New Age Stalking

Cyber crime is a general term that embraces Internet related crimes such as phishing, credit card frauds, bank robbery, illegal downloading, industrial espionage, child pornography, kidnapping children via chat rooms, cyber-terrorism, creation and distribution of viruses, spam, etc.  With the evolution of the Internet, along came this revolution of crime where the perpetrators commit acts of crime and wrongdoing on the web by taking many postures and in diverse variations. The dramatic growth of Internet usage in the last decade, especially on how individuals are connected to one another, has exposed everybody to numerous cyber crimes.

Cyberstalking is a type of cyber crime that uses the Internet to hound or harass an individual, a community or a specific foundation. Stalking is an act wherein a person willfully and repeatedly engages in conduct directed towards another person who causes significant concern and fear. The person that initiates and keeps the stalking behaviour may or may not recognize that he is causing their victim serious alarm, perceptual agony. Cyberstalking can include invigilating an individual?s activity realtime, or while on the computer in the current moment, or while they are offline, or not on the computer or electronic device. Cyberstalking becomes a crime because of the repeated threatening, harassing or monitoring of someone with whom the stalker has, or no longer has, a relationship. Cyberstalking can include agitation of the victim, the obtaining of economic information of the victim or terrorizing the victim in order to frighten them.

A recent survey has found that one out of two school-going children were victims of cyber stalking in the country. A survey conducted by Uninor also found that 30% of children in the country who regularly used the Internet had experienced some sort of cyber harm including cyber stalking, cyber bullying, hacking and defamation. The survey covered almost 10,500 children in 29 schools. It also concluded that only 34% of children spoke to their parents about their online activities. In a society like India, it is very difficult to expect children to reach out to their parents when faced which such situations. Hence, children are at a high risk of cyber torture that might, in some cases, lead to serious life threatening events.

Social media companies have been criticised for failing to protect victims of stalking. Companies such as Google have been criticised by experts who believe that they have portrayed little or no interest in helping to convict cyberstalkers who use their websites to threaten victims. Stalkers will not only stalk the primary victim, but also those around the victim, in order to gather intelligence about the victim and disrupt those relationships. They will also use those relationships to intimidate or humiliate the victim. It usually works because friends and family don?t understand or can?t cope with the situation leaving the victim isolated and more traumatised.

Psychiatrists and psychologists view most stalkers as suffering from a psychiatric illness that causes them to be psychotic or delusional. Cases in which they are not psychotic, stalkers are maybe plagued by some type of personality disorder. In the most extreme cases, the stalker is defined as a sociopath. Whatever the psychological rationale may be, the stalker rarely comprehends the fear he/she is causing the other person. Blinded by his motives of stalking someone in the first place causes them to lose sight of the fear and terror they are potentially causing. When frustration, rage and hatred towards the victim are involved, the stalker is fully conscious of the terror he is causing, but feels the victim is deserving of the fear.

Different countries have started addressing the use of Internet for stalking purposes by including provisions prohibiting such activity in both harassment and anti-stalking legislation. In India, there were no provisions regarding cyber stalking until 2008. The Information Technology Act, 2000 did not contain any provisions regarding this heinous crime but the amended Act in 2008 made it possible by recognising cyber stalking via Section 66A. However, the Act is not enforced effectively in major cities due to lack of resources in state governments’ cyber cells. In addition, half of the society is still unaware about it. The Union Government must have a comprehensive program with state governments’ participation for effective implementation of the Act. Otherwise, it will remain an Act on paper.

– Contributed by Aayushi, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Journalism

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