With every new advance in technology comes a new wave of criminal possibilities. With the increasing popularity of online social networking and the instability of the internet, there is a large constituency of cyber-bullies. Cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking can be extremely detrimental and demoralizing to the perpetrator’s victims. It has the ability to affect their self-esteem, families, work, and in some cases has led to suicide. We have all joked about the ‘stalker walls’ aka ‘news feeds’ available via facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. However, the anonymity that the internet can provide leads to a slippery slope in the world of online social warfare. The main message here: Be careful.
THE TRICKS OF THE CYBERSTALKER
There are several avenues that the cyberstalker can take to harass his/her victim. Counterintelligence: Be aware of the following:
In order to contact their victim, the cyberstalker (herein to be referred to as CS) may create a series of fake profiles on social networking sites. To protect myself I only add people that I know personally. Even when we have multiple friends in common, if I have never met you, I won’t add you. I came across a stalker once with whom I had 10 mutual friends. I sent them a message asking if I knew them, as the name did not sound familiar. The response I got confirmed to me that they were a CS since the “high school we went to together” was not the school I attended. I knew all 32 people in my graduating class, sorry, you weren’t one of them. I started noticing patterns in the people this CS was adding, and alerted the friend of mine they were attempting to gather information on.
The best way for a CS to gather information is to add the friends of their victims so they can see who you associate yourself with, and to become privy to any “friendly, private information” you might share on their walls. So be careful who you add, you may be assisting a CS in stalking one of your friends.
Another “fake profile red flag” is lack of photographs. Since the person in question doesn’t exist in the physical world, the CS will most likely have only one or two photos (stolen from someone else) or make their ‘photos private.’ If you have added the profile and still don’t have access to their pictures, chances are you have just added a CS.
Formspring.me has emerged in the last few months as a popular site to post anonymous questions targeted at specific individuals. It has also exposed a contingent of cyber-bullies (CB). By posting ‘anonymously,’ CB and CS gain the confidence to post hate messages to their victims that they wouldn’t otherwise have the balls to send. Look for similarities in writing patterns when comparing any threatening or disparaging messages or posts directed towards you via various sites.
Keep in mind that the CS will not always post hate messages. Though their end-game may be to cause the defamation of character against their victim, they will also need to gather information. The best way to get information from their victims is to appear as both friendly and “fan-like.” In this case, the CS may have several “fake profiles” and “online identities” to better strategize the best way to harass their victim. Of course, you don’t necessarily want to treat everyone as if they may be a closet CS. Instead, watch out for the warning signs as listed above, and be wary of answering any personal questions that seem a little “off” to you.
Unfortunately, while the internet grows and our virtual lives get more complicated, our US legal system is slow to catch up. Just as stalkers in the ‘physical world’ leave footprints, so do stalkers in the virtual world. Wording becomes essential when drafting laws for cybercrimes. There are currently many gaps in the US Federal Cyber Stalking Law found under the Communications Decency Act. The federal government leaves it up to individual states to adopt a more stringent set of laws. So far a few states have passed cyberstalking/harassment laws through legislature; California’s can be found here.
There are also several websites you can visit for more information and receive help in reporting any harassment and/or cyber-stalking.
If you believe you are being stalked in the ‘real world’ as well, please contact your local authorities. For women in the LA area, you can contact the 24-hour Peace Over Violence (formerly LACAAW) stalking hotline at 877.633.0044.
IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE
I have seen first hand what online harassment and cyberstalking can do to someone in the real world. I have had several friends that were/are victims of these crimes; some people have nothing better to do than to try and slander the names of good people and start rumors that affect their relationships, friendships, and businesses…and for what? Luckily my friends have skin thick enough to withstand most cyberbullying, however some people out there have a more difficult time looking the other way. There have been several cases of suicide linked to cyberbullying in high school students. Sure, we all have someone we have joked about ‘stalking someone online’ at one point or another, but in some instances it can turn dark, twisted and just plain pathetic.
Watch what you post online (sure you are going to eat sushi…don’t tweet the address!).
Watch who you are adding onto your personal profiles.
Make your profiles private and protect your photos.
Don’t answer personal questions if you don’t know the other party.
Don’t give out your address or phone numbers to strangers online (yes, it sounds silly, but people actually do that. This is like handing your CS the key out of the virtual world and into the real one).
wow. two posts in one day, aren’t you the lucky reader.
This blog is snarky, it’s sarcastic, and it comments on the unfortunate state of our everyday lives being taken over by a virtual world in the internet. It’s called “The Social Spy” because a) I have always held a fascination with the history of espionage and spygames, and b) it comments on our ever changing social atmosphere. It is written to combine the two. This blog is a part of the exact “social networking virtual espionage” I am writing against; therein lies the humour.
I am a product of this ever changing, ever growing virtual world as you are. I am not bashing on any one person, I am not attempting to start a dramatic revolt or fuel the virtual fire, so to speak. I am simply a girl, who enjoys to write, combining universal truths with a bit of fun. Tomorrow you will see a post on fake profiles and the evolution of the ‘stalker.’
Hollywood is filled with spies, confidence men (and women), liars, cheats, tricks, thieves, and beautiful people. When you enter Hollywood, you become a part of the social espionage. Everyone lies. You create a cover identity and begin to spin your own web of lies and try to avoid the paths of destruction that so many people leave in their wake. So what happens when your cover is blown? If you’re smart and have done your homework you should be able to stay one step ahead. The best way to stay in control? Blow your own cover.
Sometimes, even when planned to the last detail, a mission goes awry. You cannot predict the actions of others. The only thing you can do is be as prepared as possible for all possible outcomes. How does one accomplish this? Make sure you are aware of your contact’s, CI’s and mark’s weaknesses as well as strengths. You can utilize their weaknesses to your advantage to acquire whatever information you need. If you know their strengths you will be better equipped to protect yourself from any surprises they may try to throw your direction. Most importantly remember, always have an exit strategy.
Once you have successfully accomplished your mission, get out and move on. Don’t risk further exposure by continuing relationships. As long as you exit cleanly, you may be able to utilize your cover identity on a future mission if need be. A successful mission is marked when you get the intelligence you require without getting burned. Don’t forget to remember your exit story, because if you forget it, chances are they won’t.
TRUST THE LIES, NOT THE “TRUTH”
So how does any of this pertain to “real life?” Every one of us is, at one point or another, caught in some web of social lies. We all have our true, real friends, party friends, work friends, and people we keep in our lives because it is mutually beneficial to have them around. You will catch people in lies, and eventually, someone will catch you in yours. What do you do about it and how do we salvage the truth? I love the phrase in the photo above, because it is very true to hollywood. Many times, you have to trust the lies, not the “truth” because the “truth” people give you is a lie. Have you ever told someone the truth and they accuse you of lying to their face….just because it either sounds so outrageous it couldn’t be real, because they are so used to people lying to them, or someone else has told them a lie that contradicts you? Some people just can’t believe you could be one of the rare and honest few (Let’s face it, as I’ve stated before, we all lie to someone at some point).
CATCHING A SPY IN A LIE
You have two choices when you catch someone in a lie; decide that it doesn’t matter in the long run and leave it be, or confront them with it. Never under any circumstances, involve a third party. This will just get you into trouble in the end (the only exception being if they are a party to the lie themselves, or you need them to complete your mission). If you confront them and they continue the charade, it is time to decide again, can you put this behind you, or is it time to move on?
WHEN YOUR COVER IS BLOWN
You have a few choices to make when your own cover is blown in “real life.” Confess, or escape. If you decide to continue with your charade, you will get caught, and the consequences will be worse for you in the long run. The more lies you tell, the easier it is to get them confused and the more people you will involve and hurt. If you cannot, for whatever reason, swallow your pride and apologize to the people you’ve wronged, then be prepared to get out and don’t look back. This isn’t a Hollywood movie, it’s Hollywood “real life;” you don’t have a team of people with guns and bulletproof vests waiting to back you up, you only have yourself. As I said when I began this post, the best way to survive a web of lies is to blow your own cover. Find a time and a way to admit to the lies before you are caught so that it goes down on your terms.
“Trust me,” it is the only way for a spy to survive in this town.
*disclaimer: this post is not directed towards, nor is it about, anyone in particular.
In the age of social networking, it’s easy to be a social spy. There are stalker feeds everywhere, letting you know the exact mood and location of your “friend” or…”target.” Let’s face it, these days we have transcended good old fashion friendships and are all actively engaged in social espionage. Friends and lovers meet online, people plan their activities via twitter or facebook updates. Instead of calling each other, we @reply. Gone are the days when you had to actually come face to face and have an argument in private. Now we publicly humiliate or ‘call each other out’ via twitter and facebook updates. So how do we navigate our friendships via social networking? What are the new codes we have to live by in a technologically savvy world?
“Bros before Hoes.” “Chicks before Dicks.” We all know the rules of friendship. You don’t date your best friend’s EX, or sibling, and you don’t make friends with your best friend’s enemy (unless it is an undercover mission). These codes haven’t changed. It’s how we deal with the code breakers and attempt to sneak around that’s changed. With social media at the forefront, you have to be careful who you are publicly chatting it up with. Before, you could hide a friendship, or a relationship…Now, it is virtually impossible. Facebook wants to know your relationship status. Twitter wants to know who you are with at all times. Myspace wants your photos together (preferably in front of a mirror). Of course, if your friends are smart, or internet savvy, you will get caught. Even if you are super careful, one small slip, an @reply where it doesn’t belong, a comment a bit too specific…..you now have to incur the wrath of the social networking feud.
All you need to know about your enemy or frenemy is out there. Twitter. Facebook. Myspace. Formspring. Blogs. Waiting for you to utilize it. For the most part, every social networking site has a privacy setting, to protect against unwanted stalking. Fortunately for you, the people you most likely want to know about haven’t set their status’ to private, because they want attention, they crave the drama. Or, they are a frenemy. You don’t even have to do the legwork anymore; the ‘newsfeeds’ do it for you. Updating you on everything you want to (or don’t want to) know (Don’t forget about screen captures for documentation if things get scary with actual stalkers).
There are several options that your ‘frenemy’ may take. Let’s take a look at some brilliant friend-war tools available thanks to social networking:
De-Friending. Here we have the ever popular ‘friendship deletion.’ This, in my opinion, is juvenile and cowardly when it precedes any actual face to face conversation. Go ahead, delete me from your page instead of growing the fuck up and talking to me. Do I really care to read your status updates and see your mobile updates? You are the one deleting me, not the other way around dear (Of course, if they were smart they would realize they may want to stalk you in the future, and wouldn’t dare deprive themselves of access to your page).
Twitter Rage. This is a popular one. I’ve seen more people tweet about their shitty ex boyfriend/girlfriend or shitty friendships than I have any other topic. If there is pure unadulterated (or adulterated….get it?) rage involved, you will see an @reply to the “target,” making sure that all of the “twitrager’s” followers are aware of the injustice done unto them. If they plan on forgiving, or further using, the “target” you won’t know who their rage/hurt is aimed at, but by golly you best feel sorry for their pain! After all, isn’t that why they tweeted about it?
Anonymous Bashing. Thanks to formspring.me, enemies now have the luxury of posting anonymous ‘questions’ and ‘comments’ about a person they have hatred or jealousy towards. If you are smart, a) you don’t care what this anonymous person has to say about you, and b) you don’t respond. The whole point was to get a rise out of you, or get you to say something stupid publicly on the internet. However, if you are dumb enough to answer and play along with their shit, maybe you deserve the aftermath. Now, here is where the real spies can engage in intelligent espionage. Go ahead and answer, if you are wise to who it is, or have an endgame that requires your words being printed with a timestamp and date. How else can you bring a true crazy down without documented proof? Just word your responses carefully, there is no need to get yourself in any deeper than necessary.
The easiest way to avoid friendship faux pas in the era of social networks? Be a good friend. Wow, that seems so simple. Be honest, be true, and be there for your friends when they need you (you may have to check their status update or twitter feed to know when something’s up, so be sure to check regularly). Oh, and please, be careful when mixing alcohol and status updates 😉 That delete button may provide some virtual erasure, but it doesn’t delete the sentiment from the universe or your target.