Cyberstalking awareness is global wake-up call

Earlier this year, Andrea Petrou wrote an article on this website noting that the Electronic Communication Harassment Observation (ECHO) was conducting its first-ever survey to gauge the prevalence of cyberstalking in British society.

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

“[While] people are split two ways on the issue of cyberbullying …in the past few years it’s become a hot topic,” Petrou added. “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 cyberbullying 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.”

The ECHO study will establish baselines for the prevalence, duration and impact of cyberstalking in the UK, according to the charity, with preliminary results of the research compiled by late December. Survey results will stay online for a year, the charity said.

In related news from the other side of the world, a Taiwanese law professor who sued 108 people after comments she made on a TV program triggered a series of what she called “insults” against her is hoping her case will lead to better public awareness of cyberbullying issues not only in Taiwan but around the world as well.

In a recent interview with TechEye in her office, Ying-chieh Lu, a diminutive but feisty law professor at National Chung-Cheng University in southern Taiwan said she is more determined than ever to see internet justice become more protected (and enforced) in law.

After Lu appeared on a local TV talk show, she was barraged with anonymous postings from
across the country, with people saying things on blogs and forums such as “There’s a hole in her brain” and “She’s retarded!” and “Lu is a moron professor.” And those were the nice posts.

According to the Liberty Times in Taipei, another anonymous poster wrote “I hope her daughter gets raped and killed late at night” on a public internet forum.

During an informal chat recently in her 5th floor office at the university’s law department, Lu showed a reporter a large envelope with a dozen formal letters of apology that she received from some of
those who insulted her. They were asked to write the letters on instructions of the Taiwan police, who have investigated the cyberbullying and cyberstalking incident that began earlier in the year, she said.

Lu said some of the people who insulted her online worked for government agencies and at other universities. Some even had doctorate degrees, she confirmed.

What’s next? Dr Lu said she plans to keep the issues on the front burner in Taiwan and hopes to play a role in educating the public about internet use and abuse.

“We need to raise awareness of these issues,” she said. “When this happened to me earlier in the year, at first I was sad, but then I decided to fight back and make a point with my lawsuits.”

Showing this reporter a dozen or so formal letters of apology that were signed and dated, Lu said this is one way of fighting back, but that there is much more work to be done in educating the public.