What is Cyberstalking?

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Cyberstalking is a serious offense that can negatively impact its victims. Catfishing and cyberbullying are similar crimes.

Cyberstalking is a terrifying new crime for the digital age. This problem is difficult to prevent or define and is unfortunately all too common. You may even wonder if suspicious encounters you've had on the internet fall into the category of cyberstalking. In some cases, even questioning whether you've been a victim of cyberstalking is a good sign that you have been.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Cyberstalking is a serious form of harassment involving digital technologies. In many instances, it can be prosecuted as a crime.

What is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking involves the use of digital technologies to harass a victim. This harassment can occur in a variety of ways, including monitoring an individual’s actions, making false accusations or threats, stealing an individual's identity and manipulating or destroying data. Cyberstalking can be performed via email, instant messages, phone calls or other methods of communication. The impact of cyberstalking can be tremendous, whether victims are sexually harassed, tracked or just inconvenienced and annoyed.

To protect yourself against cyberstalking, maintain vigilance over your digital footprint. Change passwords regularly, and do not share them with others. Use care when accessing sensitive information via public Wi-Fi, and avoid logging into personal accounts on public computers. Turn metadata off in your photos to avoid theft of your location or cellphone number.

What is Catfishing?

Catfishing is a new sort of cyberstalking in which an individual poses as someone else. He uses fake names, locations and profile images on social media sites to attract victims, either as a potential love interest or as a friend. In some instances, catfishers replicate the social media profiles of real people to help fabricate the lie. This puts victims at risk of identity confusion or criminal accusations.

To avoid falling prey to catfishing scams, check a user’s profile carefully before you agree to connect. Look for inconsistencies in posted photos and conduct a reverse image search to see if pictures are located elsewhere on the internet. This can help to uncover stolen profile photos. Report any suspicious activity to authorities.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is another internet crime that has a serious impact on the lives of its victims. In essence, cyberbullying is defined as any harassment that occurs via a cellphone, computer, tablet or another electronic device. Cyberbullying is an epidemic among young people, with approximately a fifth of those surveyed stating that they had been a victim in the last year. However, cyberbullying is also a problem among all other age groups.

Cyberbullying is extremely common on social media platforms and in text messages. It also can occur via email. This sort of bullying is particularly problematic in that many forms of digital content are visible to the public, and thus can cause the victim extra humiliation.

What Laws are in Place to Deal with Cyberstalking?

If pursued in court, cyberstalking can be treated as a civil wrong under tort law. Victims can claim defamation, emotional distress, invasion of privacy or harassment. However, these cases require a great deal of time and financial resources and rarely result in compensation for the victims. Victims can also attempt to sue cyberstalkers in cases of copyright infringement.

Federal laws against cyberstalking have existed since 2011. These laws permit legal action against anyone using digital technologies to harass others. Half of all states have also updated their legislation to include similar options. In many cases, however, these laws have not kept pace with the quickly evolving world of the internet. Victims often find the pursuit of justice unsuccessful due to laws that do not adequately cover new sorts of cyber crimes.

If a victim of cyberstalking takes her own life as a result of the harassment she has suffered, the offender could receive life in prison. Provisions for imprisonment also exist if the victim is injured or if the accused violates a restraining order.

What Laws are in Place to Deal with Cyberbullying?

All states have laws to prevent bullying, whether it is digital or in-person. Cyberbullying falls under this category, and, in many states, bullying laws have even been revised to specifically cover cyberbullying. There are no federal laws specific to bullying, although if the harassment is based on certain factors like race, sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity, it possible to pursue criminal charges for the behavior.

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About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. In addition to being the content writer and social media manager for Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, she has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com) and enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.