In Canada, Cyberstalking is defined as a pattern of harassment by electronic means which causes a person to have a reasonable fear for their life or safety of person. Cyberharassment is the use of Information Technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. As the use of the Internet for everyday communications and social networking has increased, so too have the incidents of criminal harassment through the Internet.
Cyberstalkers and Cyberharassers are imbalanced individuals who obsess over others, now have dozens of convenient online means by which to follow and attack their prey, using email, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, WordPress, Online Forums, and other social hubs, cyberstalkers can track someone’s personal life quite easily. Cyberstalking is a sad and disturbing part of modern society, and things will only get worse before they get better.
What is Cyberstalking? Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors. Cyberstalking may be considered the most dangerous of the three types of Internet harassment, based on a posing credible threat of harm. Sanctions range from misdemeanors to felonies. In some cases, the cyberstalker will prey on their target’s family, friends, and coworkers to attack their target.
What is Cyberharassment? Cyberharassment differs from cyberstalking in that it may generally be defined as not involving a credible threat. Cyberharassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Some states approach cyberharrassment by including language addressing electronic communications in general harassment statutes, while others have created stand-alone cyberharassment statutes.
What is Cyberbullying?
The new definitions are:
— Bullying: Bullying means behaviour, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way.
— Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying means bullying by electronic means that occurs through the use of technology, including computers or other electronic devices, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites or e-mail.
These definitions are comprehensive and provide the appropriate background needed to help determine if a severely disruptive behaviour is bullying or cyberbullying.
The new definition for bullying also includes the role of bystanders. Nova Scotia is the first Canadian jurisdiction to include bystanders, who encourage or in any way assist in the bullying behaviour.
“It is important to anchor the changes in response to bullying and cyberbullying in the law, and these regulations have the full force of law,” said Wayne MacKay, chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. “The task force recommended a consistent definition of cyberbullying and bullying that must be followed by all within the education system. I am pleased that the definitions adopted are the ones proposed by the task force report.”
The province continues to work on several fronts to address bullying and cyberbullying, taking a measured, comprehensive approach to deal with these complex issues. This includes hiring an anti-bullying coordinator, introducing legislative changes, launching a public awareness campaign and developing a provincial action plan which will be released shortly.
HALIFAX – Bullying victims can now sue cyberbullies or get court-ordered protection in Nova Scotia.
The law, which includes a first-in-Canada investigation unit, is part of Nova Scotia’s new Cyber-Safety Act introduced in April following the death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons.
The federal government is going to use television and online advertising to raise awareness about cyberbullying and the possible legal consequences of tormenting people.
The legislation would also give courts the power to seize computers, cellphones and other devices used in an offence, and help victims recoup part of the cost of removing the images from the Internet.
The bill applies to adults and young people alike who find themselves targeted for online harassment or intimidation.
In introducing the bill, MacKay said Canadians have been touched by a number of recent cyberbullying suicides, including the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old Halifax girl who died in April after trying to take her own life.
Mental profiling of digital criminals has identified 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
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 cyberstalker whose motive is to annoy; the intimate cyberstalker 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 Una nueva cara 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.
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 Indymedia, 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 cyberstalking behavior 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.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include the making of false accusations or statements of fact (as in defamation), monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information that may be used to harass. The definition of “harassment” must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress. Cyberstalking is different from spatial or offline stalking in that it occurs through the use of electronic communications technology such as the internet. However, it sometimes leads to it, or is accompanied by it. Both are criminal offenses. Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking; many stalkers – online or off – are motivated by a desire to control their victims.
A cyberstalker may be an online stranger or a person whom the target knows. A cyberstalker may be anonymous and may solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target.
Cyberstalking is a criminal offense that comes into play under state anti-stalking laws, slander laws, and harassment laws. A cyberstalking conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or even criminal penalties against the assailant, including jail.
Further information: Stalking
Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Technology ethics professor Lambèr Royakkers 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).
CyberAngels has written about how to identify cyberstalking:
When identifying cyberstalking “in the field,” and particularly when considering whether to report it to any kind of legal authority, the following features or combination of features can be considered to characterize a true stalking situation: malice, premeditation, repetition, distress, obsession, vendetta, no legitimate purpose, personally directed, disregarded warnings to stop, harassment, and threats.
A number of key factors have been identified:
- False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms, or other sites that allow public contributions such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.
- Attempts to gather information about the victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their victim’s friends, family, and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective.
- Monitoring their target’s online activities and attempting to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.
- Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victim’s name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
- False victimization. The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.
- Attacks on data and equipment. They may try to damage the victim’s computer by sending viruses.
- Ordering goods and services. They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim’s name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim’s workplace.
- Arranging to meet.
The purpose of the Canadian Clearinghouse on Cyberstalking is to provide a central information resource of publicly available information on the topic for Canadians who experience online harassment, and for the international professional community.
To find out basic information on the crime of cyberstalking and criminal harassment in Canada, on how to recognize it follow this link: