What is Cyberstalking in Newsgroups?
The term Cyberstalking is generally considered to be the act of harassing or threatening an individual through the use of the internet. The most commonly employed communications method for Cyberstalking is email. However, newsgroups, chat rooms, and other public spaces on the internet are also employed by Cyberstalkers. The very nature of cyberspace, with its anonymity and worldwide access, leads some individuals to make statements and commit acts they would never consider if the discussions were taking place in the real world. Although online harassment and threats can take many forms, Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with "real world" stalking. All stalkers wish to exert control over their victims and engage in similar types of behavior to accomplish this end.
Cyberstalkers are quick to quote laws that they think exclude what they are doing. However, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes stalking in newsgroups, because it's an evolving area of the law and there is no one definition agreed to by all states or countries. Cyberstalking laws vary quite a bit, and much of the recent legislation has yet to be fully tested in the courts. There are also laws that prohibit various forms of harassment, not to mention defamation and libel and those laws can be applied to online patterns of behavior. Cyberstalking, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (1915 - 1985) once wrote about hard-core pornography, is hard to define, but "I know it when I see it."
This page is an attempt to bring some clarity to the issue of what constitutes Cyberstalking in newsgroups or other public spaces on the internet like chat rooms, by describing specific patterns of behavior that, at the very least, a jury in a civil case would likely consider ample proof of Cyberstalking. Much, if not most, of this is also criminal behavior of one sort or another in many, if not most, jurisdictions.
How Cyberstalkers Defend Their Actions
There are quite a few people who frequently engage in this sort of behavior with relative impunity. Here are their justifications:
Stalkers always think they have good reasons for everything they do. Whether the slight is real or misperceived, the stalker's response is always obsessive and excessive.
When you voluntarily leave your house, you don't give up your right to privacy or to be free from harassment. The same logic applies to newsgroups, chat rooms and other public spaces on the internet.
Following or email contact can help make the case, but they are definitely not a requirement.
Lawyers tell you that because it makes far more sense than spending a lot of your own money just to protect your right to post in a particular newsgroup. Law enforcement tells you that because it might end the problem without them having to do anything. However, leaving the area where you are being stalked is also rewarding the stalker, because that is the goal of most Cyberstalking; to silence someone.
Law enforcement will not intervene unless or until there are some "real life" consequences, and often times not even then, because of the difficulty of making a case against someone and getting a conviction. If you're not a sympathetic victim (i.e. a supposedly "helpless" woman who is being sexually harassed) then your chances of getting law enforcement to take action against a Cyberstalker are slim to none.
Sure, if you have $5,000 to put up -- and that's just for starters.
The reason people don't file lawsuits is because they don't think that stopping some scumbag from trying to harass them on the internet is worth more than $10,000. That's the average cost just to get a restraining order against a Cyberstalker who is hiding his identity. Most stalkers have no earned income or assets, so a stalking victim cannot recover the expense of a lawsuit by getting a judgment against the stalker.
Stalkers always attempt to defend their actions with
the totally absurd claim that all lawbreaking can be punished, and so if it's not punished, then it's not lawbreaking.
However, the reality of all Cyberstalking is this; Stalkers are breaking the law, but they are able to rely on the fact that it's much
too difficult and expensive to stop them.
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