Cyberstalking and Personal Security On-line
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet and other forms of electronic communication to harass and/or threaten other users on-line.
Florida statute 784.048:
"Cyberstalk" means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Stalking may take the form of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or repeated requests for a personal meeting or a "private chat." Virtual stalking can be as terrifying as stalking in the real world, but is often difficult to prove and even harder to control. Fortunately, there are safety procedures that can help you.
- Never divulge personal information online. There is no reason to give anyone you meet in a chat room your phone number, address, or Social Security number.
- Use a screenname that is not gender- or age-specific. Reveal no personal information about yourself in your screenname.
- Be cautious when meeting an online acquaintance in person. Especially the first time, meet in a public place and always bring a friend. Never go alone.
- Make sure your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has strict policies that prohibit cyberstalking. If they do not respond to your complaints, consider using a different ISP.
- Leave an online conversation the minute you begin to feel uncomfortable. You have no obligation to stay.
What To Do If You Are Being Cyberstalked
- Consider canceling your e-mail account and starting a new one.
- If you are receiving unwanted contact, make it clear to the person that you would like them to stop all communication attempts.
- Save all communications for evidence. Do not alter or edit them in any way. Furthermore, be sure to keep a record of contact with Internet system administrators and law enforcement officials.
- Consider blocking or filtering unwanted messages. Many e-mail programs such as Eudora and Microsoft Outlook have a filter feature. You can configure your software to automatically delete unwanted e-mails.
- If harassment continues after you have asked for it to stop, contact the harasser's ISP. Most ISPs have policies prohibiting the abuse of another person on-line. The ISP may contact the stalker and close their account.
- Contact your local law enforcement agency and inform them of the situation.
- Here are some additional resources available to help you:
Most stalking laws require that a stalker make credible threats of violence against the victim or the victim's family to be considered illegal. Please visit Florida Statute 784.048 for legal clarification. This statute covers stalking, its definitions, and its penalties.
For more information, visit the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Computer Crime Center Cyber Stalking page.