scenario is pretty much my own fault.

      So, I have to tell myself that I’m ok with my face being out there, used over and over…and quit whining about it.

      Please understand in no way do I feel *you* are whining, Melissa – you have taken action, you have reached out to educate others, and it sounds like you’re moving on. It’s me I’m talking about that needs to stop bemoaning the use of my image – I decided not to do anything…I need to live with that choice. :-/

      I just wanted to send out the additional warning that…allllll kinds of things can happen to your image, some of them not even so bad…just…lol where’s my dime or two?

    3. Kelly Smith says:

      I am so sorry this happened. You are amazing!

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