You’re probably reading this because the unthinkable happened, as it has happened many times over the last several years. Someone you know and love has died in a Mass Shooting, and shortly thereafter a group of often anonymous internet personalities have begun to harass and defame you as a “crisis actor,” in their delusional cult conspiracy theories.
Maybe they started by sending you an email inquiring about “the truth,’ or maybe they are outright threatening to kill you if you do not submit to their irrational and paranoid demands.
This document serves as a primer, compiled by previous Hoaxer victims, of what to expect from this the timeline of events, what are your legal and personal protections, and how can you get help emotionally or legally in the coming days and months.
Timeline of Events
One of the first things people need to know about Hoaxers is that they are largely creatures of impulse and predators of emotional outcry. They want the biggest, most sensational feedback they can get, and as soon as they are deprived of it they will attempt to create it by harassment.
Do not let them do that to you. Cut them off immediately.
It starts day one with the height of the emotion, reaches a peak in the weeks and months thereafter, and slopes off over time. There is a predictable pattern to it that you can watch. It is of no comfort immediately, but it is important to watch it happen so you’re ready.
“When is this going to end?”
It will take some time, but it will end.
From our experience, Hoaxers are at their peak activity in the hours and days following an event in the “buildup” phase, as they are gathering information for potential targets and fomenting doubt about what really happened. Alex Jones and others with TV & Radio shows will be the loudest. They will try to create doubt and contradict official accounts with anecdotal evidence. They will seize on any and all first or second hand testimony that attempt to disprove the news.
Or, they will just make stuff up, and try to get people to believe it, on the grounds of, “just asking questions.”
After the first week, they will have begun targeting the most high-profile individuals featured on the news. They will be on the ground and going door to door to harass victims personally, posing as investigative journalists — which they absolutely are not.
You have absolutely zero obligation to talk to them. They are not journalists.
Their aggression will not be isolated to those individuals at the scene, but public, state, and federal agents will be targeted first, followed by private individuals near those public officials, and the shooter’s family along with the family members of victims.
After the first month they will have begun trawling through social media accounts to relate people to the event through the thinnest of threads. Literally just picking people “who look alike” or for sharing friends on Facebook. This is where they become the most insidious and specific with their personal attacks, holding friends and family of the victims for ransom demanding, “evidence” and “proof” of a mass shooting from people they target for harassment.
After about six months things will calm down as their attention wanes, and the mass of Hoaxer activity dies down. Only the loudest and most strident deniers and Hoaxers will remain, usually the ones who stand to make a profit and drive the activity. Through this time you will see your face and the faces of family and friends defaced and slandered as lairs, and compared to the faces of other victims and even the mass shooter themselves.
It will be heart-wrenching to most, it will be hilarious and ridiculous to others. But do not underestimate them. This can cause traumatic damage to relationships with friends and family, and even cost you jobs. Not just for people who believe the conspiracy, but from people who just don’t want their brand or image associated with you because of this harassment. Even more deleterious are arguments with constitutional fundamentalists who by tolerating the free speech of these Hoaxers actually cut off friendships over arguments of what to do and refusing to help. You will lose email addresses and media accounts. It will cost you time, strife, and money cleaning it up.
It is very hard to stay neutral on this issue, and the Hoax can cause unexpected secondary damage not obviously related to the defamation and slander. It finds its way into every area of your life and will disrupt normal operations in the most insidious of ways.
After about a year it will be annoying background noise on the internet, and over time fade down to a handful of prime movers who stoke the fires online.
It will fade out, unless you are one of the less fortunates ones that they pick for being particularly outspoken, at which point they will mark you for life. If that happens there is very little you can do. Some of us have been at war with them for years, and there are very few if any legal or extra-legal things you can do to stop it.
So it’s important to be informed, and be prepared, at the beginning.
What do you need to do?
- Day One
Right off the bat, you or your loved ones were a victim of a Mass Shooting where several people were killed, and you, as a survivor, friend, colleague, or family member were interviewed on the News, likely in a state of shock. You told the truth as you saw it in the heat of the moment and likely signed a waver with the TV station’s producers absolving them of any wrongdoings that may come to you. This is standard practice and release the news of any personal responsibility.
Immediately, within hours, the Hoaxers will begin to dissect any and all News coming out of the tragedy. They’ll be looking for people they think look like famous actors or people from other shootings. They will begin to blow up their own off-brand “news” websites, radio shows, and social media accounts with 24-7 coverage, just like the News Media. The only difference here is that the Hoaxers are predatory vultures, looking for vulnerable individuals to exploit.
They will see you on TV or through social media, hunt you down, and try to contact you.
Do not engage them.
If you already have that is okay. You are probably very angry, and you have every right to be. If you want to press legal charges you need to begin thinking long term right away and break off all contact with the hoaxer and do not engage with them any further. Anything you say or do to them will be held against you by the Hoaxers and makes you vulnerable. Just break off all contact.
If you make a lot of threats and accusations they will take that as an invitation to attack you further. It will only exacerbate their delusional paranoia and make it personal to them. They will only redouble their efforts to get more emotional reactions from you to exploit.
Don’t give it to them. It is what they want.
It is advisable to shut down your social media and remain in contact with your family and loved ones by phone or by private email for the time being. If you have photos of you or your friends and family online, remove them by temporarily deactivating facebook, twitter, imgur, or other sites you may use. The goal is to deny them access to your contacts list and reduce the harm to others.
They will take that as “evidence” of a cover up, but they would do that anyway.
You will be preventing them from gaining access to your private data and spreading to other people in your social circle, and begin to protect your images and contacts.
If you have publicly posted email or phone numbers, such as professional websites or published LLC papers, you likely cannot hide them, but if you can it is advisable to do so.
The News will most undoubtedly have already begun combing social media for a story, but they are not here to help you. They will take images without permission and post them online or on the news, and the Hoaxers will be doing the exact same thing.
If you are too emotionally compromised, assign a trusted family member to do this for you. It is terrible you have to go through this right now, but you will get through it. You need to stay focused on getting yourself protected and get the situation as close to under control as you can manage in a time of crisis like this.
- The Next Week
On top of losing a loved one, you will have been bombarded with invasions of privacy by the News Media’s real journalists and likely the police. If you were close to the event and featured on the news, The Hoaxers will have gone from a bizarre nuisance to a legitimate threat to your daily life. Some will physically show up at your door. You must be prepared to call the police.
They will be harassing you on any open social media accounts. They will be contacting you by email. They will be contacting you by phone. They will have begun to contact members of your family, friends, and other social media contacts and harassing them as well. You need to be prepared to inform your peers what is happening and that the Hoaxers are trolls trying to gain access to your life.
You should advise them to report any and all activity they are exposed to and record it for legal use.
It is tragic, and it is insane, but you should not engage them.
People are going to wonder, “when is this going to end?”
All you can tell them is to remain vigilant. There is no amount of anger, violence, vitriol, or bargaining that can make the Hoaxers stop. Even if you manage to take one Hoaxer down, be it legally, physically, or through reasonable and measured conversation, ten more will simply take their place. It should not be your responsibility to save them or harm them.
They can’t be rationalized as people with first amendment rights — they are insane — it’s simply a problem you have to manage. They will exploit your compassion and they will exploit your vengeance. The key is simply not to give them what they want, which is a show. Stay away from them, don’t reach out to them, and don’t attack them. They will use it like a lightning rod and follow it right back to where it will hurt you most.
They have way more energy and time to put into this than you realize.
It isn’t their hobby, it is their entire life.
- The Next Six Months
You’ve now had to go through the arduous and borderline criminally expensive funerals of loved ones and the financial & legal ramifications of the sudden death of a loved one. We know exactly how hard that is, and you have our sympathy.
All of us have lost someone to one of these Mass Shootings. We can all attest, it hurts, and it takes time. You need legal, financial, and emotional council.
Now on top of that, you have this Hoaxer mess to deal with. Where to even begin?
The Hoaxers will have posted your face and personal information online. If you are extremely unlucky or close to the Shooter or Victims, you will be flying closest to the sun. If you attempt to remain anonymous online they will “Dox” you, unmasking your real identity and exposing you to a torrent of their angry base’s most wikid punitive fantasies.
More likely, they have kept up the phone calls and emails asking for an interview and defaming you no matter what you do.
You need to be keeping a dossier on these activities and report them to the police and local sheriff, or their online task force. If you are looking to press charges for slander and defamation, you will also need to retain legal counsel and keep those same documents.
Yes, I know, that process gets old. The police can’t help, and the lawyers & attorneys all say, “we can’t touch this, there is nothing you can do, it is their first amendment right, they don’t have any money so even if we did sue them… “
We know, it feels like a helpless situation.
If you just want this plight over with and out of your life, and you followed our day one and subsequent path of total disconnect from these Hoaxers, you probably managed to fly under the radar and exit the other side with an ugly trail of youtube videos and websites with your name on them.
You will find that it is very difficult to take those down, bur with the help of HONR.org members you can get our crowd support to report and take down offending content from media providers like Youtube, Vimeo, and certain webhosts. Get your friends to help out. Others like Facebook and Twitter take repeated pleas for official take down notices, and some are utterly devoid of any ethics whatsoever. It can become a full time job. Ask for help.
You can, on occasion, cite unfair use and DMCA copyright claims on your photographs and trademarked images, but unless you are a lawyer yourself, or have the money to retain one, you are going to largely be managing that cleanup operation by yourself. And worse, after a few legal victories they will target you again and the whole thing comes roaring back to life.
It’s important to remain anonymous and choose targets of priority, like the largest hoaxers, first. They are often the most protected because they’ve weathered our activities before, but they are also the most vulnerable because they have the most to lose. We keep a list of the worst Hoaxers on hand and have active cases against some of them. Your testimony and documentation may prove useful if you can be called upon.
- The Next Several Years
Barring unique circumstances, the Hoaxers will have largely forgotten about you, especially if a new Mass Shooting has entered the media scene and thus re-ignited their wheelhouse.
If you were one of their prime targets and decided to fight back, you’ll be here with the rest of us, right at the front lines of legal precedent, fighting for the memories of our loved ones and good names, whatever it takes.
But you do have to get on with your life, stay financially solvent and emotionally healthy, if you intend to maintain discipline and keep up the good fight. It’s a kind of ritual. You have to maintain morale and discipline, and that comes from a healthy lifestyle and work habits. You can’t quit, so you have to find ways of keeping motivated and balance your life with that.
The Hoaxers seem like they never get tired. They feed on suffering.
You can’t suffer for them. You have to beat this by living the life they tried to destroy, more resilient, more more determined.
It doesn’t take a lot to destroy a life. A few small applications of force is all it takes, and a life can be erased.
Being destructive is easy. And it’s cheap.
But being creative, and keeping a life going? That’s hard. And it takes work. It takes your whole life, in fact. That should be where the majority of your energy goes. The people you love, the life you need to lead, and keep a portion for the battles you need to fight on reserves at all times, ready to go the moment you see a clear goal with a chance of success.
Don’t get so caught up trying to destroy your enemies that you lose sight of what you’re fighting for. There’s no better way to lose a war than losing sight of why you do it.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s absurd that a Mass Shooting on American soil requires a frequently asked questions list. Worse, it’s surprising that there isn’t one with how frequent they have become, but the reality is that Mass Shootings and Terrorism are still rare enough that in your lifetime you are unlikely to ever meet a victim. Two victims are unlikely to cross paths either, being between 19 and 50 in 300 million people. So awareness post event is very low, and Hoaxers can operate with impunity, preying on this small population with virtually no recompense..
Is it better to fight or should I just keep my head down and not fuel the fire?
It is brave and bold to want to respond, but it is unwise. If you get stung by a hornet and your response is to kick the nest, they will all swarm you. They will predate on your vengeance and your compassion with equal fervency. It is best not to engage with them at all.
But you can’t let this grievous slight go unanswered, so you must exercise patience and prudence in your tactical response. If you can aggregate with other victims and find solidarity in common defense, that is ideal, but it is rare I have seen that happen. Most people just want it to go away and get past it. If you feel particularly ready to fight, do so where the Hoaxers can’t see or hear you, or they will overwhelm you alone and move on to friends and family.
You have to think of the people closest to you. Will your actions jeopardize them? It is brave to want to fight, but not if it harms what’s closest to you. Protect them first, then strike back.
Is there any government agency willing to protect my privacy and safety?
Short answer? No. The Police and FBI will only do so much without proof of injury, and the first amendment protects free speech and journalism to a fault. Yes, even fake news.
If a hoaxer shows up on your property you may wish to refer to your legal responsibilities and responses in that case. Generally you want to get their name and license plates, and call the police immediately before you even greet them. If, you greet them. It is advisable to call the cops the instant they appear, and don’t even go to the door.
The first hoaxers to approach my house went door to door to talk with neighbours first. They called me and alerted me, I called the police, and they got there within 5 minutes. The next time I wasn’t so lucky. The hoaxer came to my house armed with a handgun, and I had one of the more tense moments of my life where we both refused to back down. It isn’t worth it. Call the cops.
Is there legal counsel in my area that’s not going to charge me for a consultation?
Probably not. But possibly. If you are friends with a Process Server or Attorney, yes, but if you do not keep those kinds of friends it is unlikely that one will be willing to see you without a down payment. This can run in excess of 300$, easily. You can attempt to negotiate with their front office, so I’d sit down with a phone book and go down the list of libel, slander and defamation attorneys.
Can I sue them?
I did manage to find an attorney in my city willing to defend me and my peers, but advised heavily against it because it was hideously costly to do so, and our lead Hoaxer was living in Texas, a debtor’s haven, with no money of his own. So even if we did sue them, it would cost us more than what it was worth.
What did work was filing DMCA Takedown Notices on their videos and web host, and they were forced to comply. This got our legally trademarked material taken down, but unless you are a corporate entity under fire with trademarked assets, which I do not expect you are, this will get much harder.
You can use the reporting fields on Youtube, Vimeo, and Facebook to takedown bullying or harassing videos, which works best if you review bomb them with lots of people. So get your friends and family to help out and contact us. We’ll report them so much it shoots to the top of their list and hopefully someone at those website’s curation centers will respond. The same is true of off-brand webhosts. They will almost always refuse, but sometimes you score a hit.
Can I take out a restraining order?
Only for one that shows up at your door. There is no such thing as a restraining order online, but you should still contact your local police and ask for their cyber crimes unit. There are more and more laws against online harassment and bullying going on the books. You can be a part of setting that legal precedent.