I CAN see you: Harassment and Stalking on the Internet


Published in Information and Communications Law, Routledge

It is an inevitable consequence of plausible anonymity and deliberately lax regulation that the potential for ‘virtual’ harassment or ‘cyber-’stalking, with the attendant possibility of threats, alarm, distress, slander and physical danger that go hand in hand with real world harassment, will increase the more widely available access to the Internet. The (relatively) recent explosion in casual exchange of personal information following the growth of sophisticated social networking platforms, the logical successors to more basic Internet chat-rooms, opens further the possibility of acquiring an unwanted connection with an obsessive party.

The authors consider the application of current UK legislative safeguards to the Internet, looking at the suitability of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, data protection, unauthorised modification of computer software, libel law, external Internet regulation, Convention and Codes, and the potential for vicarious liability of employers where harassment is carried out by an employee, amongst other issues and conclude that there is a pressing need for primary legislation to counter the inadequacy and lacunae found in current domestic law. The authors go on to consider the extraterritorial application of such legislation and postulate the need for a re-balancing of the competing rights of freedom of speech and personal safety and wellbeing.

The authors further consider the potential liabilities of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), webhosts and Social Networking and chat-room forum sites, concluding that a shift in liability for Internet harassment from progenitor to facilitator is inevitable.

Keywords: Internet; harassment; stalking; cyber-stalking; reform; ISP; Protection

from Harassment Act 1997

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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