Every year, 850,000 American adults—mostly women—are targets of cyber-stalking (2014). In a March 2017 study, Pew Research Center found 40 percent of adults have experienced online harassment, with young women enduring the most severe forms of it.
What is cyber-stalking?
“Cyber-stalking is a repeated course of conduct that’s aimed at a person designed to cause emotional distress and fear of harm,”
~Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. See her book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.
When someone is a victim of cyber-stalking, they can make their complaint to the criminal or civil courts. In civil court, victims of cyber-stalking, sexual harassment, revenge porn and online bullying, can sue their antagonist for defamation and the intentional infliction of emotional or physical distress, through tort law or civil wrongs.
In Europe, United Kingdom, and more recently, within the United States, laws allow authorities to press charges against cyber stalkers and cyber harassment, holding antagonists accountable for their criminal offenses with jail sentences.
Slowly laws have adapted to protect victims from cyber-bullying and harassment. For example, Congress replaced the federal mandate language on harassment via communication, to “harass any specific person.” Which technically makes digital communication harassment a federal offense. Thanks to laws like California’s Bane Civil Rights Act, harassers motivated by biases such as their victim’s gender, will be subjected to enhanced sentencing penalties.
“This activity is not just a wrongful assault online, it is unjust discrimination…singling out [victims] because of their sex,”
If harassment communications come from email and social-media accounts, victims should file complaints with those companies and report the harassment to social media outlets. Although social media companies cannot offer much resolve, it is worth doing to cover your bases in legal preparation.
“When stalkers, harassers, and online bullies can safely operate under the assumption that they’ll never be caught, it might be time to revisit the laws, policies, and practices that protect them as virtual reality becomes our reality.”
Do you part, sign the petition to stop cyberbullying.