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Cyberstalking On the Rise


While many countries have made cyberstalking illegal, the United States has not. Several states have passed various types of legislation addressing cyberstalking, but the resulting hodgepodge of cyberlaws typically requires proof of a plausible threat of violence toward the victim. Until the United States enacts federal legislation, criminalizing cyberstalking, most victims are left to fight cyberharassment on their own.

What Can You Do?
What you can do to protect yourself depends on the type of cyberstalking involved. Consider the following five factors when deciding how to proceed:

The Factors

Who? In any situation where a child is threatened (cyberbullying), immediate adult intervention is a necessity. If it is a child harassing the child, the harasser’s parents and, possibly, the school administration should be contacted. If it is an adult harassing the child, contact the authorities immediately.

What? Depending upon other factors, name-calling, disrespect, lewd remarks and/or ridicule may or may not constitute harassment. Personally directed hate speech and physical threats are much more serious, requiring immediate intervention.

Where? Cyberstalking can occur via email, hacking, message boards, text messaging, social networking, blogs, online gaming, photo sites like Flickr and video sites like YouTube.

When? Cyberstalking typically requires repeated incidents of harassment. Not only does a single rant about a lost eBay auction probably not constitute cyberstalking, taking action against the one-time ranter prior to a subsequent incident may simply be poking a sleeping bear.

How? Even most state laws do not require physical, person-to-person, to make a case for cyberstalking. If cyberstalking does turn into real world contact, however, immediate intervention of the authorities is likely warranted.

Additional Factors
While the foregoing five points lay out the groundwork for determining the severity of a cyberstalking situation, the analysis does not stop there. If you are aware that the cyberstalker has a history of harassment or violence it is probably wise to contact the authorities. Conversely, if the cyberstalker is well-known in a particular forum for spreading harassment over a broad number of individuals, simply lying low and refusing to engage the cyberstalker may be the key to alleviating the problem. The last thing you want to do is make matters worse. If the problem persists, you may wish to contact the forum’s administrator to determine if the cyberstalker is violating the site’s terms of use. Alternatively, you might try to make a similar inquiry of the cyberstalker’s Internet Service Provider.

Trump Card
Every case is different. Any impression that you are in physical danger, however, should trump the foregoing criteria and prompt a call to your local authorities.

Brett Trout

Posted in Internet Law. Tagged with , , .