Case text (Anonymised)
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An author submitted a paper which went through the review process and was rejected. He is now sending abusive emails to me, the editor, and spamming an enormous number of people in his research area and the government (he even tried to contact the royal office) as a protest. He continues to submit his paper (over 20 times so far), changing his author name.
We have rejected the paper, expired his account, etc, but can't do anything to stop him from submitting again. He just creates another account and submits under a new name. All of the accounts are @yahoo.fr or @yahoo.in or @yahoo.cn. He has not given the name of an institution so we don't even know who he really is or where he is from. He is rude and threatening. We are now ignoring him, but he is sending out these emails to the community which are untrue. He has edited my email responses and then forwarded them on to people. He attached a copy of an email from me which said his paper was unsuitable for publication in our journal. However, he had removed that text and typed in "If all Chinese authors are as impolite and narrow-minded as you, any contribution from China will be automatically rejected. So please stop this."
I can assure you I did not send this email, or indeed anything like it. He has sent it out to a very large number of people however. A number of these people have contacted me to either ask what is going on or to let me know he has done this. Some have responded to him and asked to be removed from his mailing list—they then receive rude replies and he forwards on their emails which have again been tampered with. In fact I wonder whether the email he is sending out as mine is perhaps an edited version of a response from someone else as the English is not the same style as his.
While I can continue to ignore this person and his submissions (although this is messing with our journal statistics!), I am very concerned that he is traducing our reputation and is spamming such a large number of people. I would be grateful for any help or advice.
The advice from the Forum was that the editor could consider publishing an editorial on this issue, explaining what has happened and putting the journal’s side of the story. This is especially relevant if the editor feels that the reputation of his journal has been damaged. To avoid a similar incident in the future, the advice was to consider asking authors to name their institution on submission of their paper. Also, it was suggested that the editor use the manuscript submission systems to reply to the author so that there will then be an audit trail for the correspondence and also a permanent record.
Most participants believed that this is now a legal rather than an editorial issue and the editor should perhaps contact the publisher/owner of the journal and request a letter from a lawyer. A formal, legal note should be sent to the author (by email if this is the only known means of contact). Another practical suggestion was to contact Yahoo (as all of the author’s accounts are @yahoo.fr, @yahoo.in or @yahoo.cn) as they take such abuse issues very seriously and may investigate.
The editor completely ignored the author. The editor did not even reject the last batch of papers that the author submitted to the journal but just left them on the electronic system. This, of course, messed up the submission statistics and processing times a little, but the author eventually got bored and stopped harassing the journal in the end. It was all very sudden so perhaps something happened at his end. The editor has since quietly removed his duplicate submissions from the system.