Cyberstalking is utilizing online resources to stalk somebody. It can include threats, false accusations, defamation, libel, identity theft, manipulation, slander, vandalism, and solicitation for sex. With our growing dependence on technology, cyberstalking has grown to be a major problem. The Data and Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health published a study in 2016 representing 3,002 people and found that 8% had been cyberstalked at some point in their life. Furthermore, these individuals reported feeling afraid and unsafe due to the cyber-attacks. Additionally, the Pew Research Center found that, out of 4,248 adults, 7% have been stalked online. They also found that women are more likely to be victimized.
As cyberstalking continues to grow to be a bigger problem, the public must be aware of what it is and what to do when someone is victimized.
How to Avoid Cyberstalking?
One of the easiest ways to avoid cyberstalking is to be mindful of what you upload on social networking and remove any inappropriate content that has already been posted. This limits the amount of information available on the web. Furthermore, protecting your information on your devices is crucial. Be sure that your programs are password protected to prevent others from seeing any content. Also, be aware of password safety. When making a password, ensure that they are at least eight characters long and include upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Most importantly, do not share your passwords with anybody else. This denies access to sensitive information and prevents people from posting crude, embarrassing, or disturbing things online on your behalf.
Furthermore, perpetrators can glean a lot of information off of photos posted on social media sites via metadata. Metadata can reveal where the photo was taken, the device it was taken on, as well as other information. This data usually comes from mobile phones, which can be turned off using the geotagging feature in the phone’s setting.
Additionally, many cyberstalkers use phishing emails or Trojan horses to gain access to your computer’s files and data. These continue to be a big threat online, so it’s crucial that you avoid them. Do not download any links or content from an unknown email address or website. Also, avoiding suspicious websites and using a security program improves your safety exponentially.
Over the past few years, the use of technology in malicious ways has necessitated the states to pass laws to protect its citizens from cyberstalking. These laws stipulate imprisonment for anyone who utilizes technology to cause another person harm or emotional distress. Florida passed laws that incorporated cyberstalking into its stalking statute. According to Florida, cyberstalking is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, it can be upgraded to a third-degree felony when threats are involved. California is another state that incorporated cyberstalking into its talking statue. In the state of California, cyberstalking is punishable by up to one year of jail or by a fine of $1,000. If the instance is severe enough, the perpetrator may have to serve time in jail and pay the $1,000 fine.
In contrast to California and Florida that incorporated cyberstalking into their existing laws, Washington created a new statute that specifically targets cyberstalking. In Washington, cyberstalking is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the cyberstalker has a record of threatening or harassing the victim, then it is classified as a felony.
What to Do if You are a Victim?
Victims of cyberstalking may not know they are being stalked. However, if you believe someone is cyberstalking you, get in touch with your neighborhood police, and they can assist you. It’s a crime to take explicit photos or videos of another individual and distribute them in a sense that is meant to cause emotional distress. Furthermore, the victim doesn’t have to show that the stalker had the intent to execute the threat. If you’re a casualty of cyberstalking, attempt to gather as much physical evidence as feasible and document each contact. Take screenshots and save text messages and chats. Do not alter them in any way, and it is extremely helpful to keep a printed version as well as an electronic version. Alongside evidence, it is useful to document the time and date as soon as the perpetrator begins cyberstalking you. In this documentation, be sure to include all written and verbal threats as well. Many police have departments that specialize in cybercrime.
Another way to stop cyberstalking is to contact the perpetrator’s Internet service provider. They can block the user from using services to harass you. They can also discontinue their Internet service and will put them on a record for harassment that is extensively monitored.
Cyberstalking is a rather under-reported crime, and it is a serious crime, and the psychological torment it is extremely real. If you feel like you are in danger, the best thing to do is speak up and report it to the police, family, and friends.
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References: https://cyberbullying.org/cyberstalking, https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-how-to-protect-yourself-from-cyberstalkers.html, http://www.mass.gov/ago/public-safety/cyber-crime-and-internet-safety/cyber-crimes/cyber-stalking.html
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