Morgan Szarka

Cyberstalking is one of the more dangerous and negative examples of surveillance. “Cyberstalking is the repeated unwanted relational pursuit of an individual through communication technologies, such as computers, tablets, and smart phones” (Tokunaga & Aune, 2017, p. 1453). Cyberstalking is a prime example of peer surveillance but to a violent extent. According to Ellison and Akdeniz (1998), “It may involve electronic sabotage, in the form of sending the victim hundreds or thousands of junk e-mail messages (the activity known as ‘spamming’) or sending computer viruses” (pp. 30-31). They also argue cyberstalking includes indirect forms of harassment such as a stalker impersonating his or her victim online and sending abusive e-mails or fraudulent spams under their name (Ellison & Akdeniz).

With the increase in electronic communication and surveillance systems, cyberstalking has become much more prevalent. It is easy for someone to hide behind a screen and harass someone than it is to harass someone face-to-face. Melander (2010) discovered that many stalking behaviors in college relationships are tied to Internet use. Moreover, having or pursuing relationships through technology makes cyberstalking convenient and even enticing for perpetrators (Melander). Social media is a huge enabler for this kind of crime. Anybody can make a fake profile on Facebook or Instagram and use it to stalk someone else.

Furthermore, it is difficult for law enforcement define and investigate cyberstalking. Bocij and McFarlane (2002) explain, “the challenge faced by law enforcement, clinicians, researchers and victims is that of producing a definition of cyberstalking that can be used to formulate legislation, direct research, inform treatment and protect victims” (p. 32). Technology is so complex and has many different channels that allow for violent/dangerous surveillance like cyberstalking.

Cynthia Armistead’s case offers an example of cyberstalking. She received thousands of offensive telephone calls after a stalker posted a fake advertisement on a Usenet discussion group which offered services as a prostitute with her address and phone number attached. She received humiliating and vulgar phone calls and texts for weeks. (Ellison and Akdeniz 1998). Not only is this an annoyance, it can also lead to more serious effects such as anxiety and fear.


Bocij, P., & McFarlane, L. (2002). Online harassment: Towards a definition of cyberstalking. Prison Service Journal 139, 31-38. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Bocij/publication/284807346_Online_harassment_Towards_a_definition_of_cyberstalking/links/5b58722aaca272a2d667893d/Online-harassment-Towards-a-definition-of-cyberstalking.pdf?origin=publication_detail

Ellison, L., & Akdeniz, Y. (1998). Cyber-stalking: The regulation of harassment on the internet. Criminal Law Review, 29-48.

Melander, L. A. (2010). College students’ perceptions of intimate partner cyber harassment. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13, 263-268. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0221

Tokunaga, R., & Aune, K. (2017). Online harassment: Towards a definition of cyberstalking. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(10), 1451-1475. doi: 10.1177/0886260515589564


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Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Morgan Szarka is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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