Understanding Cyberstalking Laws and Why It’s Illegal

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Cyberstalking, like real world stalking, is a crime. Its main purpose is to harass or cause alarm to another person by using the Internet or other electronic means – often remaining anonymous. Stalkers send unwanted emails, make online posts, publish victim’s private data, or gather information with the intent to embarrass or threaten the victim.

What Is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking can be defined as an online attack against an individual for the reason of either humiliating the victim, compromising their banking or credit information, harassing their friends and family, or instill fear.

Just because it happens online does not mean that it is harmless. Cyberstalkers make threats to harm not only the victim but the victim’s friends and family. They often seek to turn the community and those they know against the victim.

There have been cases where cyberstalking victims have been so distressed that they have committed suicide. Cyberstalking can even be used as a tool for stalking in the real world (or offline stalking), giving the predator the opportunity to physically harm the victim or those close to the victim.

Cyberstalking Laws

American lawmakers understand the impact of cyberstalking especially with our increasing reliance on technology. Cyberstalking is a criminal offense under federal anti-stalking, slander, and harassment laws. These laws protect the victims and their immediate families and partners/spouses. However, federal law only applies if the stalker physically crosses state lines – which render it inapplicable in many cases.

Many states have their own legislature against cyberstalking or have broad definitions of harassment that allow for cyberstalking to be prosecuted. For example, the state of New York considers cyberstalking as aggravated harassment in the second degree.

The organization Working to Halt Abuse Online has compiled various state legislation for easy reference. If you are a victim of cyberstalking, it is recommended to seek legal advice on what legal recourse are available to you.

Stopping Cyberstalking

However, while cyberstalking is a crime, many police jurisdictions don’t take these reports seriously. Some don’t have the necessary training to correctly assess cyberstalking threats. Some don’t have the resources to devote to investigating cyberstalking claims. It can leave victims feeling helpless in the face of continued abuse.

While many victims would like to fight back against their tormentors, this should not be taken lightly. Some stalkers have developed sophisticated methodologies to elude being identified. At worst, the victims may damage data that could be helpful in identifying and convicting their cyberstalker.

When dealing with cyberstalkers, one option to handle them would be hiring a private investigator. Private investigators are trained and often experienced in dealing with problems of this nature. They can assess threats and help protect against them. They can also help identify the suspect and gather evidence that can be vital in a successful court case.

It may sound cliché, but there are times that you need to call in a professional. When you are a victim of cyberstalking, then this is one of those cases where you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.