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Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet and other forms of electronic communication to harass or threaten other users online.
|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 a total stranger your phone number, address, or even your name. Be especially careful when filling out your profile on social networking sites.
- Never "friend" anyone unless you actually know them. On popular social networking sites (like Facebook and Twitter) it's likely that you'll get friend requests from people you don't know. It's always risky to accept these requests. Also, you might get a request claiming to be from someone you haven't seen in many years, for example, someone you went to middle school with. Before you accept a request like that, make sure to verify that the person is genuine.
- Use a non-specific screen name. Many sites want us to use screen names in place of our real names. For those sites, and for public email accounts, make sure you keep personal information out of your screen name. Don't include your name, location, or birthdate. If you need an email address that is your real name, for family or business purposes, make sure not to use that same email address on social sites.
- Be cautious when meeting an online acquaintance in person. Although most people online do not represent threats, there are some bad apples. And if you have reason to believe you have a stalker the likelihood of the threat goes up. 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. Nearly all of them do now, but make sure. Your ISP can assist you if you need to report a stalker to the police. If your ISP does not respond to your complaints, consider changing providers.
- Leave an online conversation the minute you begin to feel uncomfortable. You have no obligation to explain yourself to the other person. A simple, "I have to go now - bye," is all you have to say. You are not required to give an explanation.
What To Do If You Are Being Cyberstalked
- If you are receiving unwanted contact, make it clear to the person that you would like them to stop all communication attempts.
- If harassment continues after you have asked for it to stop, contact the harasser's Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most ISPs have policies prohibiting the abuse of another person online. The ISP may contact the stalker and close their account.
- Save all communications from the stalker for evidence. Do not alter or edit them in any way.
- Keep records of all communications with any websites, system administrators, and law enforcement.
- Consider canceling your email account and starting a new one with a different name.
- Consider blocking or filtering unwanted messages. Most email programs have a filter feature. You can configure your software to automatically delete unwanted emails.
- 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 online. 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.
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