CyberBullying and the use of Private Investigators #stopbullyingnow and #doitforDolly

On the 3rd January 2018, 14 year old Amy “Dolly” Everett took her own life due to Cyberbullying.  Out of an absolute tragedy, a new campaign has been launched to raise awareness of this growing issue.

The family of Dolly have stated their goal was to establish a trust named “Dolly’s Dream” to raise awareness of bullying, anxiety, depression, and youth suicide, and on social media had been using the hashtags #stopbullyingnow and #doitforDolly.

The profile picture Dolly’s family have used to support the campaign has been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook.

Given our extensive experience in online investigations, it may be surprising to learn that we are very rarely engaged to investigate youth Cyberbuylling cases.

The reason for this is fairly simple, and it comes down to what private investigators are typically used for.  Our role is to gather evidence and establish facts as to who is likely to be responsible.

In instances of youth Cyberbullying, in the majority of the cases the Bully can be identified to within a small group of individuals, likely at the same school as the victim.  For this reason, most of these matters are sufficiently dealt with by Parents, Teachers and School support systems.  Even the Police look more favourably on dealing with youth Cyberbullying than they would be with taking on an adult case.

Certainly in extreme circumstances hiring a Private Investigator to prove or disprove Cyberbullying can be incredibly beneficial and the engagement of private investigators in these matters typically fall under three categories:

1: When victims or their guardians prefer not to involve the Police but require professional assistance in identifying the perpetrators;

2: When Police have closed their file and victims or their guardians seek further investigation; or

3: Speaking engagements to increase awareness and understand the risks online

Private Investigators are however extensively engaged to undertake investigations regarding negative online behaviours between adults and towards companies.  As adults we are more likely to have had interactions with a far wider group of people and therefore the anonymous behaviour is more difficult to isolate to within a small number of suspects.

Further to this, as adults we tend to have greater access to devices and time to send relentless and ongoing messages and posts.

Regardless if you are an adult or a child, if you are online you are susceptible to Cyberbullying.

There are typically six types of Cyberbullying tactics which have been identified as:

Digital Pile On (aka bullying in numbers):Typically seen on social networking pages or chat forums, this tactic involves the use of a ‘ringleader’ bully who solicits other individuals online to join in on the bullying.  This scenario typically escalates when the online audience provide the bully encouragement and support to belittle the target.

There are a number of participants in a digital pile on, and these are best described by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program as:

Bully/bullies: start the incident

Followers/henchmen: take an active part in the incident, but don’t start the incident

Supporters/passive bullies: support the bullying, but don’t take an active part in the incident

Passive supporters: agree with the bullying, but don’t take any active part in supporting the incident

Disengaged onlookers: agree with the buying, but don’t take any active part in supporting the incident

Possible defenders: don’t like the bullying but don’t go so far as to actually defend the target

Defenders of the target: take a stand to defend the target

Example: A defamatory post is made about you on Facebook and other people join in on the conversation.

Imposter Profiles:

One of the most common cases investigated by online private eyes, this involves the creation of a fake social networking profile or account designed to deceive other into believing it a genuine account operated by the target.  The fake profile is used to make false and defamatory comments and appear as if the real target is providing this incriminating information.

Example: A fake Facebook account is created using your name and image and is being used to spread malicious statements which can be viewed by your friends and family.

Haters’ Club:

Similar to a digital pile, this bullying is conducted en masse but at a dedicated location, such as a Facebook page bearing the name and image of the target.  Followers of the page are encouraged to post denigrating information, misinformation and lies directed at the target.

Example: A group of people have been sending anonymous messages which are hurtful to your Tumblr account or mobile phone.  A Facebook page has been created in your name encouraging people to leave defamatory comments about you.

Rating Website:

Highlighted on our previous blog “Smash or Pass“, this method of cyberbullying occurs on “rating” pages where users rate the attractiveness of other users pictures.  In this instance the target can either upload a photograph of themselves or alternatively the bully can upload an unflattering picture of the target without their knowledge.  Once uploaded, the bully and other followers  (known as “downraters”) post discriminatory and negative comments for the purpose of entertainment and/or revenge.

Example: An unflattering photograph has been uploaded to a “Smash or Pass” page without your knowledge and people are posting nasty messages about you.



Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs primarily via the use of mobile phones.  A nude or sexually explicit photograph is sent initially by the target to another individual such as a romantic partner.  The recipient of the photograph becomes the bully when they choose to forward the image to other individual/s or posts it online.  Unfortunately there have also been cases of either the target or the recipients phone being compromised (by others individuals finding or hijacking it) and forwarding the photograph/s without the knowledge of the owner.

Example: After a relationship turns sour, your ex partner posts a sexy picture you sent them on their social networking site.


More commonly known as the “Youtube bullies”, this method of cyberbullying involves videotaping a target in a potentially embarrassing or vulnerable position then uploading it to a video sharing site without the knowledge or permission of the target.

Example: After being harrassed by a bully at school, you find a video of the encounter posted on Youtube and shared amongst school colleagues.


Sites youth are most likely to be cyberbullied on:

  • Anonymous question/rating sites such as Sarahah and Ask.Fm
  • Temporary posting apps such as Snapchat
  • Group private messaging such as Whatsapp
  • Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram
  • Personal blog sites such as Tumblr

Sites adults/companies are most likely to be cyberbullied on:

  • Relationship warning sites such as
  • Review sites such as Yelp
  • Social networking such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Private email

If you are being cyberbullied/trolled:

  • Take screenshots of all instances of Cyberbullying.  While this may not be sufficient as evidence, Private Investigators have tools to capture these messages which is admissible in Court.
  • If sent via social media, ensure you have obtained the full URL of the offending profile
  • If sent via email, ensure you save the email and obtain the headers of the original email
  • Consider reporting the incident to the Esafety Commission, particularly if you require assistance with removing the content.

If your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Firstly, it is important you have open discussions around their online use with them.  It is important for Children to feel comfortable to share with you their problems without the fear you will remove their devices from them.
  • Consider the use of monitoring software (however this is somewhat controversial).
  • If your Child admits to be Cyberbullied, obtain screenshots of all instances and obtain the full URL of any profiles or usernames if they have been sent via apps or social media.
  • As it is likely the messages have been sent from students at their School, it is recommended as Parents you speak with staff at the School as they will likely have processes already in place to deal with these situations.
  • Consider reporting the incident to the Esafety Commission, particularly if you require assistance with removing the content.
  • Only in extreme cases should the need for Police and/or Private Investigators be required.
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