Cyberstalking involves the use of social media to threaten a victim. Cyberharassment is a sub-category of cyberstalking that involves social media harassment without a credible threat. Both are shockingly common on social media, especially among young women. A 2016 studyfound that 47% of women experienced cyberharassment in the past year. The number rises to 76% for women under 30.
Laws vary widely from state to state. In some states cyberstalking is treated the same as other harassment while other states have separate statutes. Some also distinguish cyberstalking and cyberharassment. An increasing number of state legislatures are taking the issue of cyberstalking seriously.
For example, Texas Penal Code section 33.07 states that it a felony in the third degree to create a website, post a message, or send an email in another person's name without permission with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten. It is a Class A misdemeanor to send email, instant message, or text referencing another person's name, domain address, phone number, or other identifying information without consent and with intent to impersonate and cause harm or defraud any person. This is increased to a felony in the third degree if the intent is to solicit a response from emergency personnel. This statute was created in 2009 and amended in 2011. Because the laws are so new, there is not a great deal of case law regarding enforcement. There are also defenses built into the statute for employees of the websites, Internet service providers, and other computer related providers. These legal standards are evolving in legislatures and courts, so careful analysis of each case is required.
Civil lawsuits can also be filed against cyberstalkers for torts such as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Judgments for intentional infliction of emotional distress cases can be large, but there are many elements to prove and there are limitations. Victims of cyberstalking should focus on their desired result. Do they just want the cyberstalking to stop? Do they want the cyberstalker to be criminally punished? Do they want financial compensation for the harm they suffered? Is it a combination of these? Legal strategy varies significantly depending on the desired result.
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All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Ninomiya Law, PLLC and Kent Ninomiya only provide legal advice to clients when there is a valid engagement agreement signed by both attorney and clients. The principal office of Ninomiya Law, PLLC is located in Round Rock, Texas. Ninomiya Law, PLLC is responsible for the content of this website.