“He was constantly after me on Facebook – ‘Can we have dinner? Can we get together?’ I said, ‘Please, don’t send me any more messages!’ – but that only made him angry. He started writing about me on (gossip site) 2-Channel, using my real name and occupation.”
Thus Josei Jishin (Jan 17-24) introduces the proliferating plague of online stalking. Facebook, Line and social networking sites in general are, for most people, means of innocent communication among friends and acquaintances – “I did this today, I’m doing that tomorrow.” You post photos of yourself, imagining people you like sharing your enjoyment. But not everyone out there is likeable, and some, unknown to you and for reasons unknown, can be downright hostile – or, perversely, in love with you. Maybe you’ve met them, maybe you haven’t. Anyway, however it may have come about, they’re after you, a clinging nuisance if not downright dangerous, as the stabbing last May of an idol singer by a fan reminds us they can be.
A toughening of anti-stalking laws in December is a welcome if belated sign that the government is starting to take the issue seriously. The definition of stalking was broadened to include online harassment, and penalties doubled (to a maximum fine of 1 million yen or a year’s imprisonment).
Online social networking connects everyone. You post with your friends in mind, but not everyone is friendly. Some are too friendly. Most providers offer blocking mechanisms of varying degrees of efficacy, but blocked stalkers can turn ugly, experts warn. What to do? asks Josei Jishin of people qualified to give advice.
The first step, predictably enough, is fine-tuning the privacy settings and reviewing them regularly. But that’s only a beginning.
Photos can be a giveaway, revealing not only your appearance but your whereabouts. Are there any identifiable buildings in the background? Just what a stalker needs to track you down. Likewise, posts like “Lately I’ve been hanging out at the Such-and-Such Cafe. Moreover, if your smartphone’s GPS device is on when you snap your selfie, your location is recorded. Who’s noticing? You never know.
Suppose someone is annoying you and you want him/ her out of your life. Tip number one, from journalist Mayuko Watanabe, who specializes in online literacy, concerns what not to do: reply. Say nothing, she advises; show the person no sign of life whatever, because any sign you do show, however discouraging in intent (as in the example cited above), can be taken for encouragement (“she really likes me, she just wants me to try a little harder”). Blocking, says Watanabe, risks stiffening persistence and worse. “After that,” says the woman who to her dismay found herself being talked about on 2-Channel, “I blocked him. He sent messages to all my friends: ‘I know her, I want to get in touch with her.’”
We don’t learn what, if anything, happened next. But once things reach that point, it’s probably best to contact police, says Watanabe. The December law revisions give them added powers to require providers to deny access to abusers.© Japan Today