Today, social media is used by practically everyone. The internet has evolved communication to limitless degrees, bridging the gap between communication and distance. You’ll no longer have to wait long, for example, to hear back from an overseas friend.
You may have been talking to someone online who seemed friendly and had many shared interests with you. Out of the blue, they accused you of cyberstalking.
What is cyberstalking, exactly? In short, cyberstalking is an unhealthy rabbit hole that leads people to misjudge what they’re allowed to do online. Here’s what you should know:
Cyberstalking crosses a social line — and a legal one
Cyberstalking is the act of using technology to learn previously unknown information about someone. This can lead to interactions that make the other people feel uncomfortable or even fear for their lives.
A cyberstalker may use their newfound knowledge to show up at someone’s workplace. They may send them unsolicited packages in the mail. They may even record people without their permission or reveal private information about the other party online (an act known as “doxing.”)
The problem for many, however, is that it’s easy to misread someone’s intentions or words when you’re online. Someone may be okay with you following their social media account. They, however, may not feel comfortable if you make comments on every post they make across social media or you track down their workplace email and start bombarding them with messages and sexual memes.
Cyberstalking is a federal crime that can be punished by up to $250,000 in fines and five years in jail, so take allegations of this kind of activity seriously. If you’re accused, invoke your right to remain silent until you can explore all possible defenses.