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Chatrooms


Answer

Zoom is a video conferencing app. Zoom Bombing is a cyber attack on your video call where an individual or a group of people enter it without the permission of the host. These individuals then display offensive or explicit images in order to cause distress to the recipients.

During the coronavirus emergency period, video conferencing is helping many people to work remotely and allows us to stay in touch with our families and friends. Unfortunately as worldwide use of video conferencing increases, so has the reporting of cyber attacks.

The links in Related Information provide details of how to secure your Zoom meeting and prevent unwanted joining.

If you have experienced zoom bombing, this can be reported to Zoom and depending on the nature of the content, your Local Police Force.


Answer

Chatrooms can be a fun pastime for your children. However, there are dangers involved with using chatrooms that both parents and children need to be aware of.

Some people use the internet and chatrooms as a method to gain contact with children and subsequently enter into inappropriate and illegal relationships, as they can create false identities and remain anonymous. They may use a method known as 'grooming', which involves using deceiving techniques build a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. This may include creating different personas or posing as a child themselves.  There is a government website which gives a more comprehensive overview of this activity and has a version for parents and children which sets out the possible dangers of communicating with strangers online and how to make chatrooms a safer place to be - Thinkuknow, see Related Information for that and other helpful websites.

A few basic tips to be aware of when using internet chatrooms are;-

  • Never give out any personal details
  • Always be wary, some users on the internet are not who they say they are
  • Never arrange to meet anyone you have met through a chatroom unless you are 100% sure they are who they say they are. Even then, tell your parents, take them or another responsible adult with you and always meet in a public place.


Answer

There is an application on Facebook which enables users to download the 'ClickCEOP' button and place it within their profile. This gives Facebook users direct access to advice and guidance should they ever need it, as well as a link to report concerns directly to the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre). Please find the link to this website under Related Information.

There are various safeguarding measures that can be taken to keep your child safe whilst they are online. Further advice is available via the 'Internet Matters' and 'Cyberstreet Wise' websites under Related Information.


Answer

People are being increasingly targeted via social networking sites. Anybody who can get access to your personal information can do this; whether it is a former partner/friend or someone you have never met before. This is why it is extremely important to protect yourself when using sites such as Facebook /Twitter.
You should always be cautious about including any of the following information:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Telephone numbers/Email addresses;
  • Education / Employment information;
  • Photographs which may show your home and any valuables you may own;
  • Date of Birth;
  • Status updates/comments which may state when you are not at home, when you are going on holiday, what expensive items you have recently bought etc.

Be wary of including 'friends of friends' in your privacy settings, as this effectively allows anybody, to view your information. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy for people to lie about their identity; so be wary of accepting strangers who send you a friend request. They could be pretending to be someone else (e.g. lying about their gender/age) in order to persuade another person to agree to meet up with them, when in actual fact they have criminal intentions.

Also, if you add someone who you do not know, they may begin to ask you questions over time and aim conversations to particular subjects, in order to find out more information about you. If they already have your email address, they could log in to that account using the information you have given them and answer your security questions/reset your passwords. Once they have done this and have access to your personal emails, they could be gaining access to your bank details, online shopping accounts, PayPal etc. and use these to take money from your accounts or buy goods in your name.

'Internet matters' and 'Cyberstreet Wise' are websites that offer advice on using social networking securely and what safeguarding measures to take. You will find links to these, and other helpful websites, in the related information section.


Answer

If a person sends threatening/abusive/offensive messages to another person via Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site, they could be committing an offence. The most relevant offences are 'harassment' and 'malicious communications. The offence of 'stalking' may also be relevant if a person is being targeted persistently by someone across various social media accounts, along with any other repeated, obsessive and intrusive behaviour, that causes the person alarm and distress. See Q151 and the links in Related Information for further details.

For harassment to be committed, there must be a 'course of conduct' (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The messages do not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but must be oppressive and need to have caused some alarm or distress. See Q497 for further information regarding this offence.

If there has only been a single communication, which would be insufficient for the offence of harassment (above), there could be an offence relating to malicious communications. For such an offence to be committed, a message must be sent to another person (or sent via a public communications network) that is indecent, grossly offensive, obscene or threatening/menacing.

You can report any possible offences to your local police force, who will advise whether they can progress the matter based on the full facts and your individual situation. In order to assist the police with their investigation, you must not respond to the message as it may encourage the sender and make the situation worse. Also, you could take a screenshot of the message so if it gets deleted later there will still be a record of what was said.

However, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the messages, you may wish to initially make a report to Facebook/Twitter etc., as they have processes in place for such situations, and may be able to simply remove the content and/or close down the person's account.

Please see the links in Related Information for Facebook and Twitter's Community Guidelines in relation to dealing with harassment.


Answer

Depending on the exact nature of the information and how they have posted it (Have they sent the information to someone else? Have they posted it via their own account? Who has access to the information?), an offence may have been committed.

The offence of harassment may apply. For harassment to be committed, there must be a 'course of conduct' (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The information does not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but must be oppressive and need to have caused some alarm or distress. See Q497 for further information regarding this offence.

If the information is indecent, grossly offensive, obscene or threatening/menacing, then an offence relating to 'malicious communications' may have been committed. This offence does not require more than one incident. You can report any of these offences to your local policing team and they will then investigate and take appropriate action.

If the information posted does not fall under either of the above offences, then you may wish to consider whether the person has committed 'libel' (defamation of character - publishing a false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation). If this is the case, you would need to take action through the civil courts as this would be a civil matter and the police do not have any jurisdiction to assist with this. You should seek legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau and/or a solicitor before taking any action regarding this. Please see related information to find your local bureau.

In the first instance, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information, you may wish to initially make a report to Facebook/Twitter (before contacting the police/Citizens Advice/a solicitor), as these sites have processes in place for such situations, and may be able to simply remove the content and/or close down the person's account.

Contact your local police force

Enter your town or postcode to see information from your local force

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