chapter  9
11 Pages


Tackling harassment on the Internet
WithLouise Ellison

The problem of on-line harassment has received considerable and, in many cases sensationalized, press coverage in recent years; for example, see BBC Online (1999). These reports suggest that a woman who uses the Internet instantly risks becoming the target of a cyberstalker and finds herself the victim of a campaign of electronic abuse. Disturbing pronouncements as to the nature and impact of harassment on-line have become commonplace. Some commentators, such as Brail (1996), have gone as far as to state that on-line harassment is already killing free speech on the Internet, in particular the free speech of women. Women are engaging in self censorship, it is claimed, in order to avoid harassment and are, as a result, being further marginalized in cyberspace (Spender, 1995). In February 1999, the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, called for a fight against cyberstalking, stating that the Internet had inadvertently become a sinister new avenue for carrying out violence against women (Washington Post, 1999). This chapter examines the phenomenon of cyberstalking and the issues surrounding its regulation.