Stalking online is punishable, lynching online is not

Due to a weird twist in US law, online harassment by a group is not a crime. However, that will change from 2024. In this piece, we present Alice Marwick’s scientific research into this practice. We ourselves have analysed two Belgian cases of politically motivated network harassment. Each time, the victim was a woman and it was a right-wing male politician who inflamed his mob of followers.

The difference between online stalking and online lynching

Stalking online is punishable, if the moderation of the social media site is willing to cooperate. If it concerns physical threats, inciting others to use violence, sexual harassment, racist and/or discriminatory statements, disclosing sensitive personal information, spreading false rumors, hate speech or identity theft, all criminal offenses, you can report it . You can have an online post that clearly violates “Community Guidelines” deleted.

Social network sites have poorly paid staff for that. But having to report again and again is exhausting and demoralizing, so you might want to put an end to it for good. You can sue your stalker in court, but for that you need the details of your stalker because he usually operates anonymously. To find out the name and e-mail of the stalker, it is not enough to refer to that one post. You must be able to demonstrate that one and the same troll is constantly violating the ‘Community Guidelines’. If you can, you may get the necessary information from the moderation. And only then you can take further legal action if you have the resources to do so.