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April 2, 2011
Cyber-Bullying: It's Not Just for Tweens Anymore
 
If you spend any time online, at some point you have experienced someone trying to scam you in one way or other, especially if you are a blogger. So what would you do if someone tried to blackmail you for a link on your website? Ignore them, right?

That’s what I thought of doing when someone emailed me to ask to purchase a link on my blog. When I politely declined, I received a second email stating that if I didn't add a link to their website within an hour or two, they would be reporting me to Google for selling links. Now, normally, I would simply hit “delete,” but I decided to check out who the company in question was, and instead of a random cyber-bully—a single person trying to strong-arm me for a link—it was a design and PR agency that appeared to be a professional, legitimate operation. This discovery made my blood boil. Of course I knew it was highly unlikely that the company had a Google hotline, but I couldn't believe the cheek of the demands from what appeared to be a reputable company. 

I decided to call the company in question, thinking that this aggressive tactic was something that the company directors were probably unaware of. The receptionist answered and I asked to speak to the company owner. The receptionist asked what the call was regarding. Upon telling her that one of the company’s employees was trying to blackmail me for a link, she tried to put me through to the owner—only to then find out the person who sent the email was one of the owners. I heard him tell the receptionist “tell her I am in a meeting.”

Still annoyed, I decided to blog about the occurrence to ask if any of my readers had any thoughts. I decided not to name and shame the company in question on my blog, although several readers said I should. One reader saw my post and decided to tweet Matt Cutts, the head of Google Web Spam. Surprisingly, Cutts tweeted back, saying that I shouldn't worry—though he asked for info on the unnamed company.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback I received from fellow bloggers and tweeters, which by far compensates for one jerk trying to blackmail me for a link. But how should you handle online blackmailers? You can do what I failed to do—just ignore them—or follow my example and call them on their intimidation.

With formidable presences staking out such large areas of the Web—aka Google—it is sometimes hard to know who polices what and how your blog might suffer for it. But with unprecedented access to those same companies, you can stand up to cyber-bullies and call them on their tactics. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will protect your blog and your business. 

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Tara Roskell is a freelance graphic designer and aspiring inventor and ideas person. As well as her blog about graphic design, she also writes about inventing and interviews successful inventors on her new blog.
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