Tuesday, 7 August 2012

So what is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking - a new phenomenon?

Unlike stalking which is a centuries old phenomenon, Cyberstalking is relatively newly recognized. The rapidly growing phenomenon of cyberstalking is largely a result of the evolution of technology and communications.

It is well accepted amongst anti-stalking professionals, government agencies and the criminal justice system, that cyberstalking now forms a part of almost all “traditional” stalking cases.

Incidents of cyberstalking comprise traditional stalkers who also use cyber or digital means of tracking, intimidating, threatening and harassing their prey.

Cyberstalking however also opens the door to perpetrators whom without nameless/faceless means such as the Internet, mobile telephony and social media platforms, many otherwise be too cowardly to conduct a physical stalking campaign.

Sadly, the incidence of cyberstalking is growing particularly rapidly amongst our youth.

Cyberstalking is sometimes described as cyber-harassment or digital-stalking.

Cyberstalking is also a form of cyber-bullying.

Cyberstalking can include gaslighting.

Cyberstalking Definitions


Wikipedia describes Cyberstalking as:
The use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass.
The definition of "harassment" must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress. Cyberstalking varies from spatial or offline stalking in that it occurs primarily through the use of electronic communications technology such as the internet. However, it sometimes leads to it, or is accompanied by it. Both are criminal offenses. Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking. Many stalkers - online or off - are motivated by a desire to control their victims.
A cyberstalker may be an online stranger or a person whom the target knows.
A cyberstalker may be anonymous and may solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target.
Cyberstalking is a criminal offenses that comes into play under state anti-stalking laws, slander laws, and harassment laws. In the US cyberstalking conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or even criminal penalties against the assailant, including jail.

The Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary defines cyberstalking as:

The repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails

Other Definitions

The International Journal of Cyber Criminology (IJCC) ISSN: 0974 - 2891 Vol 1 (2): 180-197 - The Internet as a Medium for Online Predatory Behavior, states:
The Internet is particularly appealing to cyber stalkers and other online predators, simply because many are drawn to its relatively inexpensive cost, ease of use, and as previously mentioned, its anonymity in seeking out victims and avoiding detection (Reno 1999). Cyber stalking behaviors are often misunderstood and confused with other online predatory behaviors, including those of sexual offenders who seek out children purely for sexual gratification (Dombrowski et.al 2004)

Paul Bocjj in Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family provides the following definition of cyber stalking:

A group of behaviours in which an individual, group of individuals or organisation, uses information and communications technology to harass another individual, group of individuals or organisation. 
Such behaviours may include, but are not limited to, the transmission of threats and false accusations, damage to data or equipment, identity theft, data theft, computer monitoring, the solicitation of minors for sexual purposes and any form of aggression. 
Harassment is defined as a course of action that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would think causes another reasonable person to suffer emotional distress

Cyber Stalking: A Global Menace in the Information Super Highway by By K. Jaishankar and V. Uma Sankary states:

Cyber stalking is a new form of computer related crime occurring in our society. Cyber stalking is when a person is followed and pursued on line. Their privacy is invaded, their every move watched. It is a form of harassment that can disrupt the life of the victim and leave them feeling very afraid and threatened. Cyber Stalking usually occurs with women, who are stalked by men, or children who are stalked by adult predators or pedophiles. Cyber stalkers need not have to leave their home to find, or harass their targets, and has no fear of physical violence since they believe that they cannot be physically touched in cyberspace  

UK Anti-Stalking Laws (as at March 2012)

In the UK there are various laws in place to tackle the growing problems of stalking and cyberstalking. These include:

Hate Crimes

Whilst anecdotally it would appear to be an effect rather than a cause of stalking and cyberstalking, elements of each can include targetting of the victim on the basis of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group - whether defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity. This particular form of harassment is defined by law as a Hate Crime.

Hate Crime is defined in Wikipedia as "generally referring to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above [racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity], or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail)".

Useful Links & References

The Protection from Harassment Act

The Malicious Communications Act 1988

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

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