When Reviewers Attack – Part Two – Evidence of Crimes

Part Two on my series, “When Reviewers Attack,” exposing the truth behind criminal reviewers

(See Prologue & Part One for more info)

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.


When Reviewers Attack – The Criminal Case Against Trolls (Part One)

Freedom of speech, the first amendment, is guaranteed to US citizens in our Bill of Rights. But for so many, freedom of speech is misunderstood or, worse, intentionally misused.

I’ve studied the first amendment for many years. First, in college, in Communications Law, as I defended my thesis. Second, in my field of journalism, as I applied this right to many cases where the people’s rights had been infringed.

Citizens of the USA live in one of the greatest democracies in the world, due in large part, I believe, to this right. We’re supposed to be able to criticize our government without fear, to speak our minds and opinions.  We’re a nation that takes this seriously, and we love to speak our minds, even if there is no audience.

You have the right to either like a product or hate a product. If you’re unhappy with a purchase, you can contact the company for a refund – or to just complain about your experience.

You have a right to watch whatever you want to watch on TV – technically. Your parents and/or spouse may not care for your selections, but the ability to choose is in the essence of our country. Likewise, you can read whatever book you want to read – or skip them altogether.

If you read a book and you don’t like it, you have every right to say that to whomever you think is listening.

But you don’t have the right to behave in a criminal manner towards an author based solely on the fact that you don’t like his or her books.  This seems like common sense, but for so many victims of cyberbullying, this simple principle of society isn’t being followed. And what’s worse is there is seemingly no way to stop it.

There has been a lot of discussion about Goodreads, a free service in which readers can log and review books, and the change in policies. Some reviewers are crying, “censorship” and several have deleted their accounts in protest.

This investigation discusses the real threat of cyberstalking and criminal behavior among some reviewers, those known collectively as “trolls.”

I posed the question as why there are so many one-star ratings on Goodreads. See for yourself (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1520265-why-so-many-one-star-ratings) – many explained their rating system, which I appreciated. But many personally attacked me for asking the question, even though all I was trying to do was get them to respond to me.

No reviewers responded to my emails seeking comments. I offered to give them space to share their concerns, but all I received was a threat from a “Linda H” who told me she would kidnap my children if I posted anything about the investigation.

Clearly, I’m not worried. She has no idea who I am, and the fact that she went on the record threatening to kidnap my non-existent children gives me evidence for conspiracy to commit a federal crime.

Furthermore, threats against a federal employee are punishable by a fine and/or jail time, according to 18 USC 111.

Several stricter anti-stalking laws are under negotiation now. Currently the law on the books is 47 USCS § 223, which 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.”

“Some mental illness can lead to stalking.” Not every troll suffers from a mental illness, but many of them do, or have psychotic tendencies and should be considered dangerous. How dangerous? http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/cyberstalking/3.html

In Paul Bocij’s book, Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family, he identified several key factors that have been reported (with evidence) by victims (not all of the factors are listed here, only those that pertain to the investigation):

  • False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms, or other sites that allow public contributions such as Goodreads.
  • Attempts to gather information about the victim.  Cyberstalkers may approach their victim’s friends, family, and work colleagues to obtain personal information.
  • Monitoring their target’s online activities and attempting to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more info.
  • Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may      claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her 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 cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her.

Some readers have found fault with my use of the word “bullying” and “troll.” I’m a victim of bullying myself for years in middle and high school. Bullying is defined as targeted, repeated, aggressive attacks against a person with the intention to intimidate and/or harm. You’ve heard growing up that bullies are typically intellectually inferior beings who take out the hatred of themselves, their insecurities and limits on others.

That’s exactly what is happening here on sites like Goodreads.

And my use of the word “troll” is based on several sites who refer to these negative, hostile, unprofessional and often immature “reviewers.” I’m not attacking all reviewers, and like I said, I have nothing against people who review yet manage not to commit a crime. If you don’t like the word I’m using, I have to wonder if the word defines you personally.

There is also a gang mentality in place, where some trolls are emerging as leaders of the pack and coordinating efforts to commit crimes against other people. This is a dangerous revelation, and this is what also needs to be stopped.

In Part Two, I chatted with two authors who have been dealing with this abuse for the past few years.

(Update: 10/6/13) I ended up deleting my GR account after I realized no matter what I said to these trolls they would deliberately misunderstand me, repeatedly insult and threaten me, and generally be annoying. I tried to give them a chance to tell their side of the story but they don’t have any real proof; they’re self-righteous without any true meaning. I feel sorry for them that they hate themselves so much. Oh well, over it now.

Stay tuned to One Story Slinger!