WARNING: Sensitive content contained in this article may be disturbing and/or upsetting to some readers. I am including the details of my cyberstalking case to raise awareness and help motivate change in NC's cyberstalking laws. This blog post has been published as a 3 part series by "Women AdvaNCe" (links at bottom of page)
I recently found a photo of myself and my parents which had been stolen from my Instagram page and reposted to a white supremacist / nazi website. The photo was from my best friend’s wedding where I had been her maid of honor. My parents and I were all dressed up and smiling. The caption on the photo read "Is your dad or your mom Cindy the filthy Jew? What side did you get the virus from?”
I have a very complicated relationship with social media as of late. Social media has done a lot of wonderful things for me and my small business. It has led to me being successfully self employed. It has led to my jewelry being featured on hit TV shows, such as Law & Order SVU. It has also led me to being stalked, harassed, and terrorized by a white supremacist hate group.
Shocking facts on Cyberstalking & Harassment:
- Twitter verifies white supremacist, Nazi, and KKK members on their platform and allows these people to harass users and impersonate people under the guise of “parody accounts”.
- Twitter allows racial slurs & hate speech to be used if they are a part of an account name.
- Twitter repeatedly ignores reports of targeted harassment and abuse, often siding with the abuser and only appears to care about reports of copyright infringement, as it can cause them to be sued.
- “Doxing” is a new form of cyber terrorism in which people spread other’s personal contact information online for the purpose of stalking, harassment, and slander, often with the motivation of getting the person fired from their job. Twitter claims “doxing” is against their terms of service but offers no way
to report it.
- NC cyberstalking and harassment laws protect against harassment by phone and email, but do not specifically mention protection from harassment via “social media”.
How a white supremacist group began stalking and harassing me:
I run a small business, Chrysalis Studios LLC (www.Chrysalis-Studios.com), in Charlotte NC, where I design ethically sourced real butterfly wing jewelry, crystal jewelry, insect art, and other nature themed gifts. My jewelry has been featured on the hit TV shows “Law & Order SVU”, “Bones”, “Pretty Little Liars”, and most recently worn by the character “Stephanie Tanner”, played by actress Jodie Sweetin, on Netflix’s “Fuller House” reboot. My jewelry was also included in the GBK 2015 MTV Movie awards celebrity gift bags. This was all made possible by connections I made through social media, specifically Instagram. This publicity has led me to accumulate over 19K followers over Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Up until recently, I have received only positive feedback and attention from these social media platforms. Little did I know that someone had been secretly stealing my photos from social media, stalking, and impersonating me online for the last two years.
I first started receiving vulgar and sexually explicit messages from a stranger on Instagram in May of this year. A few weeks later, on June 10th, another stranger began harassing my family members and friends via an anonymous Google phone number. This person communicated veiled threats against me to include me "losing my job", my "life being ruined", and that "Twitter would ruin my life", a statement I could not understand at the time as I very seldomly use Twitter and my account is strictly for my business.
On June 11th, my previous employer, who is now a client of mine, received an email from a stranger spreading vicious lies about me and imploring this client to fire me. This email included fake photoshopped text message screengrabs from an old phone number of mine that I have not had in over 12 years. The messages were highly offensive and included racial slurs, (the "N word"). My client, who has known me for over 13 years, knew immediately that this was all a fabrication and assumed it was some type of spam, but forwarded it to me out of concern.
Dumbfounded, I decided to search Twitter as the anonymous stranger had threatened that "Twitter would ruin my life". There I found an entire twitter account dedicated to impersonating, stalking, and harassing me. The account used my full name, Jaclyn Marie Brzezinski, as their name. They were using a photo of me as their profile picture and had posted dozens more photos of me and my family members which they stole from my public business Instagram account. They posted all of my contact information, to include my address, old phone numbers, email addresses, my business clients, my company information, etc. They posted photos of the outside of my home from Google maps street view and even photos of the inside of my home (which I assume they found on Zillow.com). There was also random posts on this account involving pedophilia, ISIS, suicide, and politics, all of which were unaffiliated with me, but meant to slander me. They even posted a pornographic image, falsely representing it as me.
Their “pinned tweet” was a "doxing" document on me. I had to Google search what the word “dox” meant as I had never heard it before. A “dox” is essentially a document or dossier compiling all of someone’s personal contact information and records, which is then spread around for the express purpose of encouraging others to stalk and harass them, and oftentimes, to get them fired from their job.It is often used as a form of vigilante justice or revenge, harnessing the mob mentality of internet users. At the end of the “dox” they had created on me, they wrote “B-tch, if you get this page removed, I will repost it to every site I know”. Apparently, many white supremacists and nazi members have been using this tactic to terrorize people they disagree with online, usually for politically motivated reasons.
In addition to the main account impersonating me, I found a multitude of tweets from other accounts and screengrabs in Google image search where these people had photoshopped and doctored images of me, plastering Jewish slurs across my face and making anti-Semitic comments about me and my family. Some of these images were sent to me from other twitter users who were aware of my stalking. I then came across the photo of my parents and I, which had been posted to a known white supremacist site, Gab.ai. My last name, which is actually Polish, is often mistaken for being Jewish. One of my friends became so enraged by all of this that he interacted with these people on Twitter and when he asked why they were doing this to me, one Twitter user responded “Because she’s a Jew”.
Furthermore and in addition to the anti-Semitic hate speech, they also posted hate speech against African Americans to the Twitter account dedicated to impersonating and stalking me. Twitter does not allow the use of the N word on its platform. However, these white supremacists have found a loophole. Surprisingly, Twitter does allow the use of the N word in its account handles / screen names. Therefore, my stalker created a fake twitter account with the handle @n***er_penis (the asterisks are used to mask the N word but the full racial slur was used in the account handle). They could then post this heinous racial slur to the account impersonating me such as “I love @n***er_penis” and Twitter would have no recourse in removing the comment, as the racial slur was simply embedded into the “account handle”. These are the lengths in which these disturbed individuals will go to in order to spread their hate speech.
The Twitter account impersonating me sent me several threatening messages saying that I had "24 hours” to do certain things online (things I didn't even fully understand as I am not an avid twitter user) or “what I will do to you next will make all this seem like child's play". They also told me to "enjoy the show" and "give their regards to Cindy" (my mother), with kissy face emojis. They have made several implied threats against my family members, to include my mother and my sister.
It is unclear whether the person who originally stole my photos over 2 years ago and the person(s) currently harassing me are the same people. All of the people involved in my cyberstalking and “doxing” hide behind fake profiles with fake names and fake photos. Due to a case of stolen identity, some Twitter accounts appear to hate me, while others appear to be defending me. I have also been contacted by Twitter accounts saying that someone has been using my instagram photos for the purpose of “catfishing” (the practice of presenting someone else’s photos online as your own, usually for the purpose of online dating, a term popularized by MTV’s television show “Catfish”). One twitter user I had never spoken to before in my life told me that he has been in love with me (or my photos, rather) for months, as he has been communicating online and via text with someone who he had been led to believe was me.
It is difficult to tell how many of the accounts harassing me may actually be the same individual, since Twitter allows you to make as many accounts as you want. These people appear to be what many refer to as “internet trolls”, people who spend far too much time on the internet fighting amongst one another and who seem to take great pleasure in cyberbullying. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are racist, extremist, and politically motivated. Many of these accounts even reference a “race war”. This hate group has publicly encouraged an entourage of cyberbullies to harass me, resulting in dozens of strangers who do not know me, assisting in slandering me and my business.
While I cannot completely delete myself from social media as I run an online business, my family members and I have attempted to take measures to make our social media accounts more secure and private. I tried changing my Twitter name as well as deactivating my Twitter account. My mother, my sister, a few of my friends, and I all changed our Facebook names and URLs. However, the stalkers were able to find us regardless.
Twitter’s response to my impersonation, stalking, and harassment:
I spent over 2 weeks straight reporting the account stalking me, as well as other offending accounts, to Twitter for impersonation, targeted harassment, and abuse. I made complaint reports to Twitter every day, many times a day, as did all my friends and family members. I had to send Twitter copies of my ID over 20 times. Contacting twitter safety has practically become a full time job for me, taking me away from my actual business. Twitter allowed this to go on for over two weeks, continually sending me notifications siding with my stalker and allowing the account to stay up.
Twitter claims that they do not allow impersonation. However, there is apparently a loophole. Twitter allows what they call "parody accounts". Parody accounts are pages meant to poke fun at celebrities or public figures. I am neither. However, my stalker wrote that the account impersonating me was a "parody account". Therefore, Twitter told them that they had 48 hours to get into compliance with their rules for "parody accounts", which included not using my full name. The stalker then changed their name from Jaclyn Brzezinski to “Jacklyn” Brzezinski (they just added a "k" to my name) and Twitter allowed them to keep the account up. The stalker then added a line in their bio that said "Round 2 is going to be interesting.. stay tuned" which was a direct implied threat to me that they were going to up the ante with their harassment. I have researched this extensively and Twitter is apparently notorious for not protecting its users and allowing this sort of harassment to go on. It is absolutely negligent and shocking. Twitter claims that “doxing” is against their terms of service. However, there is no way to report “doxing” on their platform and they appear to only selectively enforce it.
Ironically, Twitter even has a chat function for speaking with a Twitter representative about harassment and abuse. However, as soon as you log into it, you receive an automated message that the chat function is “temporarily unavailable”. This chat function is not “temporarily” unavailable, it is indeed perpetually unavailable and extremely misleading. There is no phone number to call and no way to speak with an actual human being as all Twitter responses to abuse reports are automated. In addition, Twitter informed me three times that my account had been hacked / logged into from Richardson, TX, which they also did nothing about. I finally sent Twitter a message on June 29th that I would be suing Twitter for copyright infringement, negligence, and being complicit in allowing a white supremacist group to continually harass me. I also asked if they would like a copy of my FBI report before I sued them. They next morning the account had been taken down.
However, Twitter does not block the IP addresses of offending accounts so there is nothing preventing someone with a suspended account from creating a new one. Malicious users are allowed to continue making fake accounts and harassing people with little to no repercussions. The person(s) stalking me have already attempted to make a second account impersonating me and when I search my name, I can still see these accounts continuing to spread slander and lies about me and my small business.
Police response to my impersonation, stalking and harassment:
I have visited the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) twice in the last month in order to report the massive amount of cyberstalking and harassment I have received. The first police officer I spoke with, at the Eastway CMPD Precinct, while concerned and well-intentioned, told me he was not familiar with these types of cases and advised that I “just ignore it” and “keep reporting it to Twitter”. He briefly left the room to speak with CMPD cyber crimes and when he returned, he said that cyber crimes would not investigate the case for online impersonation because no money had been stolen from me. Also, because I did not know the exact identities of my stalker(s), he discouraged me from filing a full police report and only issued me an incident number.
During my second visit to CMPD, the police officer I spoke with at the Trade street precinct informed me that there are no NC laws protecting me from cyberstalking and targeted harassment via social media, impersonation, doctoring my photos to include anti-Semitic hate speech, contacting my family members, friends, and clients with defamation & slander, trying to get me fired from a job, sharing my address and phone numbers online for the purpose of harassment and stalking, etc. He was ridiculously condescending, barely listened to my story, and kept speaking over me. He also victim-blamed me for sharing my photos online. He said “Have you not been on Facebook? Have you not been on Twitter? Have you not seen the things people post? Why would you post your photos online?”. He also informed me that until someone threatens to kill me and/or beat me up, or steals money from me, there is nothing CMPD can do to protect me. He said that communicating threats in the state of NC must involve explicit threats of bodily harm and that implied threats of “ruining one’s life” do not count as a threat in the state of NC. The officer also stated that my stalker contacting my friends, family, and clients could maybe be seen as harassment of them, but not of me. When I told him about the photo of me with my parents using the caption "Is your dad or your mom Cindy the filthy Jew? Which side did you get the virus?", he matter-of-factly said "That's freedom of speech", with not an ounce of compassion or concern. I asked him if I should just wait at home for these Nazis to find me and he said “Have they posted that they are coming to your house to kill you?”. I replied “No, but posting my address and photos of my home is an implied threat on my safety” and he said “Implied threats don’t count”. I asked about speaking with someone in the cyber crimes division and his response was “You can come back Monday thru Friday and speak to someone in cyber crimes if you want but they will tell you exactly what I have already told you, that there has been no crime committed”. Twitter even has a form for law enforcement to fill out in order to report accounts for harassment, but the officer refused to do it. I walked out of both police stations in tears, feeling like the police had totally failed me and that no one could protect me.
To add insult to injury, CMPD’s cyber crimes webpage has an area which states "Need to report being stalked or harassed over the Internet?" and links to Wired Patrol - this is a defunct website which has not been updated since 2016. There is no longer any way to actually report being stalked or harassed through this site. CMPD is passing off the responsibility of dealing with cyberstalking & harassment to a private company who no longer appears to be in service.
What I am doing to fight back:
I have recently filed a report with the FBI as federal laws better protect against cyberstalking crimes than the laws of NC and since these crimes cross state lines. All twitter handles and personal information I have been able to gather on the dozen or so accounts involved in my stalking have been turned over the FBI.
I also reached out to NC Senator Jeff Jackson who was kind enough to personally call me in regards to my case and NC cyberstalking laws. Senator Jackson said that he and his staff will be looking into these laws and the official statement he gave me is as follows: "If there's any genuine ambiguity in our laws that repeated harassment is not permitted via social media, we need to clarify that. That is certainly the intent of the existing statute, but if that's not how it's being interpreted then we need to fix that to make absolutely clear that our criminal laws prohibit that kind of conduct."
On July 3rd, 2018, actor Seth Rogen called out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for verifying white supremacists on twitter and allowing Nazis to harass people on his platform. Seth tweeted: “I’ve been DMing with @jack about his bizarre need to verify white supremacists on his platform for the last 8 months or so, and after all the exchanges, I’ve reached a conclusion: the dude simply does not seem to give a f--k”.The post has been favorited 158k times and retweeted 37K times. A Daily Mail article on the subject can be found here: https://dailym.ai/2N6N8Fh
For the last month, a hate group has terrorized me. This has affected my life tremendously and taken a huge emotional toll on me. It has been difficult to focus on my work. There have been times that I have been scared to leave my home. This cyberstalking has not only affected me, but has rippled out to frighten and deeply upset my friends and family as well. I have been so incredibly let down and disappointed in CMPD for their inability to protect me and unwillingness to help, the NC justice system for their lack of clear and concise cyberstalking laws to protect their citizens, and in Twitter for their negligence and complicity in my stalking and harassment. Although unfair, white privilege is a fact of life in America and I’ve been conditioned by it and benefitted from it my whole life. Due to being caucasian, I never quite expected to be the target of racially motivated hate speech and harassment. I cannot imagine what it must be like for minorities who have to deal with this sort of racism and harassment their entire lives. As much as this anti-Semitic hate speech about me and my family has upset me, I know the pain would be multiplied immensely if my family and myself were actually Jewish.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this whole ordeal has been the assumptions made by the people who hear my story, including the police. I have received a lot of comments such as “Wow, who did you piss off?”, “Looks like you made someone really angry”, “Do you have a crazy ex?”, “Do you have any enemies?”, “Have you been fighting with people online?”, and so on. Many times, these people seem to think they are helping by offering ideas of why this could be happening to me, when in reality it is a form of victim blaming. In a “Psychology Today” article from 2013, Dr. Juliana Breines writes, “Victim blaming is not just about avoiding culpability—it's also about avoiding vulnerability. The more innocent a victim, the more threatening they are. Victims threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When bad things happen to good people, it implies that no one is safe, that no matter how good we are, we too could be vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can be random, striking anyone at any time, is a terrifying thought, and yet we are faced every day with evidence that it may be true.” During these past few weeks, I have experienced first hand how people would rather believe that you must have done something to incur harassment rather than to understand that this could happen to anyone, including them.
The digital age in which we live, combined with the explosion of social networking, have greatly enhanced our connectivity to one another. Reaching out and connecting with strangers is easier than ever before in human history. However, with this ease comes the necessity to protect ourselves from uninvited harm committed by nefarious users across the internet, cloaked and shielded by the protection of anonymity.
NC General Statute 14-196.3 on “Cyberstalking” (NCGS14-196.3) states “It is unlawful for as person to electronically mail or electronically communicate to another person repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person”.
North Carolina has some of the weakest Cyberstalking laws in the country. In speaking with a lawyer, I have discovered that “NC General Statute 14-196.3 on Cyberstalking” DOES criminalize communications across all electronic platforms that are made to harass or threaten citizens. While NCGS14-196.3 should reasonably imply that social media be included under “electronic communication”, it does not explicitly reference “social media” by name. Therefore, police departments are having trouble understanding and upholding this law, as they believe it to only apply to electronic mail (email). NC’s Cyberstalking laws are in desperate need of clarification and strengthening. Moreover, law enforcement personnel across North Carolina appear to be unfortunately ignorant of the very laws they’ve been called to enforce, believing that cyberstalking requires actual threats of physical violence or financial harm committed upon the victim. The state of North Carolina needs to inform their law enforcement personnel that they have been empowered to bring criminal actions against individuals who engage in the unwarranted harassment of others across all social media platforms.
I have created a Change.org petition asking the NC General Assembly to strengthen NC Cyberstalking laws by: (1) Adding a clarification for “social media” to NCGS14-196.3, (2) Adding a clarification for “doxing” to NCGS 14-196.3; and (3) Providing greater training to NC police officers on criminal offenses according to the laws of North Carolina, especially in regards to NC General Statute 14-196.3 so that they may take all threats of stalking, harassment, and harm seriously. Hopefully, the more people that stand up to cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and hate speech, the sooner we can see our laws catch up to the current technological age and the crimes associated with it. To view & sign my Change.org petition on Strengthening NC Cyberstalking laws, click here: https://bit.ly/2Lj3BtE
UPDATE: After writing this article, I have since been contacted by a detective from CMPD Cyber Crimes who is currently in the process of getting a police attorney to get approval from a superior court judge in order to file a court motion to approvalsubpoena Twitter to provide the IP addresses of the accounts which have been impersonating, stalking, and harassing me.
I have also been contacted by Congressman Chaz Beasley and spoke with him at length about NC's cyberstalking laws. He and Senator Jeff Jackson's offices are working together on a new cyberstalking bill, based on my case, to introduce in January when they are back in session. They also want to propose changing certain forms of cyberstalking from a misdemeanor to a felony which will allow NC police to extradite cyberstalkers from other states. In addition, they plan to speak with CMPD about properly training their officers on cyberstalking and not turning people away because they are unaware of the law. Congressman Beasley asked if I would be a continual part of the process and if they can consult with me as they put the bill together. He hopes that by me continuing to be vocal about my case, that it will encourage others to do the same. I have been super impressed with Senator Jeff Jackson & Congressman Chaz Beasley as they have both proved to be politicians who actually care about their constituents and have gone out of their way to reach out to me and offer their help.
To view & sign my petition to strengthen cyberstalking laws, click here: https://bit.ly/2mJcgXw
This article has been published as a 3 part series by "Women AdvaNCe":
See Part 1 published here: https://bit.ly/2LOwERV
See Part 2 published here: https://bit.ly/2NOM6yf
See Part 3 published here: https://bit.ly/2LWgd62
If you are interested in more articles and news broadcasts on my cyberstalking case, please see the below links:
Article written by Lauren Horsch for the Charlotte Observer: https://bit.ly/2nCZb2x
WSOC-TV Channel 9 News broadcast by Gina Esposito: https://on.wsoctv.com/2MogGl9
Article written By Stephanie Carson for the NC Public News Service: https://bit.ly/2v1DSvm
Article written by reporter Antionette Kerr of the Lexington Dispatch Newspaper: https://bit.ly/2NJEahs
Article written by Lauren Horsch for the Raleigh News & Observer: https://bit.ly/2OIfPsV