What Are your Legal Rights?
Before you can look for legal help, you need to understand the elements of the abuse or possible cybercrime. Ask yourself some questions:
- Is this just annoying or serious? Ongoing or a one-time incident?
- If it's serious, is it an offline risk? A death threat, threat of serious bodily harm or threat to property?
- Are they impersonating you? For what purpose? To destroy your reputation, embarrass you, scare you or for commercial gain?
- Do you have a court order, order of protection or are you in court on another matter?
- Does this involve a minor or other vulnerable class of victims?
There are several options, when you are seeking advice with handling an online problem. You can ignore it. You can ask the person to stop doing whatever they are doing. (This should never be done in cases of cyber-harassment, violent actors or cyberbullying.) You can report it to the service provider or network. You can hire a lawyer to sue them or get police involved. The more the problem involves threats of bodily harm, death or property damage, the easier it is to have law enforcement investigate the case. The more it looks like an isolated incident or rudeness, the less likely police will take the case. Where do you live? Some states, provinces or countries have tougher laws, while others have no laws at all. Understanding what laws apply to your situation can be a big help. Check with your ministry of justice or attorney general's office to see what laws apply in your jurisdiction.
Is it straight-forward or complicated? Does it involve lots of "drama" and "history?" The more it involves "he said, she said" the less likely it is that anyone will agree ot help you. Trim down the facts to the essentials to help them understand the point and the solution.
Pick your battles. When you walk down the street of a big city, you will pass lots of creeps, mentally-disturbed people and thugs. We learn to avoid the ones we can. We seek help with those we can't avoid. Treat the Internet in the same way. Not every insult or perceived harm deserves its day in court. Ignore the people who are looking for your reaction, don't give them that satisfaction. Then, without drama, report the ones you think should be called to the attention of the network or website. Focus on the ones who you believe are a danger to themselves or others. Find social solutions to the issues where asking someone nicely to remove a picture of you might work.
When you rant, rave and get overly-dramatic, people shut you out and that may include police, sometimes. It may include the moderators on a social network or ISP. It may include your family and friends. Try to remain calm, think it through and then articulate the problem and what solution you are seeking. It works best.