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[News] Staying Safe: Harrassment and Online Gaming

Discussion in 'UO Atlantic' started by imported_Ishtar, Mar 20, 2008.

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    Though it is infrequent there are occasions, even in the gaming world where one may encounter a person or player that oversteps their bounds and behaves in a manner that may be deemed as harassment. I feel this is an important thing to talk about, regardless of how infrequent. It is always better to be safe when online as this is a game and is meant to be enjoyable.

    Now, because of the fact that this is an online game, it can be considered harassment by computer and is illegal in numerous states. Not quite the same as stalking because in most cases, stalking typically requires two or more contacts. Where in cases of harassment by computer, it may just be one incident. Unlike regular harassment, online harassment is different because the acts committed may include a range of various crimes that would not normally be considered harassment if done in person. To get a clearer picture, per wikipedia here are some definitions on the types of harassment:

    Harassment that can occur on the playground, school, in the workforce or any other place. Usually physical and psychological harassing behavior perpetrated against an individual, by one or more persons.

    Psychological harassment
    This is humiliating or abusive behavior that lowers a person’s self-esteem or causes them torment. This can take the form of verbal comments, actions or gestures. Falling into this category is workplace mobbing. Community Based Harassment - stalking by a group against an individual using repeated distractions that the individual is sensitized to, such as clicking an ink pen.

    Racial harassment
    The targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. The harassment's include words, deeds, and actions, that are specifically designed to make the target feel degraded due to their race of origin or ethnicity.

    Religious harassment
    Verbal, psychological or physical harassment's used against targets because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include forced and involuntary conversions.

    Sexual harassment
    Harassment that can happen anywhere but is most common in the workplace, and schools. It involves unwanted and unwelcome, words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols, or behaviors of a sexual nature that make the target feel uncomfortable. Gender and sexual orientation harassment fall into this family.

    The unauthorized following and surveillance of an individual, to the extent that the person's privacy is unacceptably intruded upon, and the victim fears for their safety.

    To persecute, harass, or torture in a deliberate, calculated, planned, manner. Typically the targeted individual is a subordinate, for example, a fraternity pledge, a first-year military cadet, or somebody who is considered 'inferior' or an 'outsider'. Hazing is illegal in many instances.

    Backlash or 'victim blaming' occurs when the harasser or other people in the environment blame the victim for the harassment, or the resulting controversies and conflicts after the harassment is reported or discovered. Backlash results when people erroneously believe the victim could stop the harassment if they really tried, or that the victim must have done something to cause the harassment. The victim may be accused of trying to get attention, covering for incompetence, or in cases where the harassment is proven, lying about the extent of the effects. "Old school" attitudes about certain kinds of harassment remain and there are in many circumstances social pressure for victims to "keep their mouths shut" about abuse or suffer the consequences.


    Per Electronic Arts in UO there are two types of harassment, verbal and physical. First listed below is verbal followed by physical:

    If you petition in game with a complaint of harassment you are going to be presented with two harassment category choices; Verbal and Physical. This article will attempt to clarify for you what is considered valid verbal harassment.

    Behavior that is always considered harassment includes derogatory and/or hateful comments that are sexual, racist, religious, or related to gender or creed. Origin has a zero tolerance policy towards harassment of this kind, as stated in our Terms of Service, and violation of the above can result in immediate and permanent account suspension on the first offense.

    Behavior that is dependent on circumstance and how you attempt to resolve the situation include most other verbal harassment situations such as name calling. Before you submit a complaint be sure you understand what constitutes harassment and that you have followed these steps:
    You have asked the player to "please stop", and they have continued to repeat the offending behavior.
    You have tried to remove yourself from the situation, for example, by recalling away or moving several screens.
    You have done nothing to instigate or further encourage the harassment.
    You have added the player to your ignore list, which is located in your UO options, under Filter Options.
    You have read and understand Electronic Arts' definition of harassment, and Electronic Arts' Terms of Service.
    Your account information is up to date, including a current email address.
    Please note that profanity itself is not prohibited, as Ultima Online is a teen rated game by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. However, this does not permit a player to harass another player with profanity.

    The following information applies primarily (not exclusively) to the lands of Ilshenar, Malas and the Trammel facet of Ultima Online. While you have the ability to attack other players freely on the Felucca facet, players are generally not able to defend themselves against physical harassment in Trammel, Malas and Ilshenar.

    We'd rather not go into the specifics of all the actions we consider physical harassment, but we do want to make it clear that it is not okay to ruin the fun of UO for other players, specifically when that is the intent behind your actions. It is important to realize and accept that everyone plays this game differently, and everyone has different expectations from the game and from the other players. Ultima Online is a social setting, and as such, we expect our players to treat one another with the same respect and dignity they would use in any other social situation.

    If your sole purpose and intent in any action is to continually upset, aggravate, or otherwise annoy another player, you may be a "grief player." Using game mechanics to cause grief to others can also be seen as exploitation, and will be treated accordingly by game staff.

    If someone is using grief tactics against you, please report it to a Game Master using the Help button on your paperdoll. Once the Help menu appears, choose the Harassment option, and enter the exact name of the other player, and a brief description of his actions. For example: Jody keeps luring these poison ele's to us and hiding. Clearly luring!

    The following are NOT considered physical harassment:
    Res killing
    Stealing or kill stealing
    Legal player killing, such as takes place in guild and faction wars
    Refusal to take turns at spawn points
    Refusal to resurrect another player
    Blocking a recall location
    Area Peacing
    Before you submit a harassment complaint, be sure you understand what constitutes harassment and that you have followed these steps:
    You have asked the player to "please stop" (and then they have continued to repeat the offending behavior).
    You have tried to remove yourself from the situation, for example, by recalling away or moving several screens.
    You have done nothing to instigate or further encourage the harassment.
    You have added the player to your ignore list, which is located in your UO options, under Filter Options.
    You have read and understand Electronic Arts' definition of harassment, and Electronic Arts' Terms of Service.
    Your account information is up to date (including a current email address).


    These guidelines do help when handling the basic offenses, but what about when it goes beyond this. For example when a player is asked to be left alone and the person stands outside their in game home. With the ability to stealth and hide in game it can make it easier for a person to watch and "stalk" another player. The fact that the game allows for anonymity also may embolden the offender. In the eyes of the law it would still be considered a form of harassment. This is a form of what is called cyber stalking and some basic elements of how one may do this per wikipedia are listed below:

    False accusations
    Many cyber stalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on web sites. They may set up their own web sites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public contributions, such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.

    Attempts to gather information about the victim
    Cyber stalkers may approach their victim's friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victim's online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.

    Encouraging others to harass the victim
    Many cyber stalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his family in some way, or may post the victim's name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.

    False victimization
    The cyber stalker will claim that the victim is harassing him. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.

    Attacks on data and equipment
    They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.

    Ordering goods and services
    They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim's workplace.

    Arranging to meet
    Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyber stalkers try to set up meetings between them.
    Behaviors of a cyber stalker:

    Cyber stalkers meet or target their victims by using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, Wikipedia, and more recently, through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and Indymedia, a media outlet known for self-publishing. They may engage in live chat harassment or flaming or they may send electronic viruses and unsolicited e-mails. Victims of cyber stalkers may not even know that they are being stalked. Cyber stalkers may research individuals to feed their obsessions and curiosity. Conversely, the acts of cyber stalkers may become more intense, such as repeatedly instant messaging their targets.
    More commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their stalking target on web pages, message boards and in guest books designed to get a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact. In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content.

    When prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track or follow the victim's internet activity. Classic cyber stalking behavior includes the tracing of the victim's IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment.

    Some cyber stalking situations do evolve into physical stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault. Moreover, many physical stalkers will use cyber stalking as another method of harassing their victims.


    Now I only touched the surface of how, even in a game one may be at risk. Remember that there is a Terms of Service in place for the game and violations are penalized and upheld by the law. However, one must make sure if they are the victim of harassment, even in the gaming world that they take appropriate action. Make sure you have asked the offender to stop. When doing this be very clear and then remove yourself from contact. Luckily, Ultima Online allows you to "ignore" other players, in these cases, use it!

    Save everything, though it would be great to just turn your back and delete all contacts and communications, don't. Keep chat logs, ICQ's etc., any and all form of communication. If the offender created a web site about you, save copies of it to your local system and get a trusted friend or relative to do the same and would be willing to testify in court. If phone correspondence is made, have your local phone company trace it, immediately. Speak with authorities and have them take any other correspondence such as mail etc.

    The problem one normally faces here is speaking with the proper authorities, who do you go to. On Ultima Online, start with Electronic Arts. Via a messaging service, make sure you read their Terms of Service and contact the appropriate party. Same thing if a web site is created, contact the host. Keep track of all these communications as well.

    To be safe even online, one must be aware to protect themselves. There are preventative measures one can take to help avoid and prevent things like this from occurring like using a free email service and only use that email for online related correspondence. Also, only give your primary email to close friends and loved ones. Make sure you ignore unwanted users, like I said earlier we are lucky to have this feature available in game. Never volunteer personal information, this can open the door for you to become a victim.

    If you find yourself in a conflict situation, walk away, do not respond or engage in it. If you do this, you are allowing yourself to be drawn into the situation further and giving the offender exactly what they want, a reaction. Taking this away in most cases will make them move on to a new target.

    If an area becomes stressful, leave the area. I recommend this for boards etc. as well as they are used as a form of communication and may allow a person to continue the behavior. Especially in the gaming world, as they are used often to encourage safe interaction. Yet, it only takes one person to twist that and use it against another player.

    Sometimes, one must change to avoid this situation. If it comes to that change completely, make sure you use no former traces of anything you used in the past whether for characters, email and so forth. Also watch what you say online, in the gaming world it is easy to just chat but try and make sure that whatever you say it is something you can say to a person's face regardless of whether or not you say it in game. I also wish to reiterate one last and important point, never ever give out you user name and password to anyone!

    Stay safe! Play for fun!

    (Note: Posts in italics taken from wikipedia and EA.)