Understanding Stalking in the Virtual World
Recognizing an emerging problem, Radcliff (2000) recalled the words of Vice President Al Gore referencing the statement make no mistake, this kind of harassment can be as frightening or as real as being followed or watched in your neighborhood or your home. Radcliff believed there was a need for a comprehensive study of the little known crime, cyber stalking. Specifically, the Vice President delivered to the Office of the Attorney General, a request requiring an exploration of the nature and extent of cyber stalking and recommendations on how to improve efforts to combat this growing problem.
The Vice President made his initial request after ...view middle of the document...
They also felt they could not be of assistance to law enforcement professionals requesting tools to combat this crime.
There is little doubt the number of reported cyber stalking cases will continue to grow as awareness of the subject continues to grow. Though experts in the fields of criminology and psychology have studied and provided information to vested parties, cyber stalking is considered an evolving crime. It has been redefined multiple times since Vice President Gore made his initial request. However with available resources on this subject, this essay will attempt to define cyber stalking and its relationship to off line or real life stalking. Included will be the effects of cyber stalking on the Internet population and what officials are doing to combat it.
In its early beginnings, the Internet was nothing more then an assortment of small, isolated communities with less then a million people online world wide. Major Internet Service Providers or ISPâ€™s, such as CompuServe and The Source, had less then 150,000 users with a majority of them being businesses or universities. Internet systems utilized by the general public were in large part not interconnected. With so few users and connections, criminal behavior on the Internet was rare. Unwritten rules about online conduct were honored by its users. But as the Internetâ€™s population grew, so did the exploitation of its power and resources.
Rapid changes in technology propelled the Internet to the forefront of the telecommunications world. By the time the phrase, â€œInformation Superhighwayâ€ was coined, there were more then a million daily internet users. The cyber world began mirroring the real world; virtual societies, communities, and relationships grew. Net businesses developed and flourished; and as one would anticipate, so did a population of cyber troublemakers. Nuisances such as hackers, spammers, and online pranksters called for the development of software to combat the use of the Internet for dubious purposes and users were encouraged to safeguard themselves while visiting the virtual world.
As the Internet population continued to grow, so did concern for the emergence of more felonious online behaviors. Acts such as electronic trafficking, piracy, pornography, and theft required systems providers to create stronger protection software. Internet safety programs such as Norton Antivirus and MacAfee became commonplace; and in 1992 the government released its first comprehensive list of measures to combat online crimes. This list, created by the Department of Justice, included key measures such as government intervention in the protection of personal data, assisting victims of identity theft, thoroughly investigating data breaches, and vigorously prosecuting crimes related to information technology and electronic communication.
Within a decade however, cyber stalking made its way to the forefront of online crimes when Robert James Murphy became...