cyberstalking

What Is CyberStalking?

Definition of Cyberstalking Taken From Wikipedia

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organization. It may include false accusations, defamation, slander and libel. It may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass.

Cyberstalking is often accompanied by realtime or offline stalking. Both are criminal offenses. Both are motivated by a desire to control, intimidate or influence a victim. A stalker may be an online stranger or a person whom the target knows. He may be anonymous and solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target.

Cyberstalking is a criminal offense under various state anti-stalking, slander and harassment laws. A conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or criminal penalties against the assailant, including jail.

See also: Stalking and Cyberbullying

There have been a number of attempts by experts and legislators to define cyberstalking. It is generally understood to be the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organization. Cyberstalking is a form of cyberbullying, and the terms are often used interchangeably in the media. Both may include false accusations, defamation, slander and libel. Cyberstalking may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass. Cyberstalking is often accompanied by realtime or offline stalking. Both are criminal offenses.

Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Technology ethics professor Lambèr Royakkers defines cyberstalking as perpetrated by someone without a current relationship with the victim. About the abusive effects of cyberstalking, he writes that:

Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom he has no relationship (or no longer has), with motives that are directly or indirectly traceable to the affective sphere. Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect).

Distinguishing cyberstalking from other acts

It is important to draw a distinction between cyber-trolling and cyber-stalking. Research has shown that actions that can be perceived to be harmless as a one-off can be considered to be trolling, whereas if it is part of a persistent campaign then it can be considered stalking. However, it has also been shown that even if something is cyberstalking, it can still be lawful if it can be considered to be scrutinizing a public figure, such as a politician or comedian.

Cyberstalking author Alexis Moore separates cyberstalking from identity theft, which is financially motivated. Her definition, which was also used by the Republic of the Philippines in their legal description, is as follows:

Cyberstalking is a technologically-based “attack” on one person who has been targeted specifically for that attack for reasons of anger, revenge or control. Cyberstalking can take many forms, including:

  • harassment, embarrassment and humiliation of the victim
  • emptying bank accounts or other economic control such as ruining the victim’s credit score
  • harassing family, friends and employers to isolate the victim
  • scare tactics to instill fear and more

Identifying and detecting cyberstalking

CyberAngels has written about how to identify cyberstalking:

When identifying cyberstalking “in the field,” and particularly when considering whether to report it to any kind of legal authority, the following features or combination of features can be considered to characterize a true stalking situation: malice, premeditation, repetition, distress, obsession, vendetta, no legitimate purpose, personally directed, disregarded warnings to stop, harassment and threats.

A number of key factors have been identified in cyberstalking:

False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms, or other sites that allow public contributions such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.

Attempts to gather information about the victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their victim’s friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective.

Monitoring their target’s online activities and attempting to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.

Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victim’s name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.

False victimization. The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.

Attacks on data and equipment. They may try to damage the victim’s computer by sending viruses.

Ordering goods and services. They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim’s name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim’s workplace.

Arranging to meet. Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers try to set up meetings between them.