Cyberstalking study encourages social networking sites to do more

A British study into cyber stalking has concluded that social networking sites such as Facebook should be making it much easier for users to report online-based abuse.

According to an article on the BBC, the group who created the study would like to see the social networking sites sign up to a code of practise that will demonstrate the ways in which they would deal and eradicate threats and abuse of users.

The study was shown to a group of MP’s as part of a wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry which looked into forms of cyber stalking, such as abusive messaging, fake profile creations and false allegations relating to users.

A total of 353 British victims of cyber stalking took part in the anonymous study, which showed that 80% of those involved said that fear was a major issue for them. While a huge 94% of those who took part in the study said that they felt distress at their experience.

The report states, “It may be tempting to dismiss cyber stalking and harassment as somehow less real than ‘traditional’ stalking methods. However, the effects on the victim can be very real. The psychological effects can be devastating, producing verifiable psychological trauma and damage, regardless of whether the victim ever actually meets their harasser. The data collected by the ECHO Pilot Survey help confirm this by indicating that victims of severe electronic harassment suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

These kind fears end up causing anxiety in their victim, especially women, who then begin to fear physical injury. While males who have been victims of online abuse become worried about damage to their reputation.

The main concern that the report raises is that in a large amount of cases it is someone the victim regards as a stranger who tends to take part in the harassment.

The report concluded by saying that the clear message from the study showed that many of the victims felt that they were frustrated by the lack of help and support that was given to them by both the service providers and the police, saying that “This adds to the growing debate of whether legislative change is required to allow the police and encourage service providers to provide the help people need in cases of cyber harassment and if so, exactly what changes those should be.”

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