Cyberstalking: The New Threat on the Internet

Cyberstalking: The New Threat on the Internet

Edith Huber, Roman H. Brandtweiner
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch043
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The phenomenon of stalking itself is as old as humankind itself. The past years and the expansion of digitalization have put the crime of stalking in a new light. A representative study from the USA shows that one in four Americans has already been “harassed” online. If stalking in the traditional sense (also known as offline stalking or classic stalking) is described as obsessive harassment/threat over a longer period, it takes on a new criminal dimension as soon as connected communication takes place. New forms of crime such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and romance scams have now reached our everyday lives. This article explores cyberstalking.
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There is no doubt that stalking is a common criminal offence that has taken on a new dimension with the expansion of the Internet. According to Pathe and Mullen (Pathe & Mullen, 1997), stalking is described as a set of behaviours in which the stalker continuously and violently penetrates the victim's privacy and harasses the victim through personal contacts or the use of communication media. (Pathe & Mullen, 1997) Cyberstalking is often viewed as a natural continuation of offline stalking given their conceptual and operational overlap. In classical stalking one speaks of persistent persecution. This includes persecution, ambush, trespassing, and the unintentional receipt of gifts, letters and telephone calls. The development of telecommunications has brought about a change in the way the media communicate, with the result that traditional communication methods have been replaced by Internet communication.

This led to the development of new stalking methods, which found their way into encyclopaedias under the neologism of “cyberstalking”. Hoffmann defines cyberstalking as “the obsessive persecution or harassment of another person using the Internet, e-mail, an intranet or related electronic media”. (Hoffmann, 2006, p 197) The US government defines cyberstalking as “the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person”. (US Attorney General, 1999) In summary, 'cyberstalking' means stalking processes that occur with the help of new electronic communication devices, i.e. mobile phones, smartphones, laptops or other networked mobile devices. With these devices, chatting, sharing pictures and videos or transmitting voice recordings is made much easier individually and in communities. The permanent availability of the service programs on these devices makes it possible to communicate at any time of the day or night, as well as anywhere else.

The most common definitions of cyberstalking can be found in legal literature. Therefore, this definitions are bound to the legislation of the respective country and can therefore hardly provide a complete overview of all facets of cyberstalking. For a pure legal assessment, it is not necessary to cover the social phenomenon cyberstalking in all its facets. Laws have the function of subsuming accurate facts of life under legal regulations and deducing legal consequences from them. We will not stick to country bound legal definitions of cyberstalking. We see it as a recent social phenomenon, which is bound to electronic communication. If we see cyberstalking primarily as abusive communicative behaviour, we can follow Forgó et al. (Forgo, 2010) and define the term cyberstalking (in narrower sense) not only as threats and coercion but also as actions, which, due to their continuity and duration, lead to an unreasonable impairment of lifestyle. In a broader sense, the term cyberstalking includes also attacks on computer systems and defamatory publications on websites, in online forums, or in social networks, but also unwelcome publication of photos. (Forgo, 2010)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Romance Scams: Social media are used to establish a relationship of trust between the perpetrator and the victim. As soon as the victim transmits confidential pictures or videos to the perpetrator, the perpetrator abuses them for blackmail purposes.

Cyberstalking: A obsessive persecution or harassment of another person using IKT.

Commerical Cyberstalker: A perpetrator who engage in cyberstalking for the purpose of financial gain.

Private Cyberstalker: A perpetrator of cyberstalking for personal motives.

Modus Operandi: The typical course of events in a criminal offence.

Brightfield: All criminal cases in a particular area known to the authorities.

Darkfield: All criminal cases, in a certain area, that are not known to the authorities.

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