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REPORTING CYBERSTALKING AT THE STATE, FEDERAL, AND INTERNATIONAL LEVELS

Posted by Annabel Lee on February 26th, 2017


Reporting cyberstalking can take place at the state, federal, and international levels. Beginning at the state level and then moving up from there can be effective.

LOCAL & STATE-LEVEL REPORTING

For many who have been targeted by cyberstalkers, reporting the conduct seems overwhelming, especially if the cyberstalkers are in a different geographical location. Many of us assume that we would need to report the cyberstalking to police where the cyberstalker is; however, that is not necessarily the case. Many state laws are written to allow for reporting to authorities either where the cyberstalking originated (the cyberstalker's location) OR the location where the cyberstalking was received (the target's location).

For example, in Washington State, the cyberstalking statute allows for reporting as follows:

"Any offense committed under this section may be deemed to have been committed either at the place from which the communication was made or at the place where the communication was received." (Note that in many states, "communication" can be direct or indirect, so the communication doesn't have to be directed to you specifically to fall under the legal definition of cyberstalking; someone communicating about you falls under the umbrella of indirect communication.)

This language allows a target to report stalking that originates from other states to local authorities based on where the target was when he/she received or became aware of the cyberstalking. In these states, it doesn't matter where the cyberstalking originated; what matters is where you were when you received or became aware of it. This even includes if you received cyberstalking communication or became aware of the cyberstalking while you were on a military base. Depending on where you live, some military police forces aren't as busy as their civilian counter-parts, so reporting to military police may garner faster results. The important thing to keep in mind is that where you are located when you are on the receiving end of this type of criminal activity doesn't have to work against you; in fact, it can work for you. 

Wherever you report, obtaining that first police report seems to ease the process of reporting to other jurisdictions; once you obtain the first report, you are able to present your situation to another jurisdiction, along with a report number and contact information for local law enforcement, which tends to make the secondary reporting go more smoothly. 

FEDERAL REPORTING

When you report to a local or state agency (police department, sheriff department), you may be encouraged by that agency to report at the federal level as well, especially if the stalking conveys a direct or an indirect threat that makes you fear for your well-being or the well-being of your family. There are also some instances when the sharing of your private information online can be reported federally. 

Although the sharing of another person's personal, identifying information is usually considered a state crime, under some circumstances, you can also federally report doxing. For example, if you are a government employee or your employment is somehow connected to a government agency, you can federally report both the person who shared the information and the person who hosts the site on which your personal information appears. Therefore, if you are a teacher, social worker, sanitation worker, or a court clerk whose payroll is paid by the government or a government agency, you are considered a government employee and may be able to federally report the sharing of your personal information on those grounds. 

Federal reporting can be done online via the following link to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3):

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Tip: (1) If you can, report first to a local or state agency so you can provide those report numbers and contact information for local/state law enforcement when you use the online federal reporting tool. (2) You are not automatically given a report number when you report via IC3. An analyst will review the information contained in your report and contact you when/if a federal report is initiated or other action is recommended. 

With federal reporting, it may take a while for anything to happen. This doesn't mean your report isn't valid. It's simply a reflection of the need for federal agencies to prioritize their resources. Although reporting federally is important when dealing with threats and in some instances of others sharing your personal information (if you're a government employee, for example), it shouldn't be the only place you report. You should always report to your local law enforcement agency and the law enforcement agency of the cyberstalker if you know who the person is. 

INTERNATIONAL REPORTING

Sometimes, cyberstalking originates from other countries. Reporting to other countries may seem prohibitively difficult, but it isn't. Begin with looking into the law in your state to see if it allows for you to report to authorities where the cyberstalking communications were received (rather than where they originated). If you can report where the communications were received, you can report to local law enforcement or to the FBI, even if the cyberstalking is coming from someone in another country.

If you would like to take it even further and report to the authorities in the country where the cyberstalker resides, you can locate resources online for most countries regarding cyberstalking laws and reporting steps. When reporting internationally, presentation is very important. It's important that you present the information in a way that speaks directly to the other country's laws. For example, if I were to report cyberstalking to Canadian authorities, I would want to present the documentation of the stalking in a way that clarifies the violations to Canadian law. Canadian authorities are concerned with violations of Canadian law by Canadian citizens, not American law, and presenting documentation in a way that makes sense in terms of their laws may better facilitate the reporting process.

Again, it's probably best to report to international authorities after you have already reported locally so you'll have a report number, contact info for local law enforcement, etc. when you report to the other country.

The link below is a cyberstalking reporting toolkit that provides instructions for documenting cyberstalking, including instructions for taking screenshots of abusive content and a log for documenting cyberstalking and harassment, which is useful when reporting to law enforcement.

https://www.fightcyberstalking.org/wp-content/uploads/FCS.pdf

The toolkit, along with other helpful information about cyberstalking, can be found here:

https://www.fightcyberstalking.org/

 

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