By Jaclyn Brzezinski
Editor’s Note: Information contained in this story is disturbing and alarming. Jaclyn asked that we publish it without redacting the slurs she has endured and her personal information. We will be sharing her story in a three part series to raise awareness about North Carolina’s anti-cyberbullying laws and to highlight one young woman’s determination to fight back.
Our staff has had multiple conversations with Jaclyn and can tell you that while she is a victim of significant online harassment, she has empowered herself to AdvaNCE change. Over the next three days, you’ll understand how, and what you can do to join her fight.
I recently found this appalling caption next to a photo of myself and my parents taken at my best friend’s wedding. It had been stolen from my Instagram page and re-posted on to a known white supremacist website.
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 help me become a successful small business owner, designing and making jewelry. 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.
How a white supremacist group began stalking and harassing me:
I run a small business, Chrysalis Studios LLC, in Charlotte 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 19,000 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”. At the time they were statements I could not understand since I 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 screen grabs 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 forwarded it to me out of concern.
Dumbfounded, I searched Twitter and 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 current and old contact information for me. They referenced past clients and posted photos of the outside and inside of my home, I assume they found on Zillow and Google Maps. I found posts on pedophilia, ISIS, suicide, and politics, all intended to slander me. They even posted a pornographic image, falsely representing it as me.
“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.
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. I then found 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. When he asked why they were doing this to me, one Twitter user responded “Because she’s a Jew”.
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”.
The Twitter account impersonating has me sent me several threatening messages saying that I had “24 hours” to do certain things online and made several implied threats against my family members, even addressing them by name.
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. It is also difficult to tell how many of these accounts may be the same individual, since Twitter allows you to make as many accounts as you want.
An an online business owner, I cannot completely delete myself from social media, but my family members and I have attempted to take measures to make our social media accounts more secure and private. I deactivated my Twitter account. My mother, sister, a few of my friends, and I all changed our Facebook names and URLs. However, the stalkers were able to find us regardless.
If you can’t tell yet, I’m a fighter, and tomorrow I’ll tell you what response I got from Twitter and the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department when I reported the harassment. The outcome may surprise you.
READ PART TWO.