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Excerpts 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
Cyberstalking is often accompanied by real time 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-talking, slander and harassment laws.
A conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or criminal
penalties against the assailant, including jail.
“[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).”
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.
number of key factors have been identified in cyberstalking:
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.
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
their target’s online activities and attempting to trace their IP
address in an
effort to gather more information about their victims.
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.
on data and equipment. They may try to damage the victim’s computer by
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.
Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers try to
set up meetings between them.
Stalking by strangers
to Joey Rushing, a District Attorney of Franklin County, Alabama, there isn’t a
single definition of a cyberstalker, and they can be either strangers to the
victim or have a former/present relationship. “[Cyberstalkers] come in all
shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. They patrol Web sites looking for an
opportunity to take advantage of people.”
They may also use the Internet to research and
compile personal information about the victim, to use in order to harass him or
By anonymous online
Web 2.0 technologies have enabled online groups of anonymous
people to self-organize to target individuals with online defamation, threats
of violence and technology-based attacks. These include publishing lies and
doctored photographs, threats of rape and other violence, posting sensitive
personal information about victims, e-mailing damaging statements about victims
to their employers, and manipulating search engines to make damaging material
about the victim more prominent. Victims
frequently respond by adopting pseudonyms or going offline entirely.]
attribute the destructive nature of anonymous online mobs to group dynamics, saying that groups with homogeneous
views tend to become more extreme. As members reinforce each other’s beliefs,
they fail to see themselves as individuals and lose a sense of personal
responsibility for their destructive acts. In doing so they dehumanize their
victims, becoming more aggressive when they believe they are supported by
authority figures. Internet service providers and website owners are sometimes
blamed for not speaking out against this type of harassment.
Motives and profile
profiling of digital criminals has identified psychological and social factors
that motivate stalkers as: envy;
pathological obsession (professional or sexual); unemployment or failure with
own job or life; intention to intimidate and cause others to feel inferior; the
stalker is delusional and believes he/she “knows” the target; the
stalker wants to instill fear in a person to justify his/her status; belief
they can get away with it (anonymity); intimidation for financial advantage or
business competition; revenge over perceived or imagined rejection.
Four types of
work by Leroy McFarlane and Paul Bocij has identified four types of
cyberstalkers: the vindictive cyberstalkers noted for the ferocity of their
attacks; the composed cyberstalker whose motive is to annoy; the intimate
cyberstalker who attempts to form a relationship with the victim but turns on
them if rebuffed; and collective cyberstalkers, groups with a motive.] According to Antonio Chacón Medina, author of Una nueva cara de Internet, El acoso (“A new face of the Internet: stalking”),
the general profile of the harasser is cold, with little or no respect for
others. The stalker is a predator who can wait patiently until vulnerable victims
appear, such as women or children, or may enjoy pursuing a particular person,
whether personally familiar to them or unknown. The harasser enjoys and
demonstrates their power to pursue and psychologically damage the victim.
find their victims by using search
engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and more recently, through social
networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, and Indymedia,
a media outlet known for self-publishing. They may engage in live chat
harassment or flaming or they may send electronic viruses and unsolicited
e-mails. Cyberstalkers may research individuals to feed their
obsessions and curiosity. Conversely, the acts of cyberstalkers may become more
intense, such as repeatedly instant messaging their targets.
commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their
stalking target on web pages, message boards, and in guest books designed to
get a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact. In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or
prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their
behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact.
Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track
or follow the victim’s internet activity. Classic cyberstalking behavior
includes the tracing of the victim’s IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of
cyberstalking situations do evolve into physical stalking, and a victim may
experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene
mail, trespassing, and physical assault. Moreover, many physical stalkers will use
cyberstalking as another method of harassing their victims.
on cyberstalking varies from country to country. Cyberstalking and
cyberbullying are relatively new phenomena, but that does not mean that crimes
committed through the network are not punishable under legislation drafted for
that purpose. Although there are often existing laws that prohibit stalking or
harassment in a general sense, legislators sometimes believe that such laws are
inadequate or do not go far enough, and thus bring forward new legislation to
address this perceived shortcoming. In the United States, for example, nearly every state
has laws that address cyberstalking, cyberbullying, or both.
countries such as the US, in practice, there is little legislative difference
between the concepts of “cyberbullying” and
“cyberstalking.” The primary distinction is one of age; if adults are
involved, the act is usually termed cyberstalking, while among children it is usually referred to as cyberbullying. However, this distinction is one of semantics, and
many laws treat bullying and stalking as much the