Cyberstalking is a criminal practice where an individual uses the Internet to systematically harass or threaten someone. This crime can be perpetrated through email, social media, chat rooms, instant messaging clients and any other online medium. Cyberstalking can also occur in conjunction with the more traditional form of stalking, where the offender harasses the victim offline. There is no unified legal approach to cyberstalking, but many governments have moved toward making these practices punishable by law.
Cyberstalking is sometimes referred to as Internet stalking, e-stalking or online stalking.
Cyberstalking is one of several cybercrimes that have been enabled by the Internet. It overlaps with cyberbullying and cyberluring in that many of the same techniques are used. Social media, blogs, photo sharing sites and many other commonly used online sharing activities provide cyberstalkers with a wealth of information that helps them plan their harassment. By collecting personal data (profile pages) and making notes of frequented locations (photo tags, blog posts), the cyberstalker can begin to keeping tabs on an individual’s daily life.
The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) suggests that victims of cyberstalking take the following steps:
- For minors, inform parents or a trusted adult
- File a complaint with the cyberstalker’s Internet service provider
- Collect evidence, document instances and create a log of attempts to stop the harassment
- Present documentation to local law enforcement and explore legal avenues
- Get a new email address and increase privacy settings on public sites
- Purchase privacy protection software
- Request removal from online directories
The NCVC also emphasizes that a victim of cyberstalking should never agree to meet the stalker in person.