Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass. The definition of "harassment" must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress.[1] Cyberstalking is different from spatial or offline stalking. However, it sometimes leads to it, or is accompanied by it.[2]



Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Technology ethics professor Lambèr Royakkers writes that:

"Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom he has no relationship (or no longer has), with motives that are directly or indirectly traceable to the affective sphere. Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect)."[3]

CyberAngels has written about how to identify cyberstalking:

When identifying cyberstalking "in the field," and particularly when considering whether to report it to any kind of legal authority, the following features or combination of features can be considered to characterize a true stalking situation: malice, premeditation, repetition, distress, obsession, vendetta, no legitimate purpose, personally directed, disregarded warnings to stop, harassment, and threats.[4]

A number of key factors have been identified:

  • False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public contributions, such as Wikipedia or[5]
  • Attempts to gather information about the victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their victim's friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victim's online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims. [6]
  • Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victim's name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
  • False victimization. The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.
  • Attacks on data and equipment. They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.
  • Ordering goods and services. They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim's workplace.
  • Arranging to meet. Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers try to set up meetings between them.[7]


Of women

Harassment and stalking of women online is common, and can include rape threats and other threats of violence, as well as the posting of women's personal information. It is blamed for limiting victims' activities online or driving them offline entirely, thereby impeding their participation in online life and undermining their autonomy, dignity, identity and opportunities.[8]

Of intimate partners

Cyberstalking of intimate partners is the online harassment of a current or former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other. It is a form of domestic violence, and experts say its purpose is to control the victim in order to encourage social isolation and create dependency. Harassers may send repeated insulting or threatening e-mails to their victims, monitor or disrupt their victims' e-mail use, and use the victim's account to send e-mails to others posing as the victim or to purchase good or services the victim doesn't want. They may also use the internet to research and compile personal information about the victim, to use in order to harass her.[9]

By anonymous online mobs

Web 2.0 technologies have enabled online groups of anonymous people to self-organize to target individuals with online defamation, threats of violence and technology-based attacks. These include publishing lies and doctored photographs, threats of rape and other violence, posting sensitive personal information about victims, e-mailing damaging statements about victims to their employers, and manipulating search engines to make damaging material about the victim more prominent. Victims are often women, people of colour, gays and lesbians, religious minorities and members of other traditionally disadvantaged groups. They frequently respond by adopting pseudonyms or going offline entirely.[10] A notable example of online mob harassment was the experience of American software developer and blogger Kathy Sierra. In 2007, a group of anonymous individuals attacked Sierra, threatening her with rape and strangulation, publishing her home address and Social Security number, and posting doctored photographs of her. Frightened, Sierra cancelled her speaking engagements and shut down her blog, writing “I will never feel the same. I will never be the same.”[11]

Experts attribute the destructive nature of anonymous online mobs to group dynamics, saying that groups with homogeneous views tend to become more extreme as members reinforce each other's beliefs, they fail to see themselves as individuals, so they lose a sense of personal responsibility for their destructive acts, they dehumanize their victims, which makes them more willing to behave destructively, and they become more aggressive when they believe they are supported by authority figures. Internet service providers and website owners are sometimes blamed for not speaking out against this type of harassment.[12]

Corporate cyberstalking

Corporate cyberstalking is when a company harasses an individual online, or an individual or group of individuals harasses an organization. Motives for corporate cyberstalking are ideological, or include a desire for financial gain or revenge.[13]



Preliminary work by Leroy McFarlane and Paul Bocij has identified four types of cyberstalkers: the vindictive cyberstalkers noted for the ferocity of their attacks; the composed cyberstalker whose motive is to annoy; the intimate cyberstalker who attempts to form a relationship with the victim but turns on them if rebuffed; and collective cyberstalkers, groups with motive.[14] According to Antonio Chacón Medina, author of Una nueva cara de Internet, El acoso ("A new face of the Internet: stalking"), the general profile of the harasser is cold, with little or no respect for others. The stalker is a predator who can wait patiently until vulnerable victims appear, such as women or children, or may enjoy pursuing a particular person, whether personally familiar to them or unknown. The harasser enjoys and demonstrates their power to pursue and psychologically damage the victim.[15]


Cyberstalkers meet or target their victims by using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and more recently, through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, and Indymedia, a media outlet known for self-publishing. They may engage in live chat harassment or flaming or they may send electronic viruses and unsolicited e-mails.[16] Victims of cyberstalking may not even know that they are being stalked. Cyberstalkers may research individuals to feed their obsessions and curiosity. Conversely, the acts of cyberstalkers may become more intense, such as repeatedly instant messaging their targets.[17]

More commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their stalking target on web pages, message boards and in guest books designed to get a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact.[16] In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content.

When prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track or follow the victim's internet activity. Classic cyberstalking behavior includes the tracing of the victim's IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment.[16]

Some cyberstalking situations do evolve into physical stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault.[16] Moreover, many physical stalkers will use cyberstalking as another method of harassing their victims.[18][19]

A 2007 study, led by Paige Padgett from the University of Texas Health Science Center, found that there was a false degree of safety assumed by women looking for love online.[20][21]

Cyberstalkers find their victims by using search engines, forums, chats, and more recently, through social networking sites.[22]

Cyberstalking legislation

United States

The current US Federal Anti-Cyber-Stalking law is found at 47 USC sec. 223.[23]

The first U.S. cyberstalking law went into effect in 1999 in California. Other states include prohibition against cyberstalking in their harassment or stalking legislation. In Florida, HB 479 was introduced in 2003 to ban cyberstalking. This was signed into law on October 2003. [24]

Some states in the U.S. have begun to address the issue of cyberstalking:

  • Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York have included prohibitions against harassing electronic, computer or e-mail communications in their harassment legislation.
  • Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and California, have incorporated electronically communicated statements as conduct constituting stalking in their anti-stalking laws.
  • Texas enacted the Stalking by Electronic Communications Act, 2001.
  • Missouri revised its state harassment statutes to include stalking and harassment by telephone and electronic communications (as well as cyber-bullying) after the Megan Meier suicide case of 2006.[25]
  • A few states have both stalking and harassment statutes that criminalize threatening and unwanted electronic communications.
  • Other states have laws other than harassment or anti-stalking statutes that prohibit misuse of computer communications and e-mail, while others have passed laws containing broad language that can be interpreted to include cyberstalking behaviors

Cyberstalking has also been addressed in recent U.S. federal law. For example, the Violence Against Women Act, passed in 2000, made cyberstalking a part of the federal interstate stalking statute. Still, there remains a lack of legislation at the federal level to specifically address cyberstalking, leaving the majority of legislative prohibitions against cyberstalking at the state level.[16]

Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim; others include threats against the victim's immediate family; and still others require the alleged stalker's course of conduct constitute an implied threat. While some conduct involving annoying or menacing behavior might fall short of illegal stalking, such behavior may be a prelude to stalking and violence and should be treated seriously.[26]

Online identity stealth blurs the line on infringement of the rights of would-be victims to identify their perpetrators. There is a debate on how internet use can be traced without infringing on protected civil liberties.


In Australia, the Stalking Amendment Act (1999) includes the use of any form of technology to harass a target as forms of "criminal stalking."

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Malicious Communications Act (1998) classified cyberstalking as a criminal offense.[27]


In Spain, it is possible to provide information about cyber-crime in an anonymous way to four safety bodies:

It is also possible to provide information to an NGO.[28][29]

See also


  1. ^ Bocij, Paul. Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family. Praeger, 2004, p. 14.
  2. ^ Spitzberg, Brian H.; Gregory Hoobler (February 2002). "Cyberstalking and the technologies of interpersonal terrorism". New Media & Society. 1 4: 71–92. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Royakkers 2000:7, cited in CyberStalking: menaced on the internet
  4. ^ Bocij, Paul. Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family. Praeger, 2004, pp. 9-10.
  5. ^ Fighting Cyberstalking
  6. ^ An exploration of predatory behavior in cyberspace: Towards a typology of cyberstalkers by Leroy McFarlane and Paul Bocij
  7. ^ Bocij, Paul. Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family. Praeger, 2004, pp. 12-13.
  8. ^ Citron, Danielle Keats (November 2009). "Law's Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment". Michigan Law Review 108: 373. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Southworth, Cynthia; Jerry Finn, Shawndell Dawson, Cynthia Fraser, Sarah Tucker (2007). "Intimate Partner Violence, Technology, and Stalking". Violence Against Women. 8 13: 842–856. PMID 1077801207302045. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Citron, Danielle Keats (February 2009). "Cyber Civil Rights". Boston University Law Review. 61 89: 61–125. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Citron, Danielle Keats (February 2009). "Cyber Civil Rights". Boston University Law Review. 61 89: 61–125. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Citron, Danielle Keats (February 2009). "Cyber Civil Rights". Boston University Law Review. 61 89: 61–125. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Bocij, Paul. "Corporate Cyberstalking: An Invitation to Build Theory". First Monday. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "An exploration of predatory behaviour in cyberspace: Towards a typology of cyberstalkers". First Monday 8 (9). September 1, 2003. "A typology of cyberstalkers was developed." 
  15. ^ "Una nueva cara de Internet, El acoso, Antonio Chacón Medina,UGR"
  16. ^ a b c d e Cyberstalking
  17. ^ Compulsions in Depression: Stalking by Text Message - HOWES 163 (9): 1642 - Am J Psychiatry
  18. ^ Types of Stalkers and Stalking Patterns at
  19. ^ Cyber-Stalking: Obsessional Pursuit and the Digital Criminal at
  20. ^ Look Who’s Googling: New acquaintances and secret admirers may already know all about you
  21. ^ "Personal Safety and Sexual Safety for Women Using Online Personal Ads", Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC, June 2007, Vol. 4, No. 2, Pages 27-37
  22. ^ Pikul, Corrie (2010-08-19). "". Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  23. ^ "Cybertelecom :: 47 USC 233". Cybertelecom. 
  24. ^ "Florida Statute 784.048". Florida Computer Crime Center. 
  25. ^ Perry, Elizabeth (2 July 2008). "Blunt signs cyberbullying bill" (in English). St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  26. ^ Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry
  27. ^ Stalking/UK
  28. ^ Protegeles
  29. ^ Alia2 Foundation

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • cyberstalking — v. 1 Using the Internet, through chat rooms and e mail, to find, identify, and arrange to meet a person whom one intends to criminally victimize. 2 Sending multiple e mails, often on a systematic basis, to annoy, embarrass, intimidate, or… …   Law dictionary

  • cyberstalking — /sīˈbər stö king/ noun The use of the Internet, email, etc to harass, threaten or abuse another person ORIGIN: ↑cyber and ↑stalking (under ↑stalk2) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Cyberstalking — Unter Stalking (deutsch: Nachstellung) wird im Sprachgebrauch das willentliche und wiederholte (beharrliche) Verfolgen oder Belästigen einer Person verstanden, deren physische oder psychische Unversehrtheit dadurch unmittelbar, mittelbar oder… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • cyberstalking — cy|ber|stalk|ing [ˈsaıbəˌsto:kıŋ US bərˌsto:k ] n [U] the illegal use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communication systems to follow someone or threaten them ▪ The state s first cyberstalking laws went into effect a little over a… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • cyberstalking — noun The behaviour of a cyberstalker; online harassment …   Wiktionary

  • cyberstalking — UK [ˈsaɪbə(r)ˌstɔːkɪŋ] / US [ˈsaɪb(ə)rˌstakɪŋ] noun [uncountable] the use of the Internet to follow and watch someone in a threatening way …   English dictionary

  • cyberstalking — /ˈsaɪbəstɔkɪŋ/ (say suybuhstawking) noun sustained harassment or threatening behaviour directed at someone through the use of the internet, email, chat rooms, or other digital communications devices. Also, internet stalking …   Australian English dictionary

  • Cyberstalking legislation — Cyberstalking and cyberbullying are relatively new phenomena, but that does not mean that crimes committed through the network are not punishable under legislation drafted for that purpose. Although there are oftentimes existing laws that… …   Wikipedia

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