Content Versus Method
An online attack can be broken down into two important compo-
nents: the content of the attack, and the method of its distribution.
The content of the attack is the “what”—what the attacker says
or does to make the victim look bad. All too often, the content relates
back to the classics: “sex, lies, and videotape.”
The method of distribution is what the Centers for Disease
Control would call the “vector,” or the means by which the attack is
spread. Attackers can use e-mail, search engines, viral content, and
other means to spread their smears.
Of course, one attacker might utilize several different attacks, each
with its own content and distribution method. Or one particular
smear—a lie, or privacy breach, or manipulated photo—may be dis-
tributed by several methods. By examining the unique content and dis-
tribution methods of each attack, you can learn how to defeat them.
The Content of an Attack
The Simple Lie
The most common online attack is simple: the attacker spreads a
damaging lie about the victim. A flat lie of this type is considered to
be libel under many state laws. The subject of the lie can be anything
from a playground insult to an accusation of infidelity. Some classic
attacks are common online: attackers often claim that the victim is
sexually promiscuous, has committed an act of marital infidelity, or
has a sexually transmitted disease.
A purported “dating advice” website called DontDateHimGirl.com
provides some useful statistics about the ways people attack each other.
The site claims to be a guide to help women avoid dating cheaters,
liars, and cads. Users of the site can post “reviews” of the men they have
dated. The reviewer remains anonymous, but the men are described by
full name, location, and sometimes photograph. Some of the reviews
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