For the general edification of all USMBers... " Harassment consists of the intentional crossing of your emotional or physical safety boundaries. You must have boundaries set in place clearly in order for that to apply. The legal definition of harassment, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is: "A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose" or "Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person." This is of course a very broad definition, which state and federal legislation and common law have narrowed and refined in various ways. However, for our purposes, WHOA defines online harassment as any actions that meet the qualifications of the above definition after the harasser has been told to cease. If someone simply disagrees with you, however strongly or unpleasantly, that isn't harassment. Someone who sends you a single email message that isn't overtly threatening probably hasn't harassed you. Spam, while very annoying, isn't harassment. And messages posted to any open venue, such as a newsgroup, a web-based board, an AOL discussion forum or a chat room, are seldom truly harassing unless they're forged to appear to come from you or contain direct threats or libelous statements. The same goes for things said on someone else's web site. Harassment usually involves repeated communications via email or some sort of instant messaging program after the harasser has clearly been told to go away. Cyberstalking is a specific kind of harassment. The Department of Justice 1999 study on the subject defines it as "the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property." Cyberstalkers frequently follow their targets around the net, frequenting in chat rooms, message boards, newsgroups or mailing lists in which the target participates. At times they will also attempt to form relationships with those who are friendly with the target in order to get more information about the target." Working to Halt Online Abuse While most of us like to troll a little and annoy our online nemesises (nemisi???) there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. The general rule of thumb is that if someone is pestering you with private messages specifically intended to annoy or alarm, AFTER being asked to stop, that can potentially be considered online harassment or stalking. Now a mutual kibbitzing back and forth is not harassment just because one side gets their feelings hurt. What is harassment is when one side asks the other to stop pmming, and the other person continues to shoot private messages meant to antagonize or intimidate. Just thought I'd share it, it's good information to have. Not just for us to protect ourselves FROM harassment, but so we don't actually commit harassment ourselves.