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The transient nature of Harassment and Doxxing by Tweets

Tweet & Delete

As the majority of us increasingly express ourselves and live in virtual reality through our curated personas on social media, not only has the way we communicate changed to text format, but so has the negative side of human expression such as bullying and harassment. These platforms have taken physical and interpersonal harassment to new emotional and psychological depths through online harassment. The vast speed at which communication of vindictive sentiments, distribution of damaging images and information can be shared far outweighs many efforts of law enforcement, moderators and governing bodies to monitor, prevent and identify the main perpetrators.

As previously discussed in many of our blog posts, online harassment, also referred to as Cyberbullying is a term used to describe harassment, intimidating, threatening, or embarrassing acts. These acts can amount to criminal offences with the intentional crossing of physical, emotional or psychological boundaries. There are many differing offences and sub-genres of harassment such as cyberstalking, Catphishing, Doxxing, Swatting and more – but with many of the harassment originating from and taking place on social media platforms such as Twitter.

With their previous CEO, Dick Costolo, admitting before his resignation that Twitter “suck[ed] at dealing with trolls”, their efforts to combat and deal with offences such as doxxing and harassment have been addressed in the last quarter, but certain issues still need to be addressed – especially regarding the documenting of Twitter harassment and creating viable social media evidence.

Tweet and Delete – The Problem of Evidence

In instances of Twitter harassment, the initial response is usually to report abuse to Twitter and its mediators as opposed to law enforcement (with only 3% of victims doing so). Yet in line with Twitter’s functionality and guidelines, they require live URLs as evidence – and reject screenshots. And so Twitter’s current abuse review process severely fails to address “Tweet and Delete” harassment – which often involves Doxxing. A harasser or troll will tweet (often repeatedly) abusive, annoying or intimidating content, and then delete it before a social media mediator can formally review the content.

In light of their former CEO’s acknowledgement of troll control failures, they have updated their reporting systems as of February 2015; accepting doxxing as a form of harassment and creating a complaint form specific to this abuse. Yet there have been no public changes regarding the evidence it accepts for harassment reports. Due to the transient nature of this content, it is often a problem.

Twitter’s standard requirement of accepting live URLs only adds another complicated step for harassment victims, and acts as another hurdle to charging their harassers and ending abuse. It makes it difficult to report harassment not associated with a URL, such as exposure to violent, explicit or otherwise inappropriate profile images or usernames spamming a victim with notifications. WAM (Women, Action & the Media) reported that “[E]ven if a URL is reported in time, if the associated tweet is deleted before being seen by reviewers, the URL may not continue to function internally — that is, the evidence may be inaccessible even to Twitter reviewers.” Whilst their report does not come to concrete solutions as to this harassment issues – it provides empirical layers of data showing the widespread abuse that takes on a variety of social media platforms, the need for Twitter and others to adapt response procedures, and to inform victims of what to do.

Harassment via Twitter, such as Doxxing, can be punishable under a variation of federal and state crimes and misdemeanours such as defamation, cyberstalking and cyberbullying, and so it is important to report it not only to Social Media moderators, but to law enforcement or a legal advisor. Screen capture tools such as WebPreserver that can capture the exact time and date of online activity with digital signatures and Metadata are essential in creating authentic evidence in seeking justice in the courts against this kind of evidence.

How can WebPreserver help?
WebPreserver can capture, store, share and create legal evidence from content placed on the internet and social media networks. This innovative eDiscovery tool is essential for legal professionals, digital forensic scientists and law enforcement authorities. WebPreserver creates strong, authenticated content to ensure admissibility of evidence, your case and protection against the continuation of Cybercrime.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general and informative purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. Content on this blog is not intended to substitute the advice of a licensed attorney, as laws are subject to change and vary with time, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Content on this blog may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.

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