Monday, January 11, 2010

Do you have a keyboard bully in your community?

In today's age of growing internet dependency, a new beast has emerged-the keyboard bully! Whether you have an association website, community chat room or you simply have an email address to which others have access, you may at some point be on the receiving end of an email communication from a keyboard bully.

What is this creature's modus operandi? Most keyboard bullies prefer to remain cloaked in anonymity for a variety of reasons including the mistaken belief that they can't be held liable for libel, defamation or harassment if no one knows who they are. Of course, today's laws are catching up pretty quickly with technology and internet service providers are being served with subpoenas regularly for those users abusing the process.

Even without taking that step, you have to ask yourself how much credibility should be given to a message if the writer did not have the strength of conviction to make his or her identity known. Association websites and blogs can be monitored to remove offensive or defamatory material. Some associations choose to do that and others leave the messages up there with the disclaimer that the association is not responsible for posted content.

Sometimes keyboard bullies don't hide their identity but proudly send relentless emails hoping to provoke a response. Responding to a keyboard bully usually only makes the problem worse. It is perhaps better to block the bully's email address from sending you mail and report it to their ISP to shut down their account if the behavior is egregious enough. Pursuing civil and criminal penalties is also an option, again if the behavior is egregious enough and a pattern has been established.

Bullies have been around forever; the keyboard variety simply makes an age-old nuisance a little harder to confront. People with valid concerns who seek resolution of same usually don't resort to these kinds of tactics. If you have been the victim of this kind of email activity, you can reach out to your county's Internet Crimes Division.

1 comment:

  1. A current condo Board member has forwarded an email (dated 1/8/2009) that was addressed to me, but copied to him in his capacity as a Board member. The email was addressed to me by the president of our HOA's former management company whose contract was ultimately terminated by the Board. The sender of the original email is not only the owner of that company but a licensed attorney.

    I consider the email to be a diatribe against me, without foundation, and potentially defamatory. The Board member to whom the email was copied has now allegedly forwarded that email to a third party (the current property manager). I believe the intent of the offending Board member was to both score points with the current manager with whom I have been in dispute and to disseminate baseless and negative opinion of me as well as impugn my character.

    Please advise. Thanks.