Part Two on my series, “When Reviewers Attack,” exposing the truth behind criminal reviewers
I am taking a stand against the criminal behavior. I spoke with several authors who have been victims of cyberstalking crime from Goodreads “reviewers,” or “trolls.”
If you review a book and don’t like it, it’s OK – as long as that’s where your negativity ends. But if you use that as a reason to attack an author’s credibility and integrity online, and/or if you commit a crime against an author, then not only are you a troll, but you’re also a criminal.
Several crimes have been committed in the examples to follow, as you’ll see in the statutes outlined in “Sources.”
47 USCS § 223 outlines the federal statute regarding harassment and prohibits people from using the internet (c) “with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.”
Similarly, the Federal Stalking Law bans people from using the Internet as a means to “kill, injure, harass, intimidate or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass or intimidate another person.”
In addition, these trolls have behaved criminally as they have “placed [authors] in reasonable fear of the death of or serious bodily injury” of themselves or family members, and they’ve “cause[d] or attempt[ed] to cause or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress.”
I’ve seen many examples where these laws have been violated. Punishments can vary by states; some states will impose a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of $500. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Please see the link below from NCSL to view your state’s cyberstalking laws.
I was able to speak to two authors known as crusaders against the trolls and troll-like behavior on Goodreads. Both shared their experiences with this criminal behavior.
Carroll Bryant, songwriter turned published author, is somewhat new to the writing community. He’s been published since 2011, and is set to release his fifth book. For the first few months of being a published author, Bryant said he received terrific feedback from readers and reviewers alike. His worst review, he added, was a three-star rating.
“It’s always great to hear from writers about what they liked and didn’t like about my stories,” Bryant said.
But in 2012, Bryant explained, everything changed. According to Bryant, an 18-year-old reviewer received a free copy of one of his books – after agreeing to write a review. The reviewer backed out, but kept the copy of the book.
And then, Bryant said, she took the incident to a new level when she encouraged friends to basically steal from him – request copies of his book under the guise of reviewing them, but not actually follow through.
Bryant said he began blocking the reviewer and her friends, thinking the situation would blow over. But everything got much worse, he said, because he became a victim of cyberstalking.
The troll was obsessed. She spent three to four months communicating with Bryant’s co-blogger on a site they shared, gaining his friend’s trust by pretending she was going to help with the blog’s design, he explained.
“All the girl wanted to do was leave links to the shared blog on her websites and ‘rub it in’ that she could still ‘get to me’ whenever she wanted,” Bryant said.
Within a few days, Bryant’s inbox was flooded with nasty comments from strangers accusing him of an inappropriate relationship with the reviewer (who was actually 18). His books were trashed all over Goodreads, and Goodreads ultimately closed his account – based on lies perpetuated by the reviewer. (This is an obvious violation of the cyberstalking laws outlined above and in Part One.)
Bryant said he never heard from Goodreads about why the account was shut down.
Goodreads declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this story.
The trolls attacking Bryant did make a mistake. A complaint based on misinformation backfired when Bryant was able to provide proof that the information was false. This gave him a chance to begin a case against the trolls themselves for their criminal actions, he explained.
Rick Carufel, another published author, is repeatedly attacked on social media and through sites like Goodreads. One of his stalkers created a false social media account and continually pretends to be him – another clear violation of cyberstalking laws. The account has been reported to Twitter.
Carufel explained the attacks on him started years ago when he unknowingly promoted one of his published books in a forum on Amazon that didn’t allow that. Instead of just explaining the rules, several users bullied him and insulted his livelihood of being a writer. That’s when his troubles began.
When he wrote a response to a popular author’s essay, the negative responses and reviews of his work suddenly increased, he explained.
As an author who supports himself by writing full-time, Carufel is more upset about the loss in revenue based on lies and crimes perpetuated against him, he said.
He’s taken the fight to another level by creating his own review website called Double Blind Book Reviews. The site is designed to remove any potential bias against authors and reviewers. This way the only thing that will actually be judged is the story itself.
The site is still under development, Carufel explained.
“I started [to] fight them openly when I realized they were serial stalkers out to destroy the reputations careers and livelihood of as many indie writers as possible,” Carufel added.
Goodreads has made some changes to their policy. Now reviewers can’t just randomly review or rate bomb an author, and reviews that do so are removed.
Some reviewers are crying foul, and censorship, and demand that Goodreads – which offers the site as a free service! – let reviewers do whatever they want.
No reviewers responded to repeated requests to explain this. In fact, most reviewers attacked me for standing up for the injustice than answering a simple question. None of them were willing to speak to me about their behavior, which is just more proof that these authors being bullied are in the right. (They accused me of “taunting” reviewers but I only taunt the criminal reviewers.)
But what can people who are being cyberstalked actually do?
Stay tuned for Part Three – Taking Control.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Carroll Bryant and Rick Carufel for agreeing to share their stories with me and my readers.