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Cyber-Stalking is becoming a larger issue with the drive of social networking and “is a form of repeated harassment that involves the Internet and methods of electronic communication like email, online chat and instant message” (Cross, 2014, pg. 164). A cyberstalker targets a specific victim through the internet to allow them to anonymously send threatening messages without being detected. There are four types of cyber-stalking, these being “harassing, threatening, intimidating and impersonating profiles”. The four different types of Cyber-Stalking are stepping stones, the more invested the stalker is the harder they will try to infiltrate the victims life using any means necessary.
The first is Harassing, the notion of harassing is subjecting the victim to aggressive pressure and intimidation. This is a common technique that stalkers use in order to engage with the victim and to make them feel threatened, stalkers would do this by writing hostile messages on a public forum such as the victims Facebook page. “offline, harassers have to target one individual or a handful at a time; online, images, comments, and memes can be spread in next to no time across dozens of accounts and websites”. Since a stalker offline has one victim while an online stalker it allows them to further harass the victim to do what they want. This is a starting point for stalkers, this could be them writing rude comments to being a traumatic event where they are threats of physical and emotional violence. This would happen repeatedly until the victim feels that there is no other option but to comply to what the stalker wants; at this stage it would be for intimate pictures and the gratification of knowing that they are ruining someone emotionally. This first stage could also be considered Cyber-bullying, and it can get a lot worse through the other stages for the victim.
The second form of Cyber-Stalking is Threatening, threatening behaviour is construed as expressing a threat of something unfriendly or violent. Stalkers could have a personal relationship to their victims so therefore have an easy access to chat histories and intimate pictures that were sent in confidence. These are then used to threaten and harass victims to do what they want so the stalker can get gratification. “threatening communications and violent behaviour can utilize a fear-appeal strategy to shift a would-be attacker’s attitudes” (Chauvin, 2011, pg. 54). If the stalker is able to illicit fear from their victim their attitude may shift to get further information and therefore gain more fear from their victim. One of the main issues of Cyber-Stalking and the ideal of threatening is the ease of being able to screenshot conversations, this means stalkers can hold personal pictures and private messages against the victims, some social networking websites are trying to combat this. The large social networking app, Snapchat is the front runner for combating unwanted screenshots, within Snapchat you can screenshot stories that others have put up and it would not notify the user as they choose to put the picture on their own story as public. However, if it is an individual conversation it will notify the user.
The third form of Cyber-Stalking is Intimidating. The stalker would intimidate the victim through making them feel frightened or afraid of what the stalker may do. “The cyber stalker truly believes that a relationship exists even through the victim may have innocently responded to an offender’s question in a chat room or discussion board” (Pittaro, 2017, pg. 187). Through the stalker believing in the relationship the escalation of the stalker would be to further intimidate the victim. The stalker would intimidate them to send more intimate pictures or important personal information such as bank details both of these would humiliate the victim. Some stalkers feel a personal connection to their victims and therefore would tend to escalate their intimidation tactics when confronting their victims online.
The fourth and final type is Impersonating Profiles. This could be considered the most dangerous type of Cyber-Stalking due to the notion that stalkers can create “fake profiles, where malicious users present themselves in profiles impersonating fictitious or real persons”. If the stalker is creating a fake profile of the person that they are targeting it means that they could gain extra traction on blackmailing the victim as the stalker could befriend the victims’ family and friends online to learn more about them as the family and friends would know more intimate details and would not think twice about sharing the information with the victim. However, the more malicious way that the stalker can target the victim is by pretending to be someone else online and befriend the victim. Since the stalker has some previous knowledge of the victim, they are able to forge a personal connection to them via the persona of someone else. In more recent years this has been called Catfishing, “individuals deceive others and play on their vulnerability”. Some people Catfish to make themselves look more attractive to others by pretending to be someone that they are not whether that be looks or at an intellectual levels but other such as stalkers would do it to further their intimidation and strong hold against the victim to make them suffer.
Cyber-Stalking is a growing phenomenon, with the increasing emergence of social networking and more users becoming less interested with privacy it allows for stalkers to have a greater access to the individual they are targeting. Due to Cyber-Stalking being online there is a notion of not being able to fully pinpoint where the stalker is due to the changing of IP addresses and the fact that it is likely that they are using a laptop which means that they can move around freely using free Wi-Fi and hotspots. If not combatted Cyber-Stalking could lead to more and more users of social networking being exploited for wanting to share their lives online.
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