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Cyber Stalking

Definitions and description see also: Dosing and Cyberbullying

There have been a number of attempts by experts and legislators to define cyber stalking. It is generally understood to be the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organizationCyberstalking is a form of cyberbullying, and the terms are often used interchangeably in the media. Both may include false accusations, defamation, slander and libel. Cyberstalking may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass. Cyberstalking is often accompanied by realtime or offline stalkingboth are criminal offenses.

Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Technology ethics professor LimberRoyakkers defines cyberstalking as perpetrated by someone without a current relationship with the victim. About the abusive effects of cyberstalking, he 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).

Distinguishing cyberstalking from other acts

It is important to draw a distinction between cyber-trolling and cyber-stalking. Research has shown that actions that can be perceived to be harmless as one-off can be considered to be trolling, whereas if it is a part of persistentCampaign then it can be considered stalkingHowever, it has also been shown that even if something is cyberstalking, it can still be lawful if it can be considered to be scrutinizing a public figure, such as a politician or comedian

Stalking by strangers

According to Joey Rushing, a District Attorney of Franklin County, Alabama, there isn't a single definition of a cyber-stalker, and they can be either strangers to the victim or have a former/present relationship. "[Cyberstalkers] come in all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. They patrol Web sites looking for an opportunity to take advantage of people.

Gender-based stalking

Harassment and stalking because of gender online is common, and can include rape threats and other threats of violence, as well as the posting of the victim'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.

Intimate partners

Cyberstalking of intimate partners is the online harassment of a current or former romantic partner. 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 goods or services the victim does not want. They may also use the Internet to research and compile personal information about the victim, to use in order to harass him or her.

Celebrities and public persons

Profiling of stalkers shows that almost always they stalk someone they know or, via delusion, think they know, as is the case with stalkers of celebrities or public persons in which the stalkers feel they know the celebrity even though the celebrity does not know them.As part of the risk they take for being in the public eye, celebrities and public figures are often targets of lies or made-up stories in tabloids as well as by stalkers, some even seeming to be fans. In one noted case in 2011, actress Patricia Marquette quit Facebook after alleged cyberstalking. In her last post, Marquette explained that her security warned her Facebook friends to never accept friend requests from people they do not actually know. Marquette stressed that just because people seemed to be fans did not mean they were safe. The media issued a statement that Marquette planned to communicate with fans exclusively through her Twitter account in the future.

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.[citation needed] Victims frequently respond by adopting pseudonyms or going offline entirely.

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 and lose a sense of personal responsibility for their destructive acts. In doing so they dehumanize their victims, becoming 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.

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.

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.

Perpetrators

Motives and profile

Mental profiling of digital criminals has identified psychological and social factors that motivate stalkers as: envy; pathological obsession (professional or sexual); unemployment or failure with own job or life; intention to intimidate and cause others to feel inferior; the stalker is delusional and believes he/she "knows" the target; the stalker wants to instill fear in a person to justify his/her status; belief they can get away with it (anonymity); intimidation for financial advantage or business competition; revenge over perceived or imagined rejection.

Four Types of Cyberstalkers

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 cyberstalkers whose motive is to annoy; the intimate cyberstalkers who attempts to form a relationship with the victim but turns on them if rebuffed; and collective cyberstalkers, groups with a motive. According to Antonio Chacón Medina, author of Unanuevacara 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.

Behaviors

Cyberstalkers find their victims by using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and more recently, through social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, and Indy media, 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. 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.

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. 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 cyberstalkingbehavior includes the tracing of the victim's IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment.

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. Moreover, many physical stalkers will use cyberstalking as another method of harassing their victims.

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.

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