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I’m being stalked on the Internet. What do I do?

I’m being stalked on the Internet. What do I do?
Someone constantly likes my posts on social media. Should I be worried already?

Not necessarily. People give out “likes” on social networks for various reasons. Most do this in order to somehow support the author of the post, to express his sincere sympathy and approval (most likely, you do that as well). Some put likes to fool the algorithms of social networks, with the help of active actions, you can make your profile more visible to other users. In some cases, persistent likes and obsessive attention can really be cause for concern.

What cases are we talking about?

In regard to cases of cyberstalking, that is, the persecution of a person on the Internet. Not much is said about this phenomenon; cases of stalking offline are much more often discussed. In ordinary life, a stalker can harass his victim through surveillance, unwanted home visits to the victim, intrusive attention, or, for example, threats. A cyberstalker does the same thing as an ordinary stalker, but in online space.

And what is the problem with persistent attention? Isn't that nice?

No. A person who is receiving annoying attention ceases to feel safe. Moreover, he begins to adjust his life in order to avoid contact with the stalker. The victim is forced to change her way home, ask friends to drive her home at night, make changes to her schedule. In the most hopeless cases, you have to change the phone number, housing and work - the attention of the stalker, which, as it sometimes seems from the outside, seems to be flattering, is a loss of personal freedom and a loss of a sense of security.

In many countries, stalking is a crime. For example, in Germany they can imprison you for up to three years, in the UK, for a year at the first misconduct and for up to five years in case of repeated violation. Cases of harassment of people on the Internet are also regulated by laws on stalking and harassment.

Isn't Internet harassment cyberbullying?

Not really. Cyberstalking and cyberbullying are varieties of online harassment, that is, the systematic pursuit of a person in the Internet space. Both stalkers and bullies systematically harass their victims, but they do it in different ways: bullies humiliate and intimidate, stalkers violate personal boundaries and interfere in private life.

From a psychological point of view, both phenomena are implicated in the needs of the aggressor to assert their power and control over another person. It is not enough for the aggressor to simply pursue the victim, he makes the victim feel vulnerable and not safe. Roughly speaking, the victim is made clear that she is in fact the victim here.

Is following someone’s page secretly considered stalking too?

No. Just following someone’s posts on Facebook and other social networks, this is not stalking. But looking for a person’s personal data, trying to gain access to his social networks, violating his borders in other ways is stalking.

What other types of cyberstalking are there?

A lot of them. For example, surveillance. Do not underestimate the amount of information that can be found on the Internet about each person. Most often, people publish this information themselves; some information gets on the Internet due to the fact that they do not sufficiently monitor the security of their data. By analyzing geotags, Google Street View data and social media checks, you can determine where a person lives, where he works and where he spends his free time.

Hacking webcams and gaining access to the microphone on a laptop can also be used by stalkers to collect information about the victim. It happens that the aggressor tries to find out personal data from the victim herself or her relatives, for this, the stalker can resort to “catfishing” tactics, that is, attempts to get closer to the victim under the guise of a fictitious person (for example, add her to friends using a fake account). Finally, stalkers can resort to docking - the publication on the Internet of the victim’s personal data, up to the home address and passport data.

Got it. Can I somehow protect myself from being stalked?

Yes. First of all, it’s worth checking the privacy settings on social networks and assessing the amount of “sensitive information” in the public domain. If possible, it is better to put the pages in social networks in the "for friends" mode and not abuse the geotags. Use them moderately.

You also need to take care of the security of your data, to audit passwords, set unique passwords for pages on social networks and mailboxes, as well as set up two-factor authentication for all accounts.

What if you are being stalked?

Under no circumstances should you initiate contact with the stalker or agree to a meeting.

You need to talk about the actions of the stalker to your loved ones and consult with a lawyer about possible ways of protection. It is impossible to hold a person accountable for cyberstalking as such in Russia. Nevertheless, lawyers can tell the algorithm of actions in a specific situation, it is possible that the stalker violated existing laws. It is necessary to collect evidence and prepare an appeal to law enforcement agencies.

If the persecution was long and led to serious consequences (attacks, publication of personal data on the Internet, persistent systematic threats), it makes sense for a person affected by the actions of a stalker to seek psychological support. Such assistance can be obtained from the Moscow Crisis Center hotline), the Sisters center, and the Children Online project, which specializes in the issues of safe use of the Internet and mobile communications.

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