An organisation based in London will attempt to find out just how prevalent cyberstalking has become in the UK.
The organisation is called Electronic Communication Harassment Observation (Echo) and is funded through the charity Network for Surviving Stalking. This has come at the same time as a move from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to get tough on cyberstalking by releasing new guidance notes. This is particularly interesting as the CPS’s new guidance means it is the first time cyberstalking has been officially recognised.
The current British Crime Survey estimates are that one million women and 900,000 men are stalked in the UK every year. The Echo survey will be the first attempt to find out how many people are stalked online.
Cyberstalking is yet a crime to really be taken seriously, most people not really knowing how it affects the lives of victims. If you listen to what people have to say you can get an idea of how bad it can be. One lady from Kent states ‘I have just had to leave Twitter due to an exceptional amount of harassment from somebody on there, who was warned by the police not to contact me or any third party about me. He contacted most men I spoke to on Twitter even via their blogs and gave a very inaccurate portrayal of what I am like. he has given me three years of hell where I am now at a point where I find it difficult to go out and socialise because I’m scared what he will do next’.
The main areas of cyberstalking are email, internet chat rooms and of course social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. A lot of people are affected by inappropriate behaviour online especially on social networking sites, it is easy for somebody to leave a threatening comment, steal photographs and give out personal information. It seems that a lot of Facebook users are completely and utterly oblivious to the dangerous of adding personal information (email address, street address etc) and photographs to Facebook.
Nazir Afzal is the community liaison director for the CPS and had some revealing statements about the damaged lives of cyberstalking victims. After listening to many of the victims Afzal reports ‘Stalkers steal lives, that was the message I picked up from speaking to victims. Victims stop trusting those they know and every stranger is seen as a threat…People often can’t answer the phone, receive texts or go to a familiar place without fear and trepidation. We want to give people their lives back’.