|“The Troll Patrol:” Protecting yourself against vigilantism
Derek W. Logue
January 19, 2008, Last Update Dec. 25, 2019
Vigilantism is one of the most prevalent concerns among sex offenders, as stories abound regarding the harassment, vigilantism, and
even murders of Registered Citizens or those merely accused of sex crimes. Registered Citizens are so reviled in the community,
even the accusation that a person is a pedophile, untrue it may be, has led to “vigilantism” or “organized stalking” against the
accused. “Vicious lies are circulated throughout the community, and these lies don’t stop. Such lies as the target is a prostitute, a
drug user, a drug dealer, has a long criminal record, or the highly destructive favourite (applied to men and women,) the target is a
pedophile… ‘vigilante stalking’ is sometimes used because of the false allegations that targets are active criminals.” (Eleanor White,
“Organized Stalking- A Taboo Subject.” www.opednews.com, July 4, 2007). Vigilantism is a real threat; however, there are things
you can do to protect yourself from being targeted by vigilantes.
Vigilantism at its worst: Murders and Assaults
The most extreme form of vigilante violence is murder. A number of stories have appeared over the years, which solidifies the fear
many registrants have about becoming a target by random vigilante thugs:
- SC- July 2013: A husband and wife duo and members of a Skinhead gang, Jeremy and Christine Moody, killed a registrant
and his wife after looking them up on the public registry
- WA- June 2012: Patrick Drum killed two registrants and planned to kill two others in Port Angeles WA, using information
obtained from the sex offender registry.
- CA- February 2009: Ivan Garcia Oliver murders a neighbor after finding him on the Megan's Law website.
- ME- April 2006: Stephen Marshall drove from Canada to Maine to murder two registrants after selecting them from the state's
Megan's Law website.
As of 2012, eAdvocate has documented 432 known murders of registrants or people accused of committing sex crimes.
Furthermore, a study by Jill Levenson and Richard Tewksbury entitled "Collateral Damage: Family Members of Sex Offenders"
found that 44% of family members experience threats and harassment, 27% experienced property damage, and 7% were physically
My intent here is not to scare you into paranoia, and I hope you never have to use these tips. However, in the event you are harassed
or you feel your life is threatened, there are a number of things you can do to minimize your risk of becoming a target; nothing is
100% effective, but following some common sense rules. Home surveillance systems and owning dogs are well known and relatively
easy to find options, and can alert you to intruders. Large dogs with a reputation for being guard dogs become visual deterrents to
In addition, get into the habit of documenting everything. If you have a telephone harasser, it is imperative you discuss your options
with your phone company. Unfortunately, most cell phone providers don't provide services like call blocks, but even if a person calls
from an unlisted number, that call can be traced (though it may take a court order to retrieve the information). If your harasser is
driving by and shouting obscenities, film him in the act. Most people own cell phones, and virtually all cell phones have some form of
Online Vigilantes and Trolls
The Internet has become a necessity in today's culture, but it has also given people the ability to harass and annoy people with a large
degree of anonymity. This emboldens people to say and do things they don't have the guts to do in person. It is easy to get caught in
"flame wars" or feel the need to defend yourself from attacks on online message boards. It is a feeling of helpless to see someone
insult your personhood, your family, or make up lies about you. Even I get sucked into the occasional flame war.
But should you really be worried that someone going by the screen name "roar4truth" is pestering you online? It depends. Many
malevolent online entities are merely "trolls," people who are online just to pick an online fight for fun (or to use Internet slang, "for
the lulz"). It is important to separate annoying but relatively harmless trolls from actual cyber-stalkers.
Trolls are named for a fishing technique, not a mythical creature. “The troll posts a message, often in response to an honest
question, that is intended to upset, disrupt or simply insult the group” [From Andrew Heenan (2013), “Internet Trolls,“ www.flayme.
com/troll/, a now defunct site] The Flayme site finds the following to be characteristics of the cyber-trolls; I adapted the definition
specifically for registrants:
- Lack of Imagination: Posts comments just to inflame
- “Pedantic to the extreme:” Rather thorough posts that, while appearing as ludicrous, elicit sympathy and leads to division. A
typical tactic is posting threads that simultaneously attack sex offenders as “pedophiles” and paint themselves as a victim of
- False Identity: Will never reveal real names due to cowardice, though these days, security reasons have led many to use
pseudonyms. Many cyber-vigilante “non-profit organizations” do not have physical addresses, and they tend to have multiple
screen names as well. It begs the question, “If what they do is right in the name of justice and the law, why hide your
- Cross-posting: Trolls tend to post the exact same post everywhere they go, and tend to post it whether it is relevant or not.
- Off-Topic Posting: Can be genuine errors; “a BRIEF opposite response is simply "netiquette;" if it’s a troll post, you have
denied it its reward.” In other words, don’t get goaded into arguing
- Repetition: Trolls tend to repeat the same rhetoric everywhere they go. Trust me, I’ve heard the same sex offender myths
repeated by the same few people in every post in the last two months
- Missing The Point: “Trolls rarely answer a direct question- they cannot, if asked to justify their twaddle…” My experience has
been either they do not have a source to quote or the post a link to their gossip sites as “evidence”
- Thick or sad: They “rarely make what most people would consider intelligent conversation,” but brag of having a high IQ.
The general consensus is the number one rule to dealing with trolls is simply IGNORE THEM! It is better to not engage them at all,
and if you do, keep it brief and to the point. If you counter an “F*** You” with your own “F*** you,” you are merely goading them.
If you ignore them, most will give up. Many are merely attention seekers, seeking others who will give them sympathy, justify their
actions, and make them feel important. Thus, ignoring them hurts them.
Cyber-stalkers/ Online Vigilantes
The more active you are in sex offender activism, the more likely you will become a target for the myriad of cyber-vigilante
organizations online. While this form of cyber-vigilantism is less prevalent, it is more dangerous because it is more intrusive,
menacing, and persistent. You become the object of the cyber-stalker's obsession. Many online vigilantes are members of groups of
like-minded individuals or at least share information with one another. The Flayme.com definition is:
- “At its mildest, a stalker is simply a troll that has attached itself to an individual. At worst, boring, at best, flattering. But a
stalker can be a serious predator, using the Internet to pursue a real or imagined vendetta, or other perverted agenda. Risk
assessment is an essential first step.” (Andrew Heenan, “Internet Stalkers.” www.flayme.com/stalker/, 2007).
According to www.wiredsafety.org/cyberstalking_harassment/definition.html, the traits of a cyberstalker:
- Malice: The desire to hurt you
- Premeditation: The presence of planning or organization
- Repetition: The activity is not a one-time incident
- Distress: The activity causes you fear or distress
- Obsession: Harassment won’t stop, despite repeated warnings
- Vendetta: Wants “revenge” on you
- No Legitimate Purpose: No valid purpose aside from causing you harm
- Personally directed at you
- Disregarding warnings to stop
- Harassment: As defined by state statute
- Threats (www.wiredsafety.org, “Cyber 911 Emergency: Definition," 2008)
If you have joined any support or legal reformist website, you could become a target of organized groups of online vigilantes at some
point. In 2008, when I first wrote this article, most online vigilantes were affiliated with Perverted-Justice (Wikisposure) and
Absolute Zero United. When I made the first major revision to this article in 2013, those sites are defunct but replaced with sites like
Evil-Unveiled, No Peace For Predators, and individuals like Valerie "Valigator" Parkhurst of Davie, FL. Now, even these groups have
been replaced with new groups of online vigilantes. Below are the tactics of a cyber-stalker:
- Publishing your personal info online at their website: This is done primarily to incite members or supporters to harass
targets by mail or phone (Julia Scheeres, “They Wanted To Teach Him a Lesson.” www.wired.com, March 19, 2004)
- Hacking into computers, websites, or servers: Done for a variety of reasons, such as to obtain your personal information or
to disrupt your activities. Of deeper concern is the possibility of “browser hijacking,” as a few cases have surfaced where
computers were allegedly embedded with porn without their knowledge (John Leyden, “Child porn case highlights browser
hijack risks.” The Register, UK, May 13, 2004, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/13/browser_hijacking_risks/print.html)
( see also http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,63391,00.html)
- Impersonation: The creation of identities, screen names, or websites with your name and likeness. For example, a troll
targeting me put up an attack blog, posting up personal information obtained from the Ohio Registry, doctoring up the picture
from my SO flyer, and using my real name as a screen name.
- Harassment: can be though any media- phone, mail, or e-mails sent either to you directly OR to people you know, I.e.,
friends, family, co-workers, etc. (Marcell v. Perverted Justice.com, CV-06-0693 [US Dist Ct New Mex., Aug 3, 2006)
- Mobbing/ ganging up: A favorite tactic of members of stalking groups, members of that group (or perhaps even multiple
screen names of one individual) will flood chatrooms, forums, or other places you post your opinions, either in an attempt to
drown you out, or to attack you en masse.
- Virtual Stalking: It should come as no surprise, but online stalkers tend to follow you around the Internet. As an example, I
used the screen name "fallenone" for many years; in doing so, I made it easy for a cyber-stalker to find me by Googling my
screen name, and he would follow behind me and post attack info behind all my posts.
So you may have a cyber stalker, so the question is how do you handle it? The hard part is the nature of the Internet itself, along
with a lack of consensus on the seriousness of cyber-terrorism, as evidenced by the recent high profile case of the 13-year-old who
committed suicide after she was targeted by a cyber bully. See also the 1999 Report on Cyber Stalking (www.usdoj.
gov/criminal/cyber crime/cyber stalking.htm). In short, local law enforcement may lack the capacity (or the desire) to handle
Below are a few methods of dealing with cyber-stalkers I have adapted from various sources. It is up to you to decide which method
- Ignore them as you would a troll: Most cyber-stalkers are annoying you get a rise out of your reactions, and if you ignore
them or at least not directly address them, most will get aggravated and give up. Noted as the best of the approaches by most
people, as many cyber-stalkers are motivated similarly to trolls.
- Take a stand: Bring to light their actions. For example, if they post derisive remarks online and they attack you in a later
forum, provide a link to the original post and remind them you’re onto them. Use restraint however, as many play the “blame
game,” making YOU out to be the aggressor. If you do choose this approach, just be careful with your words. Minimize your
personal attacks and communications while maximizing your public response; make interactions impersonal.
- The “Tit for tat” approach: The organized stalkers tend to troll your every post and use everything you say against you, so
you should use their techniques. Keep a log of their posts, and if you wish, open up a webpage to showcase their foolishness.
Many of them use Google’s free “Blogspot” page, so feel free to do the same. Dig up information on them like they have you.
Below are a few tips you can use when dealing with a cyber-stalker:
- Remove personal info from all public profiles such as Facebook. It amazes me how easy I've been able to out many online
vigilantes because one day the stalker connected their online vigilante profile to some real life interest. It only takes one
mistake for me to make a connection between a fake profile and a real profile. If I can do this rather easily, you can be
assured so can the vigilantes (besides, I've learned a few techniques from them). Honestly, social media brings out the worst
in people, so not having a social media account may be better for your mental health. But if you feel you absolutely MUST
have a soial media profile, consider an alias without real-life info.
- Maintain a separate activist account: If you are an activist, then create an activist profile separate from your personal or
business accounts. You may also want to consider using an anonymous web browser like Tor, which masks your IP address.
Some sophisticated individuals can trace you by IP addresses.
- Watch Your Mouth: Be sure not to give out too much info. Be mindful that people can "out" you by such relatively mundane
things as a general interest (Example: If you like Skyline Chili then you probably live in or close to Cincinnati). Giving out TMI
like specific birthdays, pictures of yourself or family on Facebook, or specifics when telling your story can reveal your
identity. Instead of saying "On January 4th I was arrested in Dayton, Ohio," you can say, "Last winter I was arrested in
Ohio." Watch out for catchphrases as well. If you say "that's so radical" a lot, for example (a rarely used term these days
unless you still watch TMNT), then a cyber-stalker may be able to figure out who you are by your speech.
- Save all forms of communication, including chatlogs. There are many ways to save information. These days, most web
browsers offer some sort of "screenshot" technology; for Firefox I used "Fireshot" and for Google Chrome I use "Webpage
Screenshot." You can also cut-and-paste info to a Word Document or even save the entire webpage to your computer.
- DO NOT believe anyone in these groups are trying to help you. In fact, they are trying to obtain as much information as
possible to use against you later or con you out of money. So if a group offers you the opportunity to remove the info from
their websites for a price or offers you the chance to plead your case to them, do not accept it.
- If this leads to phone harassment, trace every threatening call, even if you have to pay for it. You could block calls from
unlisted numbers, and pressing *59 will keep a log in the phone company computers in case you need to call the police later.
Also, in most cases you can record phone conversations; recording laws require only the consent of one party to record a
conversation. Thus, you are one of the two parties in a phone conversation. I actually used my camcorder to tape a
conversation in a civil case, which helped me win one case. If you own a smartphone, you can also find phone applications
("Apps") to record phone conversations for free (with ads) or for a small fee to remove ads.
- You can also take legal action- civil or criminal. Civil litigation can be expensive but in many cases, civil litigation may be
the only deterrent if the person has any assets.
Scams and Extortion
When you consider the level of desperation the average registrant experiences under persecution, it should be no surprise that a
number of websites and email scams targeting Registered Citizens are out there. This is a bit different than online trolls or stalkers,
because the intent is simply to scam you out of some money or assets, but it is no less aggravating.
Below are some typical scams that are out there on the Internet specifically targeting Registered Citizens. This is by no means
comprehensive, but these examples will give you an idea of what to look for:
- Offendex/ SORArchives (Mugshot Websites Scam): Offendex/ SORArchives is a scam that steals public registry information
and, for as much as $699, offers registrants the opportunity to pay to remove the information from their websites. Of course,
they simply create new websites and the scam continues some more. Offendex is currently in litigation over this extortion
practice. For more info on this company visit Offendextortion.com.
- FBI Alert Virus: The way this scam works is a notice pops up claiming you are locked out of your computer by the "FBI"
and accuses you of engaging in some form of online activity. It prompts you to pay to unlock your computer. This, of
course, is a scam. The FBI didn't lock your computer; instead your computer has received a new type of virus called
"ransomware." As the name suggests, the scheme involves locking you out of certain computer functions (holding it as a
virtual hostage) until you pay a fee. There are a few incarnations of this virus, and there are a number of sites offering tips on
repairing computers infected with this virus online.
- The Classic Scams: These scams are more personal, but your typical scams used on everyone else. A number of individuals
are offering services like books claiming to teach registrants to avoid detection legally, how to get off the registry, or claiming
to offer information for a price. Granted, there are a number of legitimate services like this website that collects donations for
services, so not every website requesting money is a scam. Checking out the website and its owners are key. Another classic
phone scam that many registrants are experiencing are people calling and pretending to be registry officials claiming a warrant
is out for your arrest that can be cleared up by wiring money to an undisclosed location. Police will never call you to tell you
that you have a warrant out for your arrest. If you are unsure, hang up and call your registration office.
Legal issues with cyber stalking
Like most issues concerning the Internet, cyber stalking laws are difficult to enforce, given the anonymity of the Internet and the
lack of general knowledge of the very nature of the Internet itself. For example, though many networks and service providers have
“Acceptable Use” policies against harassment and stalking, in most instances, it is difficult to get certain activities such as bogus web
pages of you removed. For example, consider the following disclaimer from Google’s “Blogspot” service, in which they effectively
claim no responsibility :
“We do not remove allegedly defamatory content from www.google.com or any other U.S. dot com domains. US domain sites such as
Google.com, Blogger, Page Creator, etc. are sites regulated only by U.S. law. Given this fact, and pursuant to Section 230(c) of the
Communications Decency Act, we do not remove allegedly defamatory material from U.S. domains. The only exception to this rule is
if the material has been found to be defamatory by a court, as evidenced by a court order. The language of Section 230(c) of the
Communications Decency Act fundamentally states that Internet services like Google.com, Blogger and many of Google’s other
services are re-publishers and not the publisher of that content. Therefore, these sites are not held liable for any allegedly
defamatory, offensive or harassing content published on the site.” (“Defamation Definition.” www.blogger.com)
If you truly feel threatened by an online stalker, the best course of action (according to both eadvocate and wiredsafety.org) is file a
report with local law enforcement. The police may not have the tools to fight the stalker. They don’t have to- The main goal is to
subpoena the ISP to provide the information necessary to uncover the identity of the cyber stalker. You might want to contact
email@example.com for assistance, though I’m unsure how willing they would assist a sex offender. Eadvocate suggests
you DON’T use the “Cyber Tip Line,” because they affiliated with the NCMEC and controversial founder John Walsh. It may be
possible to file a complain though the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center (IC3) at, http://www.ic3.gov/, though the site seems
made for Internet fraud. (eadvocate, “Laws and Contacts to Assist Registrants (former sex offenders) in Filing Complaints of
Harassment, Stalking, Cyber-Stalking or Property Damages.” www.sexoffenderresearch.blogspot.com/ Sept. 4, 2007)
Each state has their own laws regarding stalking or harassing communications. Again, www.wiredsafety.org has a list of links to
individual laws regarding stalking laws. It is important to check the applicable laws in your state. In Ohio, for example, the
requirement is three occurrences are necessary to file a harassing communications complaint. A state-by-state guide to cyber-stalking
laws can also be found here:
Police have an obligation to investigate cases of cyber stalking. “It is the policy of the US to ensure vigorous enforcement of federal
criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of a computer” (47 US Code Ann.
You may also wish to consider suing in civil court for damages. Civil court has a lower burden of proof, plus monetary
repercussions tend to make most people reconsider their position. Consider the recent case Marcell v. Perverted Justice.com, CV-06-
0693 [US Dist Ct New Mex., Aug 3, 2006] (http://www.corrupted-justice.com/article23.html). While even hate organizations like the
KKK have constitutional rights of their own, they have limits on their actions. Essentially you are free to hate all you want but you
cannot put your hate into action. Typical civil charges may include charges of slander, defamation of character, harassment,
impersonation, libel, and dissemination of personal information. Considering Pee-J’s recent 501[c] 3 status, now there is at least a
physical address should your harasser be one of them.
Keep in mind, however, the likelihood of winning a defamation suit is slim. The schema for defamation is:
- False and defamatory statement regarding another
- Unprivileged publication of the claim to a third party
- Rising, in the case of matters of public concern, to at least negligence by the publisher, or worse,
- Damages to the subject (Kelly O' Connell. "Internet Law- Understanding Internet Defamation." IBLS Internet Law, www.ibls.
com, Oct. 10, 2007)
There have been only a handful of victories regarding Internet defamation:
- Scheff v. Bock, CACE03022837, 17th Judicial (Broward Co. FL 2007): Woman was awarded $11.3 Million in damages, but
the case was won by default as defendant failed to appear in court to challenge it
- Marcell v. Perverted Justice.com, CV-06-0693 [US Dist Ct New Mex., Aug 3, 2006]: Again, won by default
Law Enforcement and the “Public Duty Doctrine”
Of particular concern with Law Enforcement is a general reluctance to assist with your case based on a sex offender label. Police
officers are usually covered by the “public duty doctrine,” which basically states the police have an obligation to protect the public
rather than any individual. In other words, police have a rather large amount of discretion in deciding to investigate a complaint.
However, there are exceptions to this doctrine which can make police officers civilly responsible for failing to protect you as a citizen
(Karen J. Kruger, “Duty To All- Duty To No One: Examining the Public Duty Doctrine and Its Exceptions.” The Police Chief, IACP,
May 2007, www.policechiefmagazine.org).
- “Danger creation exception: a complainant must show that the government’s action or inaction “affirmatively placed the
plaintiff in a position of danger, that is, where state action creates or exposes an individual to a danger which he or she would
not have otherwise faced.” Gross negligence does fall under this category.
- “Special-Relationship Exception:” a principle of law that allows for suits based on negligent police protection where the
plaintiff can demonstrate that there existed a special relationship between the injured person and the police. Generally, such a
relationship will be found “where the government singles out a particular party from the general public and affords that person
special treatment.” I’m not fond of calling the relationship between RFSOs and LE “special,” but it may be worth it in cases
of gross negligence by the police.
- In most cases, it is best to ignore most Internet trolls and stalkers.
- If you cannot resist the urge to converse with them, be very VERY V-E-R-Y!!!!! careful with your words, since twisting
your words is a typical tactic of such individuals.
- Log all instances of harassment of any form for future reference. Use anything-- cameras, cell phones, camcorders, whatever
you have handy
- DO NOT cooperate or send money to individuals in exchange for getting off a private registry or in exchange for information
making outlandish claims or services or to "clear a warrant". Remember the old adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it
- Local law enforcement agencies are usually the agency you will have to file a charge with, rather than the FBI. HOWEVER,
you should also file a complaint with the FBI Cyber-crimes unit at www.ic3.gov.
- Also, a civil case against the harasser may be of help as well.
- Whatever you do, NEVER confront a harasser on the street, and get away from that person should (s)he approach you on
Information sites on stalking and cyber stalking-- Please note, these are general information sites on the subject and there is no
endorsement nor guarantee of assistance of any kind from of the listed organizations below:
- www.ic3.gov: The FBI Cybercrime reporting site. I know it appears mostly like a place for ID theft, but trust me, if you call
the FBI this is where they send you to file a complaint
- www.wiredsafety.org: An organization devoted to stopping cyber-crimes, and may even offer assistance to LE in cyber
- www.haltabuse.org/resources/laws/index.shtml: This page has a tab allowing you to look up cyber stalking laws by state
Please contact me if you have any more information to add here.
Addendum 1: When the Violence Against Women Act was renewed in January 2008, an attachment to the law made "anonymous"
cyberstalking a FEDERAL offense, punishable by up to 2 years in Federal Prison! For more information on this new provision, read
the following article. I should note that many states have language that includes "annoyance" in their cyberstalking statutes.
Declean McCullagh, "FAQ: The New 'Annoy' Law Explained." CNET News, Jan. 11, 2008