I've been thinking this over for a while, and nearly didn't post it, but what the hell. It's my blog. As always, disagreement is welcome, and anonymous hate comments will be sneered at. (Commentary on internet anonymity can be found here, if you missed it the first time around.)
So the Yarn Harlot picked up a stalker, and the entire knitting internet gasped. Well. Ninety percent of it. But, honestly, I'm rather surprised it took that long for a stalker to show up; she's pretty famous, easy to find on the 'net, and successful. That brings out the worst in a certain kind of person. Don't get me wrong; I don't think that Stephanie is in any way require to put up with that crap, and if I were her I'd have had the cops involved months ago. She sure as hell didn't deserve it. It's her blog, she can say what she wants, and no one is required to read it. Plus she's a genuinely nice person.
It's more that I'm shocked people are shocked at the stalking thing. If that made sense.
Y'all may not have noticed, but this is the internet. Any fuckhead with a computer and an internet connection can log onto it. Back in the good old days (I've been on the internet since 1993), only geeks had the equipment and knowledge to get logged on, so it was kind of a self-selecting group of really smart people who, for the most part, wanted to have a discussion about the post-modern symbolism of the Transformers and weren't much interested in harassing anyone. There were a few trolls, but even they were usually looking for a good argument, not genuinely trying to scare the shit out of people. Ah, for the good old days. But now? It's a free-for-all. Computers are cheap, the software has been dumbed down, and free wifi is everywhere. Hello, fuckheads on the internet.
So, anyway, by request, here's some information and what to do if/when a fuckhead fixates on you. Most of the information's general, 'cause I know a lot of my readers are international and obviously calling the FBI from Australia isn't going to accomplish much.
First, the most important thing: Asses the person as a danger to you and yours. Be honest. Annoyance isn't danger. 99.9% of the trolls on the internet are just that: trolls. Fuckheads unhappy with their own lives, taking it out on others. They're harmless, like a rock in your shoe is harmless. Kick them, use them as a chew toy, ignore them, whatever entertains you. Ignoring them usually makes them go away, but sometimes it's more fun to have a whipping boy. Depending on your mood. Just sayin'.
If you decide the person is a potential problem, start logging. Date, time, content. If they're in a chat room, make sure to get the screen name they're using and whatever info you can get off the account. If they're leaving messages on your blog, use StatCounter to track back if possible and get ISP information, location, what you can. If they are bugging you through e-mail, you're in luck; save it all and skilled law-enforcement geeks can trace it back to the exact computer it was sent from.
For the blog, I log hostile comments on Google Earth. I put a little push-pin marker where the message originated from, and then include all data I've got on the comment in the attached note. ISP, address, time, message content.
There's no such thing as anonymous on the internet. Click a mouse, leave a fingerprint. That's why my full name's always been on this blog. Anyone who really wanted to could find it, anyway.
Once you've got a pile of information, call in the cops. Do not call the cops unless you've got a pile. One rude e-mail isn't going to get much attention unless it's a death threat. For most harassment and stalking cases, a pattern of behavior has to be established, which means months or even years of communications. It's best if you're ignoring them from your side, but if you aren't, include your side of the communications, too. Try to limit yourself to 'leave me alone'. In general, the longer the communication has gone on, the more seriously they will take it. Generally.
Here in the US, it would be the FBI you'd contact. You can find them here. I believe in Canada it would be the Mounties. If your country has a national (as opposed to local) law-enforcement agency, call them. If you're not sure, call your local police department. They can refer you.
Here in the US, if the stalking/harassment mentions your child, report it here. Fill in the form, and expect a call back from law enforcement within 24 hours. Once a child is involved, different laws apply, and, well, whoever is stirring up trouble had best put their head between their knees and kiss their ass goodbye.
On a personal level, having been on the internet for sixteen years (good grief, I'm old AND a geek), I've had to contact law enforcement exactly once. That was due to ongoing harassment in a chat room that went on for years. Once they dragged my kid into it, I got on the phone to the FBI and the person disappeared from the internet within 24 hours. (At least, they disappeared from MY internet. Works for me.) The cop I'd spoken to agreed that odds were it was just some idiot and not a true pedophile; he told me he'd call back if there was any reason to worry. I never heard from them again, so I assume the FBI went to someone's house and explained why it was a really bad idea to harass people over the internet. In detail.
Just make sure you don't call the feds over minor stuff, and document, document, document.
I've got photos of spinning and knitting. Hopefully I'll get back to something cheerful, tomorrow.