Stalking is not just something that unreasonably-infatuated people do (and even then it is NOT a “compliment”, it’s a passive-aggressive move in a social dominance game), it’s also something that bullies do. Bullies probably stalk others much more often than people who feel “romantically” obsessed by someone, and the ubiquity of information about people online has made it easier than ever to exploit the information found by cyberstalking, as many cyberbullied people are horrified to discover. Cyberbullying is a rancid canker that needs to be squelched, and a well understood system of legal consequences is long overdue.
The creator of a Facebook page which listed Ballarat women in a derogatory way could face 100 stalking-related charges. The page, called ’100 Biggest Sluts of Ballarat’, has since been taken offline.
Detective Sergeant Craig Dooley says 60 of the 100 women listed have come forward. He says detectives have interviewed one person but are yet to lay charges.
“The actual charges are stalking charges,” he said. “Stalking covers quite a large range of actions and one of them is using the computer to offend or harass a particular person. So for each person on the actual site, that’s a charge, so if we get 100 victims, it’ll be 100 charges of stalking.”
Associate Professor Jeremy Gans of University of Melbourne’s law school said the case showed that stalking didn’t always mean following someone in the street.
“There’s a huge list of ways you can stalk someone. It’s not the page that’s illegal. It’s the conduct,” he told The Age.
Associate Professor Gans said there were specific legal provisions about publishing on the internet a statement or other material relating to someone which causes fear. He said police analysis would look at the effect of the page rather than the content.
“Then it’s just a standard criminal law question of whether you did that either intending to cause harm to someone or arousing apprehension or fear or safety.”
Facebook also really needs a better way to handle the continued bad publicity from people using their service to create these exercises in cyberthuggery. A simple flagging system tied to a name-field filter for pages and groups that people create, filtering by known terms of abuse and denigration, would alert the page creator and other Facebook users right from the get-go that their content was objectionable by community standards and likely to be reported and taken down.