Law Resources on Cyberstalking

The Internet is arguably one of the most beneficial tools in the wonder that is modern technology. It allows people to communicate and interact with other individuals from around the world. This has been a boon for businesses, shoppers, education, and learning. Relatives, spouses, parents and their children can keep in touch with little more than the click of a mouse, the swipe of a finger, and an Internet connection. Despite all of its positive applications, some have found a more sinister use for it. For some people, their online activities involve the stalking of others, which is known as cyberstalking. Simply defined, cyberstalking is the act of stalking an individual online. The “stalking” of cyberstalking can include several actions that the victim may find to be of a threatening or frightening nature. These actions include, but are certainly not limited to, sending unwanted messages via email, instant messages, or other electronic means; subscribing the victim to unwanted services, or making unwanted purchases over the Internet using his or her name; and sending false emails or messages pretending to be the victim. These messages are often sent to places that will embarrass or hurt the victim in some way, such as to family or to one’s employer. Cyberstalkers may search for and compile information from various social media or websites in order to find personal information regarding the victim. This information is then used in a threatening way and may even extend beyond the Internet into one’s real life. Sending pictures and other personal information to pornographic sites is also a form of cyberstalking.

There are variations of cyberstalking that some mistakenly use interchangeably with it, such as cyberharassment and cyberbullying. While they all involve the use of the Internet, they differ in who they affect or in the severity of the threat. Cyberbullying is a term that people may be familiar with, particularly if they have teenagers at home. The actions of cyberbullying and cyberstalking are more or less the same; however, they differ because cyberbullying applies to the bullying or stalking of a minor by another minor. Cyberstalking is bullying or stalking by an adult, either adult to adult or an adult stalking a minor. The behavior involved in cyberbullying and cyberstalking is often malicious and threatening, unlike cyberharassment. Cyberharassment is often mild and not considered a true threat. Even though it may include threatening or harassing emails or messages, cyberharassing often does not go much further than that.

  • Of stalking victims, the Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that approximately 1 out of 4 is victim of cyberstalking.
  • According to WHOA, or Working to Halt Online Abuse, 60 percent of cyberstalking victims are female and 40 percent are male.
  • Forty percent of cyberstalkers are male, while 30 percent are female. The gender of the remaining 30 percent is of unknown origin.
  • People who had been in a prior intimate relationship with the victim, such as ex-spouses or former boyfriends or girlfriends, made up 47 percent of harassers.
  • At 38 percent, the age group that most commonly falls victim to cyberstalking is between 18 and 30 years old.
  • The top three places where cyberstalking/harassment begins are by email, Facebook, or a website. As much as 30 percent of began using email, 30 percent started on Facebook, and 14 percent on a website.
  • Escalation occurs in 76 percent of cases.
  • Offline threats of physical violence are made in 25 percent of cases.
  • When it comes to reporting harassment, as much as 75 percent of victims did so. Thirty-five percent reported what was happening to their Internet Service Provider, or ISP. Another 37 percent went to the police to file a report.

Learn more about cyberstalking by reviewing the following list of links:

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