Cyber-stalking study commissioned in UK

The Electronic Communication Harassment Observation is conducting a survey to gauge the prevalence of cyberstalking.

The UK based organisation has been commissioned by the Network for Surviving Stalking charity, which aims to support stalking victims and raises awareness about the issue.

The survey asks a series of questions about whether respondents have been been harassed online on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Designed by psychologists from the University of Bedfordshire, the survey also questions whether users were harassed over instant messaging services, text messages, or e-mail and how frequently they were harassed.

People are split two ways on the issue of cyber bullying, however in the past few years it’s become a hot topic. In 2006 Megan Taylor Meier, an American teenager from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri  committed suicide by hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. A year later, Meier’s parents prompted an investigation into the matter and her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through MySpace. The mother of a friend of Meier, Lori Drew, was hauled up in the courts after it was alleged she had a hand in the bullying, however she was acquitted in 2009.

Earlier this month our own Dan Bloom reported that Taiwan made a move to make cyber stalking an important part of its law by revising its Personal Data Protection Act.  Under the laws, which come into effect in 2011, cyberbullying and cyberstalking will be punished. This means posting an article or photo of someone else anywhere on the internet will be considered, under the law, to be ”leaking” personal data –  if the person concerned has not given his or her approval.

Some may argue that this is a step too far, after all, the internet promotes free speech. However, others will say that this law is something that needs to be thought about in other countries. After all, just because it’s a virtual space, it can still be distressing.

This study will establish baselines for the prevalence, duration and impact of cyberstalking in the UK. Preliminary results of the research will be compiled around the end of the year. The survey will stay online for a year.