This blog originally appeared on Dark Shiny Unicorn with the title of “Cyberbullying"

Female bullying other females

(The Love Club: Picture still from a behind the scenes. - Credit Teressa Gehrke)

Author Teressa Gehrke

Cyberbullying, has it happened to you? It has happened to me. And yes, recently as an adult. I typically don’t respond to nasty comments. I block people or I just don’t post to public forums anymore because of the vitriol these days. I don’t have time for negativity.

What is cyberbullying?

The government site, StopBullying.gov, defines it as “Cyberbullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content.” The site also states, “Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.” This can be done by people of your own age or of differing ages. A recent news story alleged a mother bullied girls on her daughter’s high school cheerleading squad in order to get them kicked off the team. She used deep fakes to illustrate how bad and immoral these girls were and how they should be removed from the squad, so that her daughter could be moved up on the team. The mother was arrested and charged with cyber harassment of a child and harassment. Yes, cyberbullying can be a crime.

How does cyberbullying work?

First, you need a forum to communicate and some other type of mean-spirited motivation. Some of the tactics described by StopBullying.gov include:

  • Posting comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing, especially about race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics.

  • Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves.

  • Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video.

  • Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else.

  • Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone.

  • Doxing is a form of online harassment used to exact revenge and to threaten and destroy the privacy of individuals by making their personal information public, including addresses, social security, credit card and phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other private data.

Can cyberbullying have a financial gain as a motivation?

Of course! In the right context, it harkens back to the day of when people would bully a kid on the playground for their lunch money. It’s the same concept, right? Now, we do it with cryptocurrency and ransomware. A cousin of this would also be cyber coercion, which I discuss in Blog 9 & Blog 10.

Personal gain is an obvious motivation. Popularity itself can be viewed as a currency to elevate one’s stature above others. Zoe Rose shared in Trip Wire, that “it has been often used in an attempt by the bully to raise themselves above their target and/or discredit the target.” I like to think that most people aren’t very good at this and that it often backfires in epic proportion. However, the anonymity behind cyberbullying can be daunting. It can also be incredibly hurtful to the victim.

In addition, fake profiles that