The Rise of Digital Stalking

The Rise of Digital Stalking

There are many technologies which we use every day that were designed to bring us closer together with our friends, families and loved ones, but what happens when these technologies are used to harm, intimidate or stalk us?

Many of us carry a life’s worth of personal information in our pocket along with the ability to be contacted by anybody at any time, in the form of our smartphones. Apps, like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram may be used without our knowledge by unwanted parties to gather and distribute our personal information. These technologies can be used to make victims feel intimidated and harassed by:

-Constantly being able to be contacted through phone or social media & email
-Being located in social media by posts that you are tagged into
-Gaining unauthorized access to a phone or social media accounts
-Threatening to share or sharing intimate images or videos without consent

So what action can be taken if you do have a digital stalker? Generally speaking behavior that can be considered technology facilitated stalking or harassment can amount to a criminal offence.

Apprehended Violence Orders(AVO) can prohibit a party from threatening, stalking, harassing or intimidating another. AVO’s are often the first option for persons in need of protection from a stalker. Repeated phone call, threats over social media accounts, intimidating messages or posts can form part of the grounds for an AVO to be granted or for a breach of the AVO to occur.

In a domestic relationship Section 8(1)(c) of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) now provides for stalking to include contacting or otherwise approaching a person using the internet or any other technologically assisted means with intent to cause fear of physical or mental harm.  This offence can carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Division 15C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes it an offence to record, distribute, threaten to record or distribute an intimate image. A threat may be made by any conduct, whether explicit or implicit, conditional or unconditional. It is not necessary to prove that the other person actually feared the threat would be carried out, or that the intimate image which is the subject of the threat, actually exists.

Even with these laws looking to protect us from the dangers of the digital age the incidents of digital harassment continue to rise. Barring calls and blocking offending parties on social media is often an option, but unfortunately is not always enough. The law and legal processes have started to catch up with the technology tactics used by people who choose to use violence in their relationship. The best approach when sharing information online is to treat it as a public space and only share what you would be comfortable with everyone knowing.

If this article has raised concerns for you, Solari and Stock’s experienced Family Law team can assist you, please contact 8525 2700 to book your free 30 minute appointment or click here to request an appointment.

Article written by Adrian Stock
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

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