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Definition of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking involves the use of technology (most often, the Internet!) to make someone else afraid or concerned about their safety [1]. Generally speaking, this conduct is threatening or otherwise fear-inducing, involves an invasion of a person’s relative right to privacy, and manifests in repeated actions over time [2]. Most of the time, those who cyberstalk use social media, Internet databases, search engines, and other online resources to intimidate, follow, and cause anxiety or terror to others [3-5].

Surprisingly, cyberstalking rarely occurs by a stranger (although we do hear about those cases when they involve celebrities and rabid fans), and most often is carried out by a person the target knows intimately or professionally. [6-8]. For example, the aggressor may be an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, former friend, past employee, or an acquaintance who wants to control, possess, scare, threaten, or actually harm the other person. In many cases, they have had access to certain personal information, accounts, inboxes, or other private knowledge regarding their target’s daily routine, lifestyle, or life choices [9].

What are Some Features of Cyberstalking?
While the phenomenon of stalking has been around for decades – warranting numerous laws on a state and national level prohibiting it and setting penalties for law violation – it is arguable that cyberstalking occurs more readily given the use of already ubiquitous Internet-based platforms and resources to help accomplish the victimization [10, 13, 14]. Indeed, it is difficult to conceptually differentiate between the two because of their undeniable overlap given the explosion of social media and 24/7 connectivity and the reality that stalkers would naturally extend their reach through online means [15].

A primary factor has to do with instant gratification. That is, the perpetrator can find and target his or her victim immediately and without many obstacles [5]. To be sure, cyberstalking can occur in a most efficient manner since many individuals share much of their lives online via social media [16, 17], which provides background information, location, personal interests, family and relationship details to learn and exploit. Social media, the constant presence and use of our phones, tablets, and other devices, and our 24/7 reachability and connectivity can provide would-be aggressors the ability to constantly message, post, or otherwise invade the mind and emotions of targets. If this has happened to you, you deeply understand the feelings of invasion and violation that surface.

Another reason why stalking online may be more attractive to perpetrators is because they can easily pursue their targets from a geographically-distant location, making it exponentially harder to identify, locate, and prosecute them [10, 14, 18]. Armed only with Internet access and their phone, tablet, or laptop, a stalker can get online and threaten his or her target from another city, state, or continent, and even shield or hide his or her location. This introduces much fear and worry as to what the perpetrator may do next, and whether that person is far away or very close nearby.

Aside from that, jurisdictional issues become more complex when dealing with , as it is not clear whether prosecutors should look to state law or apply federal law in cases where events cross state lines [5, 19]. In addition, if there is evidence in various jurisdictions, how does one collect it all? Should other law enforcement agencies get involved or offer assistance? What primary or secondary role should they play, and how should they work with Internet or cell phone companies, or social media sites, in order to obtain the digital evidence necessary to build out a case? In these situations, the proverbial waters are very murky.

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