Communication technologies have allowed Virginians to connect to others in ways undreamt of as recently as 20 years ago, to the point where it has become quite a casual thing for people to speak of following one another on social media. However, such attention is not always desired and may sometimes be damaging, in which case it may qualify as cyberstalking.
Because the technology that facilitates cyberstalking is relatively new, the law has not always kept pace with the new terminology. The Code of Virginia, for example, does not explicitly use the term cyberstalking, although it does make clear that using a computer network to harass or intimidate another person, threaten an act that is immoral/illegal or make suggestions or proposals of an obscene nature is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
According to online security company Norton, cyberstalking consists of using technology to harass someone else. Often, though not always, the cyberstalker is someone that the victim knows rather than a stranger, perhaps a co-worker, a one-time friend or an ex-boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. Obsessive behavior that can take the form of identity theft, threats, monitoring, sexual harassment, exploitation of minors, false accusations, data manipulation/destruction or monitoring of the victim’s online activities are some of the hallmarks of cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking can happen in conjunction with other types of abuse or harassment. For example, someone who commits domestic violence against someone else may also use cyberstalking techniques in order to monitor and intimidate their victim. If a cyberstalker takes to following the victim and observing him or her at a physical location, the victim may find himself or herself in danger of violence. Even if the cyberstalking does not escalate to bodily harm, however, it can still be extremely frightening and potentially damaging to the victim’s psyche.
Though some may make light of cyberstalking, it is a crime that can have long-lasting repercussions for the victim and accused perpetrator alike.