Using private information and private matters to harm a person’s reputation through public humiliation and harassment is a growing tactic in online harassment.
What are some examples of the problem? Does this really happen?
Yes. Consider some examples seen in practice:
- Nightmare Ex: What if your ex-spouse or ex-partner posted videos of some of the most intimate scenes from your relationship online, or threatened to do so?
- Abuse: What if you were in an abusive relationship and your ex-spouse or ex-partner – sometimes surreptitiously and sometimes using threats or coercion – took photos of you in a state of undress and of a sexual nature? Now, decades later, that Ex continues the cycle of abuse by threatening to publish, or actually publishing, those photos if you do something to anger the Ex?
- Underaged: What if your boyfriend videotaped a sexual encounter and shared that video with everyone in your high school?
- Peeping Tom: What if you are on a business trip, dressing in your hotel room and another guest films you secretly?
These situations are, unfortunately, all too common, and result in many problems. For example, victims are devastated and suffer long-term economic and emotional harms. Perpetrators are unaware that their actions could violate numerous civil and criminal laws. Legal action is often out of reach due to lack of education regarding the law and the economic barriers to accessing courts. And, finally, victims may fear filing a lawsuit in a public forum because that may cause further humiliation.