How Widespread is Cyberstalking?

Artwork: Diego Aguirre
An online survey has been launched in a bid to find out how many Brits have been affected by cyberstalking.

According to the British Crime Survey, more than one million women and 900,000 men have been victims of stalking, although it is unknown whether this includes those that have been cyberstalked.

Cyberstalking covers everything from having your ID stolen or your reputation damaged online, to being tracked by other on social networking sites.

However, the Electronic Communication Harassment Observation (Echo) survey, which has been commissioned by Network for Surviving Stalking, aims to uncover the true figures.

"There are stalkers for whom the internet and mobile phones are just convenient 'tools of their trade'," said Dr Emma Short, leader of the project, which is being undertaken by the University of Bedfordshire.

"But we think there are also vast numbers of internet users who are engaged in harassing behaviors simply because they don't know the rules of appropriate online communication.

Short added that currently there are very few widely agreed guidelines or rules about how to behave online.

"We hope Echo will define behaviours that are generally experienced as anti-social or likely to cause distress in online communication."

The survey comes as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) unveiled new guidelines when it comes to prosecuting stalkers.

"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," said Nazir Afzal community liaison director at the CPS.

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