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HARASSMENT

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ELECTRONIC ABUSE CAN BE EASILY STOPPED

The advent of the electronic communications era has spawned a sector of the community that derives some sort of perverse pleasure out of abusing others by such means. From the early days of anonymous abusive phone calls to modern day social media cyber-bullying and 'trolling', the issue for victims has always been how to eradicate such electronically facilitated assaults. But there are very simple ways of dealing with such people and here are the methods that everybody should learn.

THREE MAIN FORMS OF ELECTRONIC ABUSE

Such abuse can be divided into three sectors - voice abuse, texting abuse and video abuse. If a person phones you up and abuses you, it's easy to just hang up on them. If the person continues to make harassing phone calls, a complaint to federal police and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will soon locate the culprit, even if that person is not using Caller ID and his phone number is not displayed. All that information is available to authorities in the form of metadata and along with this information and a recording of the abuse will see the perpetrator charged with 'Using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend'.

I was the victim of such telephone harassment in the 1980s. However, my activities in identifying and laying formal complaints with the authorities saw the perpetrator, a demented Amateur Radio operator, land in jail. Once the word got around that I would act against idiots like this fellow, I never had another problem with abusive or nuisance telephone calls.

TEXT ABUSE

With the ability to send messages to mobile phones, abusive texts can also be dealt with very easily. If the sender's Caller ID is displayed, it is only a matter of seconds to block that number permanently, which will stop any voice or text calls from that number from getting through again. If the sender has suppressed Caller ID, then a complaint to federal police and ACMA will see the abuser quickly located from his metadata and dealt with.

EMAIL ABUSE

This sort of harassment is exceptionally easy to deal with. Every email platform has blocking and filtering facilities, so it is just a matter for users to figure out how to use them. If an abusive email arrives and you don't want to get any further emails from the sender, you can just permanently block the email address. Different email programs have their own ways of achieving this, but it is really worth learning how to block abusers and even spammers.

I personally control my own email server and I have a 'Sender Blacklist', to which I add email addresses. Once I upload that 'Sender Blacklist' to my email server's anti-spam filter, no emails from those addresses even get to my inbox - they are immediately trashed at the server.

There have been a couple of very persistent email 'trolls' who tried to harass me and they were very easy to deal with. Every time they sent me abusive emails, I would add those email addresses to the 'Sender Blacklist' and their emails would bounce back to them and I would never see them. But they were persistent and used other email addresses, so I kept blocking them. Eventually, those idiots must have run out of email accounts because I never heard from them again. And that is the very simple way of getting rid of email 'trolls'.

VIDEO ABUSE

Many naive people have been surreptitiously tricked into making compromising video recordings of themselves and then found those recordings posted on social media websites, causing massive embarrassment. For example, young teenage boys communicating with scammers masquerading as young sexy girls have been talked into recording themselves masturbating and then have sent those videos to those scammers, who then proceeded to blackmail those teenage boys. A number of such stupid boys have committed suicide from shame.

This has happened to young girls, who have exposed their bodies on their webcams during video chats with males and then found that those males had been recording the videos. Those video clips have often been posted all over the Internet. Or even worse, those naive girls had been blackmailed into exposing themselves even more.

There is an old saying in politics - if you see a microphone, always assume that it is 'live' and recording. The same goes for video cameras. Never assume that a camera is not recording. In fact scammers have planted malware on the computers of people and have been able to take control of webcams without the people knowing. And if those people engage in anything embarrassing when those cameras are secretly recording, they could be the targets of blackmail and extortion. It is surprising how often this has happened, often with catastrophic outcomes for the victims.

There is a very easy solution for this and that is - unplug any webcams if you are not specifically using them at the time. All notebook computers have integrated cameras, so the safest thing is to merely put a piece of masking tape over the camera lens and take it off if you need to make a video call. Then if you receive one of those bogus extortion emails claiming that the scammers have a video of you masturbating, then you can be safe in never falling for the blackmail. Of course the safest thing to do is to never do anything compromising within sight of any camera. Don't make sex videos, because somebody else might get their hands on them.

SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE

This has become a massive problem, with 'trolls' abusing social media users and thinking that they cannot be caught. The big problem is that of jurisdiction. Australian abusers are not very hard to identify and prosecute, but social media is global and many 'trolls' are located outside of Australian jurisdiction, making it virtually impossible to actually stop or prosecute them. But the solution is quite simple.

Every social media platform has blocking facilities. So if somebody abuses you on any social media platform, don't engage with them. Just click on their profiles and find the Blocking facility and get rid of them permanently. I am truly amazed when I read about people who have actually committed suicide because of social media 'trolling', yet the solution was right there at their fingerips.

A classic example of this was the sad case of media personality Charlotte Dawson. She was 'trolled' mercilessly on social media, but instead of just blocking the 'trolls', which she could have done instantly, she chose to encourage their vile behaviour by engaging with them and arguing with them and thus she kept receiving their abuse. In the end, she fell into depression and killed herself. If she had the discipline to refuse to engage with those bastards and had just blocked them at the first sign of abuse, she might have still been alive today. And that goes for many others who chose to commit suicide, rather than block those 'trolls' from their social media.

HARASSMENT IS EASY TO FIX

Australia has very strong laws when it comes to harassment, especially by electronic means. But the only time that those laws really need to be invoked is in relation to telephone harassment, where phone calls and texts are allegedly anonymous and Caller ID is suppressed. In such cases, the authorities can still obtain the phone numbers of the senders and thus their identities and prosecute them. So if victims are smart and report phone and text abuse from anonymous numbers, the senders can be prosecuted.

With all other forms of electronic communications, dealing with on-line or social media abuse is extremely simple, if only people would use the facilities on all those social media apps to block the 'trolls' and get rid of them permanently. Nobody needs to suffer idiots and fools. I have accounts on various social media platforms and I don't hesitate in blocking any person who abuses me for any reason, or even somebody with whom I do not wish to communicate.

So it is a matter of discipline in not engaging with abusers and 'trolls', but just blocking them permanently and life becomes much sweeter without having to tolerate that sort of nonsense. My advice is to not be really stupid like Charlotte Dawson and allow the 'trolls' to ruin your life or even drive you to think of suicide. The best revenge against abusers is to block them completely and leave them frustrated at their inability to affect you, which is really what they want. Deny them the pleasure and enjoy life without them.