Understanding Cyberstalking And Online Harassment
In California, cyberstalking and online harassment are defined explicitly as crimes that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the severity of the crime.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing unwanted contact online, knowing what the laws are regarding these types of crimes can help you decide whether or not legal action is appropriate.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a term that refers to the misuse of the internet or other technology to stalk and harass someone. Cyberstalking can occur on virtually any digital medium, including:
- Social media
- Messaging apps
- Forum posts
- Online classifieds
Additionally, using technologies such as GPS trackers or other location-tracking software to monitor where you are without your consent can be considered cyberstalking.
What Is Online Harassment?
Online harassment is an abusive behavior that occurs via one of the methods mentioned above. The goal of online harassment is typically to make the victim feel unsafe, humiliated, scared, or emotionally distressed.
An abuser typically commits these behaviors in an attempt to maintain power and/or control over their victim.
What’s The Difference Between Cyberstalking & Online Harassment?
Cyberstalking and online harassment, while different, can be difficult to distinguish and often happen together.
Cyberstalking typically involves a consecutive pattern of behavior meant to intimidate or scare a victim. For example, if an ex-spouse or romantic partner leaves unwanted or threatening comments or messages on every single Facebook or Instagram post you publish.
From a legal perspective, the law requires proof that the abuser knew that his or her actions would make the victim feel scared, intimidated, or unsafe.
Online harassment laws cover a broader range of abusive behavior. Many online harassment laws can apply to just a single incident and don’t require proof that the abuser knew that their actions would cause their victim to feel threatened.
If an ex-spouse or romantic partner published intimate photos of you online without your consent, that would be considered online harassment.
How An Attorney Can Help
If you are the victim of cyberstalking and online harassment, consider speaking with an attorney. A family law attorney can help you file a restraining order against the person abusing you, which will also prevent them from contacting you online.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, you should call the police right away.
To speak with an attorney about your case, please call our office today for a free consultation.
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