In a social media-hungry culture, Internet usage is a powerful tool to connect, but when abuses such as harassment and fake identities take place, it becomes difficult to stop.
A volunteer organization known as WHO@, Working to Halt Online Abuse, released statistics on cases throughout 2012.
The report said the organization receives up to 75 reports of online harassment and cyber-stalking incidents each week. Of these, 90 to 95 percent are legitimate cases. WHO@ said it resolves more than 70 percent of the cases it receives.
Linaja Duncan, California Baptist University graduate student studying public relations, knows all too well the dangers that the Internet can hold.
After receiving special recognition as a model, Duncan decided to create a Facebook page for her modeling work. But she was surprised to find that someone else had beat her to it.
“When I clicked on it, everything was in Russian,” Duncan said.
The page, which focused on Duncan’s modeling work, used her modeling name to appear as if she had created the profile. It had photos of her and status updates.
According to WHO@, 60 percent of Internet harassers are not from the same location as the victim. Many are from different states and countries, as in Duncan’s June 2012 case.
Duncan immediately contacted Facebook and explained the situation.
“Within about a half-hour of verifying my identity, they took the account down and I never saw it again,” Duncan said.
WHO@ reports that the No. 1 way cyber-bullying and harassment occurs is through email; the second most common way is through Facebook. Since 2011, the number of cases involving Facebook has increased, as well as the severity of the incidents.
Describing herself as a precautious Internet user, Duncan now uses Google to search for her modeling name more often to protect against fake profiles, limits her contact on social media sites, and keeps her personal Facebook profile private.
Creating profiles on social media sites and making email accounts is easily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, making it nearly impossible to halt fake profiles.
“In a sense, I wish there could be an extra layer of security, and in an ideal world, there would be but I don’t think it’s very practical,” Duncan said.