What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communication devices to stalk another person.
Cyberstalking is different from cyberbullying in that cyberstalking involves adults. Cyberbullying pertains to children under the age of 18.
Cyberstalking is a relatively new phenomenon, due to the decreasing expenses of Internet usage, along with widespread availability of computers and other online services. Cyberstalkers target victims through chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, discussion forums and email.
Many cyberstalking situations evolve into offline stalking situations and a victim may experience abuse, phone calls, threatening emails, physical assault, trespassing, and vandalism.
Examples of Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking can take forms such as:
- Threatening emails
- Obscene emails
- Sending unsolicited emails
- Mass email spamming
- Leaving inappropriate messages on message boards or on blogs.
- Sending computer viruses
- Live chat flaming or harassment
- Tracing another person's computer activity
- Electronic identity theft
How To Prevent Cyberstalking:
Never share personal information in public spaces online - including email and chat rooms.
Do not use your real name or nickname as a screen name. Instead, pick a gender-neutral, age-neutral name.
Do not use personal information as part of a user profile.
Be cautious when meeting online friends in person.
Make sure that your ISP or IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network has an acceptable use policy that prohibits cyberstalking. If your network fails to respond to your complaints, consider changing providers.
If an online situation becomes hostile, log-off.
If a situation online makes you afraid, call your local law authorities.
If You Are Being Cyberstalked:
If you are under eighteen, tell your parents about the harassment and/or threats.
Make it clear to the person who is cyberstalking you that you do not want them to contact you any more. Do this only once. No matter what the response, you should in no way communicate with the cyberstalker.
If contact continues after you've asked the person to stop, contact the ISP of the harasser and report them. If you need to know where to find the email address of the ISP provider, check their website.
Save ALL communications between you and the cyberstalker for evidence. Do not edit them. Try to gather as much evidence with time and date stamps as possible.
Block or filter messages from the harasser.
Contact the local authorities and give them as much detail about the cyberstalking situation as possible.
Federal law provides a number of important tools that are available to combat cyberstalking, although the current legislation does have many gaps.
Under 18 U.S.C. 875(c), it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, to transmit any communication in interstate or foreign commerce containing a threat to injure the person of another. Section 875(c) applies to any communication actually transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce - thus it includes threats transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce via the telephone, e-mail, beepers, or the Internet.
Certain forms of cyberstalking also may be prosecuted under 47 U.S.C. 223. One provision of this statute makes it a federal crime, punishable by up to two years in prison, to use a telephone or telecommunications device to annoy, abuse, harass, or threaten any person at the called number.
18 U.S.C. 2425, makes it a federal crime to use any means of interstate or foreign commerce (such as a telephone line or the Internet) to knowingly communicate with any person with intent to solicit or entice a child into unlawful sexual activity. While this new statute provides important protections for children, it does not reach harassing phone calls to minors absent a showing of intent to entice or solicit the child for illicit sexual purposes.
Helpline of the National Center for Victims of Crime at 1-800-FYI-CALL, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Standard Time.
Searchable database of current state laws against cyberstalking.
CyberAngels - one of the oldest and most respected online safety education programs in the world. Index of articles for parents, children, and others seeking to know more about online security.
Cyber Law Enforcement -network of law enforcement officers, who specialize in cybercrime investigation, training other law enforcement officers and who assist cybercrime victims online.
STOP Cyberbullying - examples of the difference between flaming, cyberbullying and harassment and cyberstalking (for law-enforcement).
Facebook Help Center - how to change privacy settings on Facebook, report abuse, and prevent cyberstalking.
National Conference of State Legislatures - provides a list of laws by state, specifically referencing cyberstalking, cyber-harrassment, and cyberbullying
Cyberbullying Research Center - provides education, links to state laws, and tips for identifying, preventing, and responding to cyberbullying.