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Harassment on Facebook

Harassment on Facebook

What to do if your Facebook account is being harassed

Some people use Facebook to harass ex-spouses, lovers and boyfriends. The campaign is often triggered by an emotional breakup, where one party feels so hurt they are willing and able to do anything to end the lives of their former lover.

An example of harassment and defamation via Facebook

Harassment and defamation on Facebook

Could you be both a victim of harassment and defamation on Facebook

What are you able to do to stop harassment on Facebook

Sending a cease-and-desist letter to Facebook for harassment

What happens when you send a cease and desist email

An example of harassment and defamation via Facebook

Our client Adam (not his real name) was stunned when a colleague mentioned to him that he had found a Facebook posting that said Adam had sexually abused his spouse, that Adam was a rapist, that Adam had suffered from anger management issues, and that he was an awful person. Adam was shocked. Adam was stunned. Adam and his wife divorced in a bitter court proceeding several years ago. Adam was being falsely accused of rape.

But Adam believes they are now moving on. Adam was obviously wrong. Adam, of course denied the false claims made by his ex-wife on Facebook, and he was worried about the reputational damage they would cause. He was concerned about the potential irreparable damage to his reputation, and even his well-being, if the accusations were spread on social media. Adam became desperate and began searching the internet for information to help him stop the harassing Facebook campaign against him. He considered several options before contacting our law firm for legal assistance.

Adam was trying to get the posts removed quickly from Facebook. He also wanted to stop his ex-wife harassing him. Adam explained to us that Adam and his spouse split up after a volatile marriage and because he was involved in another romantic relationship.

Adam said that his wife struggled to accept the idea that he was going to divorce him and that Adam was also having additional marital relationships. He insisted that his ex-wife had published defamatory comments about him online, evidently out of spite. Further internet research revealed that Adam's latest post was published with other anonymous claims.

Facebook Harassment and Defamation Legal Advice FAQ

To effectively stop harassment on Facebook, a multi-faceted approach is recommended. Begin by directly informing the harasser of your discomfort with their actions and request them to stop. If this doesn't work, a formal cease and desist letter sent by a lawyer can legally demand the cessation of their defamatory actions. This letter acts as a strong warning that legal consequences will follow if the harassment doesn’t cease. It's crucial to document all instances of harassment to support any legal action you might take. In severe cases, seeking a legal injunction to formally prohibit the harasser from continuing their actions might be necessary. It's also wise to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook to limit who can view and interact with your posts.

While anyone with an online presence can become a target, individuals with heightened visibility or those who have been involved in contentious personal or professional situations are at greater risk. This includes public figures, celebrities, individuals undergoing acrimonious separations, or anyone involved in disputes that might provoke vindictive behavior online. Entrepreneurs or professionals with disgruntled customers or clients, as well as individuals involved in politically or socially controversial activities, are also more susceptible. The anonymity and broad reach of the internet can embolden harassers, making it vital for potential targets to proactively manage their online presence and privacy settings.

Upon discovering defamatory content about you on Facebook, immediate action is advisable. Document the offensive content and any potential damages it may cause to your reputation or emotional well-being. A cease and desist letter, particularly from a legal professional, can demand the removal of such content under the threat of legal action. If the defamation is severe, filing a lawsuit might be necessary to not only have the content removed but also to seek damages for any harm caused. It's essential to consult with a lawyer experienced in dealing with online defamation to explore your options, including potential litigation or negotiation for content removal.

Cease and desist letters can be highly effective in stopping harassment on Facebook, especially when crafted and sent by a legal professional. These letters serve as a formal demand for the harasser to stop their defamatory actions and remove any harmful content. The effectiveness of such letters often hinges on the clarity of the legal consequences outlined in them and the seriousness with which the harasser perceives the threat of ensuing legal action. While not all harassers will comply after receiving a cease and desist letter, the letter sets a legal precedent for further action and demonstrates your commitment to protecting your reputation.

Yes, it's common for victims to experience both harassment and defamation simultaneously on Facebook. Harassment involves targeted actions designed to cause distress or fear, while defamation concerns the publication of false statements that harm one's reputation. Online campaigns that aim to disparage and distress an individual often blend elements of both, complicating the victim's response strategy. Legal remedies might include actions under both harassment and defamation laws, depending on the nature of the content and the intent behind it. Victims may need to pursue legal avenues that address both the emotional distress caused by the harassment and the reputational damage inflicted by the defamation.

Harassment and defamation on Facebook

Facebook harassment often contains strong elements that are defamatory. Libel can be described as a written defamatory statement. If a number of defamatory statements are posted online as part a harassment campaign which is intended to ruin someone’s life, it is very likely that the hate campaign online is harassment.

The essence of defamation boils down to what was written and the meaning of the words.Do the publishers believe the published statements are true or false?

Harassment on the other hand is a course, which is meant to cause distress and alarm to the victim. On Facebook, there were allegations that Adam was an paedophile, that Adam sent sexually graphic images and that Adam's behaviour was abusive and controlling. It appeared that the case involved harassment and defamation.

Could you be both a victim of harassment and defamation on Facebook

You can become both a victim and a perpetrator of harassment. Adam may have been harassed by the nature of his campaign, which was claimed to be designed to cause him distress. However, since the posts are false, the case also amounts to defamation. In cases of harassment, victims will often want to remain anonymous throughout any legal proceedings. Defamation cases, however, are always geared towards public vindication.

False allegations will be more widely reported due to legal proceedings. Many times, victims will not be able just to pick harassment or defamation as their cause of action. Depending upon the facts of each case and the victims' circumstances, false accusations published online may force them to pursue legal action for harassment as well as defamation.

What can you do to stop harassment on Facebook

Adam was concerned about the possibility of more online attacks on him on Facebook. We advised Adam to notify his ex-wife so that we could pursue an injunction protecting him from harassment.

Write to her asking for an end to the harassing and defamatory campaign she is running against him. If the Facebook harassment campaign is true and the ex-wife denies the accusations, a cease & desist letter should suffice to persuade him to remove the harassing post and not repeat the same allegations.

Sending a cease-and-desist letter to Facebook for harassment

Before asking your lawyers to send a cease & desist letter to harasser/defamer on Facebook, it is essential that you give your solicitor a complete account of all facts. You must never keep any information back.If there is no evidence to support the claims made against you, a cease-and-desist letter can be very effective. Usually, we expect the harasser to stop harassing us after receiving a cease & desist letter.

Defamation cases require that the person making the accusations, should they go to court, present a positive case in support of their claims. If they are not capable of doing so, it's more likely that they will stop defamatory online campaigns after they receive a cease and desist notice.

What happens when you send a cease and desist email

Adam's case was different. The entire accusation against him was false. In response to every one of the accusations made against him via Facebook, he gave us a detailed account. We were able to see that all of them were false and had been published in anger and malice by his exwife. In fact, after receiving a cease & desist letter she removed the harassing posts and gave an undertaking.

This legally binding promise is to not repeat them. But, this is not a guarantee. Sometimes harassing and defamatory posters don't do what they should until they are taken to trial. If you want to sue a Facebook publisher who has published defamatory comments, you must do so quickly and definitely within 12 months.

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