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What is the Internet crime of cyberstalking?

The Department of Justice defines stalking as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, contact, harassment, or any other course of conduct targeted toward a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Before the Internet, stalkers were known to show up at a person’s home or work uninvited and usually unannounced. Today, stalkers are more likely to follow their prey online in a practice known as cyberstalking.

Although teens sometimes use the term “stalking” to describe keeping track of another person’s activities online through social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, that is not actually what cyberstalking really refers to since there is generally no crime element in innocuously keeping track of your ex-boyfriend online or checking out an ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page from time to time.

Instead, cyberstalking is actually defined as using the Internet to harass someone. The stalkers may make false accusations or threats. They may illegally hack into a person’s account and monitor activity, destroy data or manipulate it to make the other person appear in an unfavorable light. In some cases, the stalker may even pretend to be the other person through identity theft.

Cyberstalking is considered a crime in all 50 states. In Wisconsin, it falls under the statute of 947.0125 Unlawful Use of Computerized Communications Systems and is considered a Class B Misdemeanor.

Defendants who are facing charges for a cybercrime may find it beneficial to enlist the aide of an experienced Wisconsin criminal attorney. An attorney may be able to work with the defendant to form a criminal defense that could reduce or dismiss charges and limit jail time.

Source: Norton, “Straight Talk About Cyberstalking” Marian Merritt, Dec. 15, 2014

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