Skip to main content

Forums » Smalltalk » Legal Advice? [Harassment Online]

Good evening, and I'm sorry to bother you all. I wouldn't normally post this kind of thing, but I'm feeling pretty lost and drained at this point. I don't know if there are any lawyers among you, but I'm having some trouble with an issue on another site and would really appreciate some advice on where I stand, as well as what my options are.

WARNING: This forum contains themes of a sexual nature. While it's not graphic or explicit, I just wanted younger members of this site to be aware, and avoid reading any further as your innocent ears shouldn't have to deal with this!



So, I'll start at the beginning. I'm a member of a site called Fanfiction.net . The title is pretty self-explanatory, I write fanfiction there, to try and improve my writing using fandoms I'm well versed in when I'm struggling with my own books. It's a great site and I hadn't had any problems until March 24th 2019 when I received this message:

March 24th 2019
pTagyZA.png

Now, I'm obviously not a man, and to be honest, the message didn't bother me much. I didn't complain straight away, but then I realised someone underage could be receiving these messages - which of course is a crime. So on April 12th 2019, I sent an email to the site's help email address, letting them know what had happened. They didn't contact me, but I figured that was because they were too busy running the site to respond to little old me. But then I received another message.

July 17th 2019
l4t8a1y.png

However, at this time I was away from the website, so was completely unaware that I'd received this message, and it went unreported. As did two more messages I received, until I returned to the website on the 18th of September.

August 1st 2019
oX3Dqww.png

September 1st 2019
4WOGw2S.png

Now the first one even provides an adult website link! This is in a clear violation of the spam and abuse terms of the website, so as soon as I saw I'd received three further messages, I didn't hesitate to report them. And so, on the 18th of September, I sent another email to them reporting the users listed above - still having not heard from them regarding my first email that I'd sent several months prior.

Now we enter the month of November, and I have been contacted a further two times by whoever this person/people are. But I have my suspicions it's the same person, concerning the most recent 3 messages at least, due to the similarities of the messages and the format they've been written in.

November 8th 2019
KlrZqG6.png

November 23rd 2019
GSQMQc6.png


My original concern was for those who were underaged and who were possibly being exposed to this. I replied to the message dated November 8th, warning the user if they contacted me further on that, or any other account they created, I would be pursuing legal action against them. I'm emotionally drained from repeatedly receiving these messages, and am struggling to find enjoyment going on to the site anymore. I have anxiety and depression, so this has been playing havoc on my already exhausted brain, and it's further affected me on other sites (even this one, unfortunately).

I have had no contact from the staff since my first report in April. In my opinion, that's professional negligence and neglect towards a member who is being exposed to abusive messages, spam content, and possible harrassment. Today I even went as far as commenting on the site's Twitter page, asking them if they bother checking their inbox because I've had no response from them for months regarding the issues I've had listed above.

I just want to know where I stand, and what else I can do? So any advise would be really appreciated.
That's pretty troubling and I'm sorry it's such an issue! You're right that this is possibly ending up in minors' inboxes, and that it shouldn't.

I don't think this is a real person though. These all look like automated bot messages, so there's unlikely going to be a real person behind this trying to lure children into adult situations. Rather it looks like the bot creators want people to click their links, possibly to install malicious software to damage a computer or obtain private information such as credit card details and whatnot.

Bots are a difficult problem to tackle, even for websites where the site creator cares about their site and community. (RPR has dealt with bots like this too!) Besides reporting this content to the staff, there's not much you can do about it though. We're not dealing with real people in these situations, and it takes a lot of resources to track down the creator and maintainer of these bots. There are ways to minimize bots being able to sign up on websites, but they can never be entirely avoided, and the site admin has to actually care enough to prevent, track down and remove these accounts in a reasonable manner.

The fact they're ignoring your reports is troubling, but I don't know in which capacity it's illegal for them to ignore spambots. Usually websites have a strong incentive to keep bots out of their systems because of the trouble they cause and how it negatively affects the real human user base, but if they just... don't care, then they're just hurting their own site. Technically, Fanfiction.net's Terms of Service forbid spam, but they're the ones who have to take action when notified of spam too. If they don't, it just... kind of ends there, and the only thing you can do is make a choice on whether or not you want to continue using their service under these current conditions.
Sanne wrote:
I don't think this is a real person though. These all look like automated bot messages...

... Besides reporting this content to the staff, there's not much you can do about it though...

This.

These messages are from bots and, unfortunately, nothing can be done except reporting, blocking, and moving on. It's draining, yes, but it's something we must face when we create online profiles with messaging capabilities. There will always be some person writing these programs and sometimes they are hard to trace or do anything about, since creating accounts is pretty simple and can be automated if you know what you are doing.

Best of luck. I hope that Fanfiction.net's staff does something about this particular one.
I agree with the above, and- if it helps- it's unlikely that these spam bots read your account in any capacity! They aren't targeting you per say, they're like a virus: they don't pick who they heckle, they send out pre-written or copy/pasted messages to as many users as they can reach. Your best bet is to delete and try not to dwell on them. Spam is inconvenient, but not deserving of your emotional energy 😌 Best of luck Mint!
I myself have gone through what you have. I kept getting a bunch of spams (example, friend requests) from bots on Roblox, so I know how you feel. It's awful that the admins hadn't responded to your messages, but just like Novus said, the only things you can do are blocking and reporting.

Good luck, I hope you'll feel better after all this madness you've gone through.
Yeah unfortunately it's just a bot and no legal action can be taken by you, only ffnet. I have a ffnet account where I used to be super active and I still get these exact messages every couple weeks. You pretty much just have to report as spam and delete.

I know you have and nothing has been done, unfortunately I don't think there are any actions you can take against the website for not protecting you. You could attempt to sue for emotional distress because of their neglect but that would be one person against a powerful and wealthy site.

And you'd likely have to leave the website in the process of this and never use it again.
Bots suck, the presence of them on a site usually means the site owners just don’t care if they’re as large and long-lived as FFnet, when really they should be taking stronger security measures to stop such an infestation of them.

Messages like those are obviously bots to me, you can tell by how they speak. They sound like the wrong demographic for the site, it’s always about dating and hookups, dropping a fishy link, probably(?) promising nudes. I think they’re baiting for the lonely and desperate. I don’t know how it’s done but even DeviantArt has whole bot profiles that look like active people until you pay attention and see them spamming these kinds of messages while the things they fave are totally random. I’ve even gotten Japanese Twitter bots DMing me for god knows what (because that’s the language of the content I retweet and follow) and they drop me links to LINE (basically Asian WhatsApp I guess).

Idk how RPR is always bot free but thank Kim that it is.
SunnyD wrote:
Bots suck, the presence of them on a site usually means the site owners just don’t care if they’re as large and long-lived as FFnet, when really they should be taking stronger security measures to stop such an infestation of them.

Messages like those are obviously bots to me, you can tell by how they speak. They sound like the wrong demographic for the site, it’s always about dating and hookups, dropping a fishy link, probably(?) promising nudes. I think they’re baiting for the lonely and desperate. I don’t know how it’s done but even DeviantArt has whole bot profiles that look like active people until you pay attention and see them spamming these kinds of messages while the things they fave are totally random. I’ve even gotten Japanese Twitter bots DMing me for god knows what (because that’s the language of the content I retweet and follow) and they drop me links to LINE (basically Asian WhatsApp I guess).

Idk how RPR is always bot free but thank Kim that it is.

The answer is because Kim would never tolerate that crap and would instantly swing the ban hammer on the first report of a bot account. Kim #1 <3
I can only really echo what's been said above. Unfortunately, it's out of your hands now. I know that spam is a real nightmare to deal with, and I hope Fanfiction.net's staff rise to the challenge... but ultimately you have to weigh the annoyance of spam versus how much you enjoy the site if this is a recurring issue. It's very frustrating, and I'm sorry that you're having to deal with this.

SunnyD wrote:

Idk how RPR is always bot free but thank Kim that it is.

We as mods do a lot of first detection on this and make sure that we help Kim take them down as soon as she's able. Luckily, the ones we get only seem to sign up, put a link or gibberish in their profile, and never touch the site again. Fingers crossed, it'll stay that way!
Kim

Thanks gang. <3

Like Auberon said, we DO get some bots. Most are caught during the sign-up process (Server declines to give accounts to several THOUSAND bots a day.)

I have a goal of getting the rest caught and cleaned up within 10 minutes of them doing anything spammy -- Server is always scanning for them and I teach him new stuff about them every few weeks as they change and adapt. Some still get through, and the mods are pretty good about catching the rest.

Bots are a plague on the 'net for sure.

If you catch one that we haven't here, definitely report it! We will nuke it.
Oh my gosh, I received a message similar those from my own fanfic account and I haven’t used that account in years! Sadly, like everyone else has said before, these are bots so there isn’t much you can do but report it. It sucks when the staff ignore your legitimate complaints. It’s best not to let it bother you too much.
I haven't had that problem, but I do have an account there and I stopped using that site just because I didn't want to use it anymore since I found another site to post my fanfictions on. Even after reading this, I won't use it again. I'm on a different site where I post my fanfictions. If you like to know what that site is, pm me if your interested. So far, I haven't had any issues there and I go on it from time to time.
I've personally dealt with the FBI on multiple occasions bringing attention to Twitter predators and such.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/cac


This will have information on how to go about reporting the person.

Moderators: MadRatBird, Keke, Libertine, Auberon, Copper_Dragon, Sanne, Dragonfire, Heimdall, Darth_Angelus