The ongoing Euro Cup 2016 tournament has had its fair share of challenges and successes.But cases of online abuse against fans attending the tournament in France have attracted considerable media attention and triggered public debate about how to respond to this issue.But how big is the problem with online abuse and harassment of innocent football fans and is it serious enough to warrant this level of attention and concern that is garnering online?According to various studies, but prevalence studies are thin. For example cyberstalking, which involves repeated, unwanted contacts via the internet, email and other communication technologies, is relatively uncommon. Only less than 2 in ten stalking victims report having been cyberstalked. Instead, most stalking occurs offline, where victims are followed, kept under surveillance, intruded upon at home or work, and harassed via phone calls.The concern about online abuse at the ongoing Euro 2016 Football tournament in France appears to be driven more by the potential, rather than actual size of the problem. More than half a million people attending the event continues to share information every day about their lives on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest among other social media platforms. The scope for abuse is immense, whether via isolated instances of inflammatory and offensive postings commonly known as trolling or more relentless campaigns of cyber-bullying or stalking.The very nature of cyber abuse or stalking may promote the behaviour, as it’s pursued in private and often with anonymity although as the trolling cases in France demonstrate, beliefs in anonymity may be misplaced.
In online environments that lack an obvious social context, or rules or norms that might otherwise inhibit deviant behaviour, online abuse and harassment may appear “unaccountable” to some individuals and therefore more feasible. In the non-cyber world, many people abuse, bully, harass or stalk others regardless of social and moral conventions.More studies needed to understand the nature and prevalence of all forms of online abuse. But online services that are designed to help victims of online abuse and cyberstalking at the Euro 2016 Football showpiece has reported a steady increase in requests for assistance since the best of continent’s football event kicked off with hosts winning 2-1 against stubborn Romanians a week ago.Online abuse in all its guises is a serious form of violence. The most common forms of cyberstalking at Euro 2016 in France include publishing potentially damaging or embarrassing personal information online or via email, spreading false or malicious rumours about the victim and gathering information about a victim, their hotel address, phone number, photos of friends or relatives and so on. The sense of violation caused by these acts is damage enough to the victim and likely to be amplified when the abuse is shared widely via social media. Cyberstalking does not differ from its physical world counterpart in terms of the impact on victims. Victims in France can suffer emotional damage, including profound feelings of mistrust, helplessness, depression, anger and even paranoia, as they live in anticipation of the next potential invasion of privacy or abusive contact.
That’s often helpful in the short term, if only to remove yourself from the abuse. What’s more critical for football fans in these situations is self-control. For the football fans attending the event who are subjected to online abuse, harassment or stalking should avoid any further contact or confrontation with the perpetrator. These people thrive on attention and any reply or response. Restraint is easier said than done. But this strategy is one of the most effective ways of bringing harassment and stalking to an end and fans can enjoy the football’s most appetising extravaganza.The explosion in the use of social media and a relaxation in inhibitions about sharing personal information online have presented challenges and made mindfulness about practical protections more relevant. My advise to the Cyber stalking victims at the ongoing Euro 2016 is to be continually vigilant about the privacy settings on social media accounts. Although most of them want to prove to the whole World they are in France for the Euros 2016, i hold the view that considering deactivating location settings which can allow anyone to know your real time locations, and lead them there via Google maps. In real life, you can search yourself online, and should you find any information that you regard as intrusive, you can contact the website administrator and have them remove that information. It is also important to engage friends, family and acquaintances not to post any details about you that you regard as personal and private. May those lucky to have made it to the Euro 2016 Football tournament enjoy themselves and avoid online stalkers.