Based on a comment from one of the LifeHack readers (Thank you Viviane) I decided to follow up my “Is He Following Me?” article with a piece on cyberstalking.
Here is the result.
I conducted a review of the legal status,techniques to avoid and steps you can take to preserve your safety in cyber space.
In August of 1999 the Attorney General submitted a report to the Vice President. The topic? Cyberstalking, which was sited as one of the newest challenges facing law enforcement.
Although Stalking laws were already on the books, there were a series of comparisons that diferentiated stalking from cyber stalking.
Offline vs. Online Stalking — A ComparisonMajor Similarities
The majority stalking cases involve former intimates, although stranger stalking occurs in the real world and in cyberspace.
Most victims are women; most stalkers are men.
Stalkers are generally motivated by the desire to control the victim.
Offline stalking generally requires the perpetrator and the victim to be located in the same geographic area; cyberstalkers may be located across the street or across the country.
Electronic communications technologies make it much easier for a cyberstalker to encourage third parties to harass and/or threaten a victim (e.g., impersonating the victim and posting inflammatory messages to bulletin boards and in chat rooms, causing viewers of that message to send threatening messages back to the victim “author.”)
Electronic communications technologies also lower the barriers to harassment and threats; a cyberstalker does not need to physically confront the victim.
Beyond and above the protection the law provides there are other resources for victims.
1. Do not share personal information in public spaces anywhere online, nor give it to strangers, including in e-mail or chat rooms. Do not use your real name or nickname as your screen name or user ID. Pick a name that is gender- and age-neutral. And do not post personal information as part of any user profiles.
2. Be extremely cautious about meeting online acquaintances in person. If you choose to meet, do so in a public place and take along a friend.
3. Make sure that your ISP and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network have an acceptable use policy that prohibits cyberstalking. And if your network fails to respond to your complaints, consider switching to a provider that is more responsive to user complaints.
4. If a situation online becomes hostile, log off or surf elsewhere. If a situation places you in fear, contact a local law enforcement agency.
What To Do If You Are Being Cyberstalked
1. If you are receiving unwanted contact, make clear to that person that you would like him or her not to contact you again.
2. Save all communications for evidence. Do not edit or alter them in any way. Also, keep a record of your contacts with Internet system administrators or law enforcement officials.
3. You may want to consider blocking or filtering messages from the harasser. Many e-mail programs have a filter feature, and software can be easily obtained that will automatically delete e-mails from a particular e-mail address or that contain offensive words. Chat room contact can be blocked as well. Although formats differ, a common chat room command to block someone would be to type: /ignore
(without the brackets). However, in some circumstances (such as threats of violence), it may be more appropriate to save the information and contact law enforcement authorities.
4. If harassment continues after you have asked the person to stop, contact the harasser’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most ISP’s have clear policies prohibiting the use of their services to abuse another person. Often, an ISP can try to stop the conduct by direct contact with the stalker or by closing their account. If you receive abusive e-mails, identify the domain (after the “@” sign) and contact that ISP. Most ISP’s have an e-mail address such as abuse@(domain name) or postmaster@(domain name) that can be used for complaints. If the ISP has a website, visit it for information on how to file a complaint.
5. Contact your local police department and inform them of the situation in as much detail as possible.
If you are afraid of taking action, there are other resources available to help you:
The National Domestice Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (phone); 800-787-3224 (TDD).
There are also groups devoted to assisting you with these situations. Here is a list of a few.
CyberAngels: Non-profit group devoted to assisting victims of online harassment and threats, including cyberstalking. www.cyberangels.org.
GetNetWise: Online resource for families and caregivers to help kids use the Internet in a safe and educational manner. Includes a guide to online safety, a directory of online safety tools, and directions for reporting online trouble. www.getnetwise.org.
International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists: IACIS is an international volunteer non-profit corporation www.iacis.com.
National Center for Victims of Crime: The National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly known as the National Victim Center) www.ncvc.org.
National Cybercrime Training Partnership: An interagency, federal/state/local partnership www.cybercrime.org.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Nonprofit consumer information and advocacy program www.privacyrights.org.
Search Group, Inc.: SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, provides assistance to state and local criminal justice agencies www.search.org.
Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA): Founded by women to educate the Internet community about online harassment www.haltabuse.org.
In addition, copies of “Stalking and Domestic Violence: The Third Annual Report to Congress Under the Violence Against Women Act” can be obtained by contacting the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20849-6000–(800) 851-3420.
Reg Adkins writes on behavior and the human experience at (elementaltruths.blogspot.com).
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