July 11, 2011

Networks Not Helping Online Harassment Victims Enough

According to a study, social and mobile networks do not do enough to help victims of harassment online.

The British study found that most victims feel a lack of support from authorities and service providers like Facebook.  About 61 percent of victims surveyed in the study said they received no support.

"It may be tempting to dismiss cyberstalking and harassment as somehow less real than "Ëœtraditional' stalking methods," the authors wrote.

"However, the effects on the victim can be very real. The psychological effects can be devastating, producing verifiable psychological trauma and damage, regardless of whether the victim ever actually meets their harasser."

"One clear message from the data collected is that many of the victims of cyber harassment are frustrated with the lack of help and support they feel is available."

Victims reported consequences including the break up of relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The study by the National Center for Cyberstalking Research at the University of Bedfordshire surveyed 353 visitors to the Network for Surviving Stalking website.

The authors called for social networks to sign up to a code of practice setting out how and how quickly they should respond to complaints of harassment, and said there was a "growing debate" on whether new laws were needed.  

The study also found differences how male and female victims of harassment online are affected.  Men are most concerned about their reputations, while women fear physical harm.

The authors of the report said that websites, Internet service providers and mobile phone carriers need to put stricter procedures to deal with electronic harassment into place.

They say some police forces need to take complaints about Internet stalking more seriously.

Facebook said it works hard to protect users and provides tools for them to report harassment on almost every page of its website.

A spokesman said: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people that use Facebook.

"We're constantly working to find new ways help people stay safe, such as the reporting tools accessible across almost every page of the site."


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