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The Scariest Thing on the Internet

Posted August 25, 2008 12:00 AM by Sharkles

In our lives, there are certain learning experiences that change how we see things. One of these experiences happened to me when I was fifteen years old. In high school, I was a happy-go-lucky girl who cared only about cheerleading and family. I believed that all people were innately good, until I met someone I'll call "Joe Nolife". Despite a bad reputation, I believed that this person just needed to be given a chance – so I befriended him.

I talked to Joe in the same way I talked to everyone else, through AOL instant messenger. At first, Joe seemed like a genuinely nice person. I was happy to have proven everyone else wrong! After a few weeks, however, my friends at school were not pleased with me. Apparently, Joe was telling them things that I had supposedly said about them.

Things got ugly to say the least. Not only were my friends upset, but rumors were circulating about me. Sadly, the "nice" person that I had befriended turned very cruel. Instead of talking about movies and music, Joe took every opportunity to cut me down in every aspect. He drove by my house, threatened me, and continuously spread degrading rumors.

After graduating from high school, I moved away and thought I'd said "good riddance" to Joe Nolife. But stalkers don't give up so easily. Seven years, five screen names, and 200 miles later, the issue is less of a problem – but not gone. A few months ago, I received a message from Joe Nolife via a social networking site. These sites have made it possible for people like Joe to continue stalking.

An Existing Problem Aggravated by New Technology

Because of the popularity of the Internet and other methods of electronic communication, "cyberstalking" is not uncommon. Social networks and other Web sites allow you to put out a lot of information about yourself – even down to your favorite food! By using search engines, Stalkers can find this information about a person to use it to cause mental distress.

Cyberstalkers don't necessarily know their victims; rather, they can be people who find you through the Internet. Some victims of cyberstalking may not even know they're being watched. Others are the victims of live-chat harassment.

Internet bullying is different than taking the occasional jab at someone for fun. Often, cyberstalkers will try to gather information about their target in order to spread false accusations. Other stalking methods include encouraging the victim's friends to join the conversation and attacking the person's belongings.

Grave Consequences

The ever-growing Internet is making it possible for people to get more information about whomever or whatever they want. Many websites allow you to create detailed profiles that anyone can access. Even with privacy settings, the cyberstalker still has access to basic information. While it may start out to be harmless - as in the case of Joe Nolife- things can escalate quickly.

An example of this is the 2006 death of an American teenager named Megan Meier. After Megan had a falling out with a friend, the former friend's mother created a false alias of a teenage boy who became friends with Megan. When the messages turned nasty and Megan was told that the "world would be a better place without her", she took her own life.

New forms of communication are always going to have drawbacks. The Internet age has made it easy for people to connect - sometimes too easily. I never know when or how I am going to be contacted by Joe Nolife, but it's always something that I have to think about when going to my hometown. Whenever I signup for something online, whether it's the New York Times or MySpace, the first thing I do is adjust the privacy settings accordingly.

My advice is to surf safely and encourage your families to do the same. If someone is continually giving you a hard time, report it. Many governments have begun passing legislation about cyberstalking. If you are a victim, remember that you are not in this alone.

Resources:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cyber+stalking&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&wikititle=1&q=Suicide%20of%20Megan%20Meier

http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberstalking.htm

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#1

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/25/2008 4:14 AM

You have my deepest sympathy. Mental cruelty and bullying like that is the worst sort of thing.
I avoid social networking sites....however I'm sure I've let slip enough info' on this site for a determined individual to trackdown Del the Cat .

One can only hope that the people who do this stuff get hoist by their own petard at some point.

Best of luck
Del

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#12
In reply to #1

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 7:32 AM

I promise I will not Google "petard"

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#22
In reply to #12

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 12:47 PM

Wikipedia has a good explanation if the word is unfamiliar......

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#2

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/25/2008 9:37 AM

Yikes! That is scary. Thank you for sharing a first hand story that shows how dangerous our world of technology can be because of the "Joe Nolifes" that are about.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/25/2008 10:55 AM

You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.

- George Bernard Shaw

Technology, like most things, is not good or bad. It is the user who determines how it is used. With every step forward, we have an element of society who uses it for their own personal agenda to make someone else miserable.


Hopefully, Joe Nolife will get the hint before he stalks some who has a violent boyfriend/husband/father who doesn't mind going to prison to protect the woman/daughter he loves.

Mostly, I feel sorry for this guy. If you are spending that much time on the computer looking for a meaningful relationship or hunting people to cause them pain, how miserable of an existence must you have?

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#14
In reply to #3

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:17 AM

Mostly, I feel sorry for this guy. If you are spending that much time on the computer looking for a meaningful relationship or hunting people to cause them pain, how miserable of an existence must you have?

It's like you know him! He ended up dropping out of high school when I was a Junior, so he had more time to sit around at home and think of menacing things to say to me.

The whole experience taught me a lot about myself. Lots of times people say that don't care about other people's opinions as a defense mechanism. I used to be like that, but now I can say that I really just don't care about what certain people - people like 'Joe' - think about me. I guess you could say that I now have a low tolerance for bullshhh.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:30 AM

I now have a low tolerance for bullshhh.

Amazing how increased distance, age, experience and perspective often cause that very thing!

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#4

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/25/2008 1:22 PM

Thanks for this important reminder that no matter what site you're using and no matter how "anonymous" you may think you are, a determined person can always find you. You always leave some type of clue behind, whether it's a birth date or part of a user name. Privacy settings are definitely your friend!

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#5

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/25/2008 4:12 PM

Hi Sharkles - Sorry to hear about your experience - that takes all the fun out of the Internet and computing, for sure!

My daughter is too young for instant messaging, and I dread the day she begins using it. But, since I fully expect she will over the next few years, I've did my homework, and watched a good documentary on the topic on PBS/Frontline called "Growing Up Online", http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/.

For now, her focus is playing real-time with her pre-school friends, and using the computer for some math and language (no Internet yet). So I can breath easy, at least for the moment.

-april05

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#19
In reply to #5

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:41 AM

Thanks for you comment, April05.

I haven't seen the documentary, but it seems like something I should look into watching. Online culture for teenagers is an interesting experience - as someone else in this thread said, it's a double-edged sword. I grew-up in a very tight-knit family who led me to believe in the goodness inside of people. However, neither of my parents use the internet for a lot of things, so they didn't know how to prepare me for such an experience.

I think that when the time comes, you should let your daughter know that this type of thing is out there and to surf safely. Luckily, it sounds like you have a few years before she is on IM or MySpace - so who knows what types of regualations can come about before then. There is an increasing amount of legislation passed on cyberstalking, and hopefully that will continue to grow.

Despite everything, I still have a strong love for instant messaging! It's a fun and useful tool when used right. Like most things, you can restrict privacy settings. Currently, I have it set so that only people on my buddy list can even see that I'm online. I think privacy settings are really key for any type of online activity.

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#6

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 12:08 AM

Well like all tecnology it is a double edged sword.

But also you have proof of the stalkers harrasing on websites that can be used in a court of law.

On social sites i always check that there are ways to make my profile private or if i can block unwanted persons

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#7

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 12:44 AM

What scares me is these little girls pretending to be adults.

I pray my sons are smart enough, after all my lectures, not to go meet one. She could end up being a 10 year old playing games and they would be in trouble.

Did you see the girl now in Virgina Beach pretending to be 23 years old but only 15 years old. She got dome guy to take her to the beach and I get when day light hit them he saw she was only a kids and dumped her.

The cops are looking for him but she is in no trouble at all.

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#8
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Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 2:27 AM

sounds familiar.

'da ber

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#17
In reply to #7

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:31 AM

This scares me too. I think it's unfortunate that little girls are in such a hurry to grow-up these days. Often these kids make detailed profiles of themselves and don't include privacy settings, which allows everyone and anyone to learn about them. Lots of sites include where kids go to school as "basic" information, but some stranger could see their profile and show up at their school.

I almost hate to say this, but I partly blame our culture. Girls are now growing-up in the Paris Hilton/Britney Spears/Miley Cyrus generation, which says that looking sexy and getting attention from guys is desireable. Consequences to these actions are not always known to a young girl.

That being said, I feel like the girl in VA Beach should be punished somehow. It's not fair that she lied to get this guy to take her on a free vacation. Getting away with it is only teaching her and other girls that this type of behavior is acceptable when it is most certainly not.

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#9

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 3:14 AM

Hi Sharkles,

My advise to our friends who surf on net is:-

1.Never disclose your real Identy.

2.Never give your address of home or workplace.

3.Never give your phone nos.

4.Never give your credit card details or bank a/c details.

5.never meet person for socialising.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 4:19 AM

hello shakles great idea but i ask you or other posters to consider this scenario

about 30 years ago a number of gold coins were stored in a cloth bag by a elderly couple, both died the estates of bothhave long been disbursed.

i was given one of the bags of coins by a beneficiary and told to " rid the manse of that yankee devils' luchre(?)" anyway what i did do was to type in dogpile a description of one of several of the coins unlike the six others that are silver this one is a gold half dollar. less than the time it is taking to type this reply in i had at least 5 replies to the query.

each one one of the respondents was willing to arrive at my home address and have a certified coin dealer determine the exact value of that particular one. thats o.k but when the verification of my home address and one of my unpublished telephone numbers was also listed more than a few alarm bells went off. bellsouth is getting a email telephone call and the f.c.c. is going get the same things.

any comments?

'da ber

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#13
In reply to #10

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:12 AM

So you asked for an appraisal and all of sudden your address and unlisted phone number magically appeared on the internet?

Is that what you are saying?

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:22 AM

If this is true, then it's a very scary situation. However, I'm not suprised by it. I read a book called No Place to Hide, which talked about how there are companies that exist solely to collect information about each individual. That is how we're targeted by marketing campaigns that fit our interests. The database information may easily be traceable, which would make it easy for people to find your address and phone number.

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#18
In reply to #15

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 8:32 AM

There is also harvesting software that once you visit a website, your e-mail and other personal information can be captured and added to a database.

A lot of times, the collection of this information and its sale is where we get SPAM from.

I use to work for an internet safety company that tried to protect kids from pedophiles. Some of the stories I heard while working there were terrifying.

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#39
In reply to #18

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

03/05/2010 4:55 AM

This even happens via CR4 - though I'm sure the guys are doing their best to prevent it.

I have periods away from the site, or of reading but not posting. When I come back and post, the level of spam to my registered account rockets. One of the other reasons I identify this as the source is that the majority tend to be offering forms of - ahem - male enhancement, and advice on how to please my girlfriend. I'm sure if I joined, say, Cosmo's blogsite, I'd get breast enhancement spam.

Good article Sharkles and timely. I've received two invites from real-life friends to join their LinkedIn groups/be their friends/whatever on that site. I'm wondering whether to think about joining LinkedIn, am not a member of any other social network site (for all the reasons mentioned) and would like to see what security settings, minimum display information, etc etc exists on these site before I sign up. this just reinforces my belief that the problems outweigh the benefits.

Or am I a Luddite?

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#20
In reply to #13

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 9:40 AM

good morning shakespeare the engine

yes that is exactly what i wanted to relate.

what i became aware of since posting the query is that there are apparently via sharkles several companies that provide that form of software to people and companies to do what i would in my experience call tailings screenings.

what i will do is contact a member of my lodge who works for packard bell and ask if anything can be done to prevent thatoccuring and possibly have him post it for all. the one i think would benefit from the info is the poster of kates controversies.

thanks to all who came up with some ideas for me to understand and the way each has taken the time to put thier knowledge into plain language for my self and the rest of the readers.

sparky each reply should get a two thumbs up rate.

'da ber

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 10:10 AM

That is scary stuff and I am sure that it has advanced a great deal since I was working with that company, four years ago.

Definitely post any info that you find out about it, here. I am sure many of us would appreciate knowing what is out there and what can be done about it.

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#11

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 6:16 AM

It is in fact quite disturbing that some individuals partake is such disrespectful practice. I suppose there is good and bad in all and in all parts or the world. My proposition to you and all at CR4 is what they think of a site where individuals like the "Joe's" and "John Citizen" can be exposed. Therein lies a further problem, you may get some individuals out on a personal vendetta or grudge and provide false information/facts about the other. So possibly a board of "jury's" to validate the claims might solve this dilemma.

Any thoughts?

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#23

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/26/2008 11:13 PM

I had a incident, not as bad as the one you are going through.

recently I was trying to sell some real estate property's. In the process some people came to me as perspective buyers. During the course of our conversations they disclosed some information about me, that they could not have known. I immediately knew that they had gotten the information off of the INTERNET. They had information they I had not disclosed. I suddenly had a very creepy feeling. I immediately told them to get off of my property and not to pursue it any more. Now I am allot more careful. For what is thats worth

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/27/2008 8:41 AM

Thank you for sharing your story.

It's scary to realize how much of ourselves are really out on the internet. You were right to follow your instincts by telling them to leave. Knowing that they already found personal information is a red flag. If you can continued to work with them, who know what else they could've found - and really how they would have tried to use it against you.

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/27/2008 8:53 AM

After reading about this, I found this service on the Internet.

http://www.lookupanyone.com/

Since I won't pay $40 for unlimited search service, I don't know how accurate it is. You can also do a one time lookup for $2.

With the free service, when I typed my own name in, it did list my correct age the last four towns I lived in (but not addresses). It also listed my grandfather (same name), although it listed him as being 91 and he passed away in 1993. It also listed my parents' names and my sisters as living relatives.

Further services offered:

COMPLETE REPORT INCLUDES (WHEN AVAILABLE):

  • Statewide Criminal Check
  • Bankruptcies & Liens
  • Address History
  • Neighbors
  • Neighborhood Info
  • Alias Names
  • Sex Offender Check
  • Small Claims & Judgements
  • Relatives & Associates
  • Home Value & Details
  • Satellite & Map Images
  • Much More...

$2 is not that much of an investment if you want to really harass someone. Scary that with the internet you can do that so simply

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/27/2008 9:04 AM

I was in a Media Ethics class once and someone presented a site very similar to this - maybe it was even the same one. Talk about SCARY! I also did a basic search and it came up with my hometown and the names of my Dad, Mom, and Brother. Stalking situations - in real life or online - are possible because of sites like these. It really makes me kind of sick and very scared. How is a person ever supposed to be safe? Even if people aren't using the internet, their information is out there - my Grandfather, who has never used the internet once in his life, is on lookupanyone.com.

*Shudders*

Thanks Shakespeare, for bringing this into the discussion. It's an important thing that everyone should be aware of.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/27/2008 9:10 AM

Hopefully, I didn't empower any would be stalkers by bringing it up!

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#28

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/30/2008 4:03 AM

On a similar vein...
The UK government is hoping to introduce ID cards...

Of course with their current record of losing data...they won't be secire and even more people will have access to even more personal information.

When will these idiots realise that such systems aren't secure?

The company who makes the readers will have a 'faulty' one scrapped, it won't be faulty and it will get sold on.
The company making the cards will 'lose' some blanks...

It is so glaringly obvious to anyone who has worked in industry...I just dispair...
Oh and has a government computer system ever come in on time, working or on budget?
I rest my case!

Del

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

08/30/2008 9:40 AM

The best one of all, that affected me personally, was the amalgamation of BOAC & BEA to form BA.......back in 1975 or so.....

Univac offered to upgrade the BEA systems for a few 100,000 Pounds to take over the BOAC booking as well, IBM managed with political help, to sell a complete new system for 10 Million Pounds Sterling that took about 5 years to get working!!!!!

It was a political football for years to come!!!

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#30

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

09/08/2008 11:42 PM

For several years, you have been able to jump on Google Earth and look down on peoples homes, look in the back yards and front yards, no one seemed to care, or hardly any publicity until now.

Google has released "Street view" where their "Google Cars" drive along streets taking snapshots, now all of a sudden people are demanding that these pictures be removed due to Invasion of privacy, yet the pretty good resolution Satillite pictures are still being ignored.

I see the Sat pix as more of an invasion, cause to see the front of someones house, you can walk down the street and take a look, people are not complaining that the local real estate agents are taking pictures of their properties and dropping off the pictures to hopefully get you to sell your house with them, but to see in the back yard of someone, you have to actually walk onto their property, and around into the back yard to see anything (avoiding the dog or angry home owner)

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

09/09/2008 8:12 AM

consider how this capacity to observe has many positive and negative aspects you so well provide material for readers of y the posts to consder. it will soon come to a situation where privacy will no longer exists if it has not already reached that stage i am surprised. the only ones who may benefit from the scenarios you have so brilliantly directly and indirectly present will be for a short time at least the legal professions. soon however they to will not be able to avoid being at a bare minimum hoisted on thier own petard by t.p.o."d clients because as you illustrate civil stability continues to unravel. there will be no legal, moral or religious instituion which or by whose however applied influence may slow or stop the advancements in the stupidity greed fear or whatever are readily shown as attirbutes of " civilized socities" as we have come to know them will ever be able to overcome mankinds own levels of unique to thw worlds occupying species called mankind, that includes the female gender Miss Kate.

you have made a truly great observation, itrates a two thumbs up being ascriibed (oh my did i really come up with that high couthed word?) to it by sparkstation.

'da bear

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

09/09/2008 7:52 PM

The only thing on satellite imagery that the local governments have done here, is to fly a light plane zig-zag over the 'burbs and take low level pictures, these are then displayed on the council desktops, and they over lay on top of that the street atlas.

The next step is inspecting each property for building regulations,

They take pictures the following year, and compare for "renovations or additions, then compare to planning requests, then they fine you for unpermitted buildings on your property, with photographic proof that your new tool shed wasn't always there.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

09/10/2008 5:39 AM

Same in Germany.

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Anonymous Poster
#34

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

10/15/2008 9:41 PM

I think this whole ordeal is very controversial. Just knowing that anyone in the world or area could be stalking any one person at any time. That is scary and hopefully this will be stopped at some point. This also comes down to people posting stupid things that are open to anyone to see and talk about. Be careful what websites you visit and what you post in the internet, because it may come back to haunt you.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

10/15/2008 9:53 PM

The only time it will really hit you is when you become rich, and/or possibly famous.

Without this, why would anyone want to use the crap on you?

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

10/16/2008 12:05 AM

Yep, i post on many (news) sites using my own name.

i stand by my statements

(i have a handle here because i fear CNpowers retribution )

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Anonymous Poster
#37

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

10/17/2008 1:21 PM

I hate how these things can happen.

The stalking is a very serious matter that has to be dealed with a little better, but the abuse that someone can do via instant messager or myspace is also a concern. Harrasing and stalking people online has become to easy for predators. I remember a story on the news about a girl who killed herself because a boy was sweet to her online, but a few weeks later he became rude and treatened her. what she didn't know though, is that it wasn't even a boy, but parents who were trying to see if this girl was saying rude things about their daughter.

I think the web should be a little more informitive about things like cyber harrasment, sex offenders, and all the other dangers online. I think social networking sites are doing great about saying "dont give people your password" but not doing a great enough job to say: Look, online you may meet a few people online but always be cautious of who it is, and what kind of things you are sharing to a person, that honestly, you may think you have grown to know them, but you still don't KNOW them.

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Anonymous Poster
#38

Re: The Scariest Thing on the Internet

10/17/2008 1:30 PM

Although in what i just said, I still think that the internet can be a very good place.

Aside from the story about the girl, I also read a story about another teenager who was adopted, but found her real brothers, by using myspace. she was contacted by her oldest brother and they made the conection that they were related. Her and her two older brothers now live together, and she is very happy

Ok so I am aware this was totally off topic, but I wanted to show that I don't think that the internet is evil, it has many good qualities.

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