By definition, cyberstalking means stalking, harassing, intimidating or bullying someone online, including via social media, email, forums, instant messaging or any other medium of digital communication. Cyberstalking is also possible via phone, fax, text, pager or any other type of electronic media.
TripWire explains that in order to rise to the level of cyberstalking, the uninvited and unwanted communications to the victim must continue over a period of time.
Examples of cyberstalking
Cyberstalking can take many forms. Some of the most common include the following:
- Sending continual threats or harassing communications by email or text
- “Sexting” with explicit sexual photos of the sender or any other offensive or disturbing images
- Posting false or embarrassing information about someone on social media
- Logging on to someone’s bank or credit accounts for the purpose of stealing their personal information, making unauthorized purchases or otherwise damaging their finances
What are the penalties for cyberstalking?
Under California law, cyberstalkers can be charged with either misdemeanor or felony cyberstalking depending on the nature of their alleged crimes. If convicted, penalties can include the following:
- Maximum of one year in jail and maximum of a $1,000 fine for misdemeanor cyberstalking
- Maximum of five years in prison and maximum of a $1,000 fine for felony cyberstalking
- Additional and enhanced penalties if the cyberstalking amounted to domestic violence
- Lifetime sex offender registration if the cyberstalking included a sexual component
To convict someone of any type of cyberstalking, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant willfully and/or maliciously intended to harass the alleged victim. In addition, the cyberstalking must have posed a credible threat against the alleged victim, causing them to fear for their own safety or the safety of their family due to the cyberstalking activities.