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Stalking in Cyberspace

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Volume: 27 Issue: 3 Dated: 1999 Pages: 407-413
John M. Deirmenjian MD
Date Published
7 pages
Stalking on the Internet is examined with respect to recent cases and legal issues such as boundary laws and freedom of speech, the psychological profile of the cyberstalker, and methods of intervention.
The Internet has transformed communication on a global level while creating a medium for stalking. Ten States have passed laws against electronic harassment. However, debate has occurred about whether electronic stalking represents criminal behavior or whether a perpetrator is entitled to First Amendment protection. The psychiatric literature to date does not contain studies of cyberstalking. The psychological profile of the cyberstalker reveals a sophisticated perpetrator who is computer literate and is often financially able to support subscriptions to online services. The typical cyberstalker is an emotionally disturbed loner. Cyberstalking provides the perpetrator with anonymity and the opportunity to conceal gender and identity. Activities in cyberspace are protected by the First Amendment, but they must abide by State and Federal legislation. The absence of geographic borders in cyberspace makes the application of territorial legal doctrine difficult. The free speech issues resulting from the development of the cyberspace medium include anonymity, accountability, defamation, discrimination, harassment, obscenity, and the liability of online services and Internet service providers. Current models of intervention range from the efforts of community organizations to State laws. Organizations such as Women Halting Online Abuse and CyberAngels have formed to educate the community about online harassment and to protect individuals from cyberstalkers. Cyberstalking currently remains an open area for future study. 28 references


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