Justifying Cyber Harassment as Freedom of Speech April 18, 2014 • 2 Comments “When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.” Marcus Aurelius I want to share an unfortunate lesson in the adage, No good deed goes unpunished. I have to admit that I have never really grasped this idea. In fact, I’m not sure I do now, despite the fact that I am a living example of it. And what makes me sad about the lesson is this: I did the right thing, but I probably would not do it again because of the outcome. This is regrettable because I think not doing the right thing shreds the fabric of our community and allows evil to prosper. Once upon a time, ten or so years ago, a friend and I were out on a horseback ride. She asked my opinion on “lending” a large sum of money to a friend, who I had happened to meet on a few occasions. In fact, he came to my home and took photos of me and my daughter. I did not know him well, but you get that sixth sense you get about someone. I can’t point to anything definitive, it was pure gut feeling. He told her something along the lines of, “investments and CDs maturing,” and this being some kind of bridge money. I advised against it, but you can guess the ending. Fast forward to 2011, six months after my husband’s suicide. My world had collapsed and my brain was not fully functional, but I was trying to forge a new life. This friend calls to ask if I recall the conversation (unfortunately, I do) and would I be willing to write an affidavit because she is now in the process of suing the person. It was a no brainer for me but, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had thought a bit harder about the choice. What I really wish is that she had had the integrity to say, “Hey, you might want to check this person’s history before you do this,” but I can’t point the blame anywhere but toward myself. Since I remembered the conversation like it was yesterday, I said yes, thinking it was the right thing to do. Based on the document I wrote, she won her case. A victory for her, the beginning of rather painful lesson for me: the next thing I knew there was a website bearing my name, divulging personal information and even mentioning my children, all cloaked in the “right” to freedom of speech. This is the world we now inhabit. What I want to share with you is this: for your own online protection, go buy the domain rights for yourname.com, and your children’s for that matter. It is entirely possible for a stranger to purchase a domain in your name and then churn out false information about you. The recourse is a long and expensive legal road, with no guarantees, despite the fact that laws are being broken. I have spoken to others who have suffered a similar fate and they all warn that, aside from the financial burden, the emotional toll is taxing. I’ve also spoken to many attorneys dealing with cyber harassment and at the moment there are no quick, easy or inexpensive solutions. Despite the fact that it is wrong and reprehensible, the odds are not in your favor. Freedom of speech is one of the basic rights our country was founded upon. I hold it dear in my heart, but it has been bastardized. The legal world is struggling to define what it now means in this radically Internet-connected world. Cyber harrassment does not amount to free speech, but until such a time that we face this problem head on, I hope you can learn from my unfortunate situation and protect yourself, and your family, from this threat. “Don’t judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg On my journey I have learned that one thing we can do to continue evolving as human beings is commit ourselves to learning as much as we can about the circumstances we find ourselves immersed in. There is always buried treasure there — if you are willing to dig. As always, sending you strength and love. -db Who is Dianna Bonny? Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.