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Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other devices or forms of technology. Cyberstalkers target their victims by making threatening or obscene e-mails or text messeging, hiding cameras, spamming, tracking her computer and internet activity, tracking her movement through GPS in cell phones, and in numerous other ways.

Although online harassment and threats can take many forms, cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking. Many stalkers - online and off - are motivated by a desire to exert control over their victims and engage in similar types of behavior to accomplish this end. In many cases, the cyberstalker and the victim had a prior relationship, and the cyberstalking begins when the victim attempts to break off the relationship. However, there also have been instances of cyberstalking by strangers.

The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is more benign than physical stalking. This is not necessarily true. As the Internet becomes an ever more integral part of our personal and professional lives, stalkers can take advantage of the ease of communications as well as increased access to personal information. In addition, whereas a potential stalker may be unwilling or unable to confront a victim in person or on the telephone, he or she may have little hesitation sending harassing or threatening electronic communications to a victim. Finally, as with physical stalking, online harassment and threats may be a prelude to more serious behavior, including physical or sexual violence.

Cyberstalking Laws

Not all states have anti-stalking laws that explicitly cover stalking via the Internet, e-mail, pagers, or other devices. Federal law, though, does provide a number of important tools to combat cyberstalking. It is a federal crime to transmit any communication in interstate or foreign commerce containing a threat to injure the person of another via the telephone, e-mail, beepers, or the Internet.