Computers and the Internet are becoming indispensable parts
of America's culture, and cyberstalking is a growing threat.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking can be defined as threatening behavior
or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet
and other forms of online and computer communications. Cyberstalking
occurs when electronic mediums such as the Internet are used
to pursue, harass or contact another in an unsolicited fashion.
Internet CyberStalking is used to slander and endanger victims,
taking on a public rather than private dimension.
Cyberstalking is the term used to describe stalking behavior
undertaken by way of computer. Although no universal definition
exists, cyberstalking occurs when an individual or group uses
the Internet to stalk or harass another. Essentially cyberstalking
is the act of stalking using the Internet, e-mail, or other
electronic communication devices. Everyone who receives e-mail
or uses the Internet is susceptible to cyberstalking.
In order to address cyberstalking, it is critical to understand
stalking in general. The fact that cyberstalking does not
involve physical contact may create the misperception that
it is less threatening or dangerous than physical stalking.
In many cases, cyberstalking is simply another phase in an
overall stalking pattern, or it is regular stalking behavior
using new technological tools. Essentially, cyberstalking
is an extension of the physical form of stalking.
The anonymity of online interaction reduces the chance of
identification and makes cyberstalking more common than physical
stalking. The ease of use and non-confrontational, impersonal,
and sometimes anonymous nature of Internet communications
may remove disincentives to cyberstalking. Although cyberstalking
might seem relatively harmless, it can cause victims psychological
and emotional harm, and occasionally leads to actual stalking.
More disturbingly, pornographers and pedophiles have begun
to use cyberstalking as a way of locating new victims.
It is commonly assumed that cyberstalking is not as serious
or harmful as real world stalking. It is true that cyberstalking
bears little physical resemblance to traditional stalking
methods such as following and loitering.
Cyberstalking is a relatively new phenomenon. The stream
of data is sketchy, but some insights into cyberstalking trends
are emerging. As with regular stalking, cyberstalking often
begins when you attempt to break off a relationship. Anecdotal
evidence from law enforcement agencies indicates that cyberstalking
is a serious, and growing problem.
While cyberstalking has become a worldwide problem, most
cases originate in the United States, making Americans the
most vulnerable group of targets. It is estimated that there
may potentially be tens or even hundreds of thousands of cyberstalking
victims in the United States. A common area regarding cyberstalking
is at the "edu" sites, which are educational institutes, such
as colleges and universities. While, historically, cyberstalking
has mostly been men stalking women, the reverse is happening
more often as well.
In many instances, cyberstalking is simply another phase
in an overall stalking pattern, or it is regular stalking
behavior using new, high-technology tools. Keep a record of
contact made (in relation to the cyberstalking event) with
website administrators, victim support organizations and law
enforcement personnel. Often, cyberstalking ventures offline
and the cyberstalker may attempt to track down the victim
physically. These things are important because online cyberstalking
and bullying is increasing, and further, is grossly underreported.
By the use of new technology and equipment which cannot be
policed by traditional methods, cyberstalking has replaced
traditional methods of stalking and harassment. The investigation
of cyberstalking and other computer crimes can be complex.
The lack of adequate statutory authority also can limit law
enforcement's response to cyberstalking incidents. Out-of-date
and missing account, subscriber, and user information, as
well as anonymizing tools, presented problems for law enforcement
during cyberstalking investigations.
About the Author:
Francesca Black develops educational material for
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