Cyber-stalking is loosely defined as threatening or harassing another individual on the internet using electronic communication to do so (e-mail, newsgroups, message boards, chat clients etc.) The harassing correspondance can be threatening, sexual, or simply annoying. As is the case with many things related to the internet, the legal aspects of cyber-stalking are still nebulous. While stalking laws (which exist in Canada and the United States) do protect netizens to a certain degree, the offending party may be out of the jurisdiction of enforcement agencies. Further, cyber-stalkers can often hide their tracks with relative ease by creating a number of alternate personae and by using various anonymizing services freely available on the 'net.

Anyone who believes that they are being cyber-stalked should approach the situation in four ways. First, they should tell the stalker that the communication is unwanted, and then cease all communication with the individual. Second, they should log all interactions with the cyber-stalker should law enforcement agencies need this evidence at a later date. Third, they should attempt to identify the ISP of the perpetrator, as almost all ISPs have acceptable use policies and will not condone such threatening behaviour and will terminate the account. Finally, they should consider creating a new email address, chat identity and do everything they can to protect their anonymity online so that the perpetrator cannot relocate them.

A final essential pointer: if a victim believes that the cyber-stalker is dangerous and may consider taking the abuse from the cyber-realm to the real world, he or she should not hesitate in informing the local authorities. Cyber-stalking is serious, and can be a prelude to more dangerous behaviour.


Written with help from http://www.ncvc.org/special/cyber_stk.htm

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