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Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry: A Report From the Attorney General to the Vice President

NCJ Number
Date Published
42 pages
Cyberstalking is examined with respect to its nature and extent; the steps that law enforcement, industry, victim groups, and others are currently taking to address the problem; the adequacy of current Federal and State laws; and recommendations to improve efforts to address this increasing problem.
Cyberstalking includes the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to talk another person through harassing or threatening behavior. Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim; others include threats against the victim's family; still others require only that the alleged stalker's conduct constitute an implied threat. Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking; its lack of physical contact may create the misperception that it is more benign than physical stalking. Anecdotal and informal data indicate that cyberstalking is a serious and growing problem. Some law enforcement agencies have trained their personnel on this issue; very few have focused attention or resources specifically on the cyberstalking problem. Jurisdictional and statutory limitations may frustrate some agencies; the anonymity of Internet communications is another challenge. Specialized police units have promise in addressing cyberstalking. Most major Internet service providers (ISPs) have provided an address to which users can send complaints of abusive or harassing electronic mail; ISPs have focused more on assisting their customers in avoiding annoying online behavior such as spamming. Both industry and law enforcement recognize the need to cooperate more fully. In addition, victim service providers have developed their own informal support networks and informational web sites to exchange information. All 50 States and the District of Columbia have enacted stalking laws. Additional actions are recommended for legislatures, police and other criminal justice agencies, private industry, victim assistance providers and advocates. Appended resource lists and recommendations for self-protection online