TO THE VICE PRESIDENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAG
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 1999(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO DELIVERS CYBERSTALKING REPORT
TO THE VICE PRESIDENT
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Attorney General today delivered to the Vice President, a report entitled Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry. The report aims to help protect Americans using the Internet by providing greater awareness of online stalking. This report was prepared by the Attorney General pursuant to a February 1999 request by the Vice President.
"This report provides government, law enforcement and industry with an overview of the threat of online crime," said Attorney General Reno. "As we travel the information superhighway into the next millennium, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of computer users. We must also ensure that our federal and local laws can effectively deal with the threats present in the new electronic age."
The report analyzes the nature and extent of the cyberstalking problem, current law enforcement and industry response, and the adequacy of existing federal and state laws.
Cyberstalking generally refers to the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communication devices to stalk another person. Stalking refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or business, or vandalizing a person's property.
In the first case prosecuted under California's new cyberstalking law, a former security guard used the Internet to solicit the rape of a woman who rejected his romantic advances. Impersonating his victim, he posted her address and phone number along with a message that she fantasized about being raped, on Internet bulletin boards and in chat rooms. On at least six occasions, men knocked on the woman's door saying they wanted to rape her. The security guard plead guilty in April of 1999 to one count of stalking and three counts of solicitation of sexual assault.
Evidence suggests the problem of online stalking is growing. According to the most recent national DOJ survey of traditional (offline) stalking, one out of every 12 women (8.2 million) and one out of every 45 men (2 million) have been stalked at some time in their lives. Given the growing number of people who are on line, and assuming the proportion of cyberstalking victims is even a fraction of the proportion of the persons who have been the victims of offline stalking, tens or even hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens could be victims of cyberstalking. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office estimates that e-mail or other electronic communications were a factor in approximately 20% of the roughly 600 cases handled by its Stalking and Threat Assessment Unit.
Less than one third of the states have anti-stalking laws that explicitly cover stalking via the Internet, email pagers, or other electronic communications. While the general stalking statutes in some states cover cyberstalking, all states should review their laws to ensure they prohibit and punish stalking via the Internet and other electronic communications.
The report makes the following recommendations regarding cyberstalking:
- States should review their laws to determine whether they address cyberstalking and if not, promptly expand laws to address cyberstalking.
- Federal law should be amended to prohibit the transmission of any communication in interstate or foreign commerce with intent to threaten or harass another person where such communication places that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.
- Law enforcement agencies need training on the extent of cyberstalking and appropriate investigative techniques.
- The Internet industry should create an industry supported web site containing information about cyberstalking and what to do if confronted with the problem.