In Canada, cyber stalking is classified under the criminal offence of “criminal harassment”. There is currently considerable debate in both the legal and academic literature about how best to define cyber stalking and similar offences such as online harassment and cyber bullying.
As you may already know, cyber stalking refers to the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone. This behaviour can amount to a crime especially if it causes psychological harm to the recipient. Repeated conduct that is carried out over a period of time and that causes its targets to reasonably fear for their safety, despite not resulting in physical injury, is a criminal offence. Such behaviour, research has shown, may be a precursor to subsequent violence acts.
Cyber Stalking Forms
Cyber stalking can occur through technological tools such as computers and the Internet. Acts such as direct communication through email or text messaging, Internet harassment, the publishing of offensive or threatening information about a victim, or the unauthorized use, control or sabotage of a victim’s computer are some examples of cyber stalking.
Of interesting note is that depending on the particular form of activity involved, charges of cyber stalking under criminal harassment may be laid. However, the type of activity may warrant other charges under the Criminal Code to be laid. These can include any one or more of the following:
- 162 (voyeurism)
- 163.1 (distribution of child pornography)
- 172.1 (Internet luring)
- 241 (counselling suicide)
- 298-302 (defamation)
- 319(2) (wilful promotion of hatred)
- 346 (extortion)
- 342.1 (unauthorized use of a computer)
- 372(1) (conveying false messages)
- 423 (intimidation)
- 430(1.1) (mischief in relation to data)
- 402.2(1) (identify theft)
- 403(1) (identity fraud)
As new technologies have been increasing, the ways in which technology can be used to criminally harass, or facilitate the harassment, has been greatly expanding, and include the following:
- Sending harassing messages (sometimes forged in the victim’s name) through e-mail or text message to the victim or to the victim’s employers, co-workers, students, teachers, customers, friends or family
- Gathering or attempting to gather information about the victim, including private information relating to his or her home address, employment, financial situation and everyday activities, or using spyware to track website visits or record keystrokes the victim makes
- Attempting to destroy the victim’s reputation by engaging in “cyber-smearing”, i.e., sending or posting false or embarrassing intimate information about or, supposedly, on behalf of the victim
- Tracking a victim’s location using GPS technology (on telephones, cameras and other devices)
- Watching or listening to a victim through hidden cameras or listening or monitoring devices
- Sending viruses to the victim’s computer, such as software that automatically transmits messages over a period of time
- Creating websites about the victim that contain threatening or harassing messages, or provocative or pornographic photographs
- Encouraging others to harass the victim
- Constructing a new identity to entice the target to befriend the perpetrator
Any one of the above of a combination thereof can cause a person to face criminal charges. If you or someone you know is facing criminal harassment charges, take advantage of our 30-minute free consultation to learn about how we can help. It is important to understand whether or not the changes have strong evidence supporting it or if your criminal defence lawyer can resolve the matter outside of the formal court process before it even begins.