Tales of a Cyberstalker (Vol. 5 of 8)

If you are like me (a sane person living in the real world and NOT a stalker) you are probably wondering if there is such a thing as cyberstalking in virtual worlds.  You may not even know what a virtual world is.  For those in the dark about virtual worlds, see the below footnote.[1]  Further, you probably would not be caught dead stalking in the real world, why on earth would you find another computer “world” to stalk someone?  Really, what damage could you really inflict?  Ohhhhh, I just deleted your make-believe computer person.  Unfortunately, there are a number of people who should have starring roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.[2]  For those overly psychotic individuals, stalking in virtual worlds does exist.  Here are a few examples of how cyberstalking occurred in virtual worlds:

In 2007, a 16-year-old girl was cyberstalked by a 20-year-old man who posed as a college girl.  The 16-year-old girl had participated in multiple conversations with World of Warcraft (“WoW”) guildmate about fashion and parties over a number of months.  Then one day the WoW guildmate shows up in real life at her high school.  He came all the way from Canada with presents ranging from a new laptop computer to a DVD box set of The OC.  He showed her pictures of her guildie that she would recognize and wanted her to go to lunch with him.  He also waited around her school’s parking lot for hours until school officials intervened.  See Amanda Miller, “16 Year Old Girl Stalked from WoW to her High School,”  WoW Insider (Oct. 24, 2007 at 6:10 p.m.)  http://wow.joystiq.com/2007/10/24/16-year-old-girl-stalked-from-wow-to-her-high-school/

According to a post by Josue Habana on Pixelworld, the relationship between two SecondLife (“SL”) users went south when the SL girlfriend, located in Boston, Massachusetts, decided to contact her SL boyfriend, located in France, in the real world.  She found his real world address and took it upon herself to send him a lock of her hair doused in perfume via mail. Apparently there was more, but Josue decided not to spill.  See http://pixelscoop.net/2010/09/second-life-partner/.

An SL user wrote in September of this year posted this, “[A]fter months in SL, just dancing and chatting, this week  I tried sex.  It was twice and with the same woman.  However she is now stalking me. She seems to have a radar (or something of the kind)  that tells her exactly where I am in SL and who is dancing with me. So the stalker keeps sending messages to me, and what’s worse, she sends messages to the person who happens to be dancing with me, inventing stories so that she won’t dance with me anymore.”

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Abuse-and-Griefing/Stalking/qaq-p/1089473/comment-id/2450

Notice there is no online threat to the victims in the above-examples.  However, some cyberstalking statutes do not require a credible threat against the victim just the use of electronic means to stalk or harass them.[3][4]

The first two examples illustrate stalking crossing from a virtual world into the real world while the third example only involves stalking in the virtual world.  There is not much the third victim can do except to change their profile, avatar, check for any tracking devices and alert Linden Labs, the owner’s of SL pursuant to their Terms of Use agreement.  The third victim could also claim emotional distress that would fall under the cyberstalking laws, but so far, I have not seen such a case prosecuted to date.  Also imaging trying to explain to local law enforcement that computer person is harassing you.  That probably will not go over well and they will end up thinking that you are the crazy one.  As for the first and second victims, there is the potential for harm and thus more options available to them to stop the harassing behavior.

The 16 year-old girl alerted the local authorities.  She could have also called the police, her parents, and filed criminal and/or civil action against her stalker.

The second victim in the Pixelworld post, could alert the local police if the harassment continues and check local laws for legal action against his ex-SL girlfriend.

But when should a victim start taking action against their virtual world cyberstalker.  Well, see Josue’s Pixelworld post below for the answer[5]:

10 signs that your pixel partner is restraining order material.

1.       He or she has met you, IMed you and suggested you buy a parcel together within 1 hour.

2.       He or she wants to know within literally hours what you do in real life and where you’re from.

3.       You’ve told them your real life name – but they want your surname, like now, as well.

4.       They openly admit to Googling your real life name and/or your place of work within the first week of knowing you.

5.       They tell you they know what colour your real life front door is, despite living on another continent. They then admit they’re not psychic but they looked up your postcode and used Google Street View.

6.       They follow this with “I could imagine myself going home through that front door.”

7.       They ask what your real life children are called within days of meeting you and then begin telling you that they think they’d be a great “auntie/uncle/stepmother/stepfather to the little ones.

8.       They tell you they are going to take a holiday in your city, adding that “I know you said we won’t ever meet in real life and that’s fine, but I’m going to book a hotel on the street behind you because I have always wanted to see [insert city name spelt incorrectly here]. Now if you live in a big city and someone has business reasons to go or family in a similar area, you have to give a bit of credit – but if it’s just a “holiday” and you happen to live in a really small and boring town, you should be concerned.

9.       They tell you they’ve looked your girlfriend/boyfriend up on Facebook and that you can do better.

10.   They manage to get your mobile phone number without you giving it to them – and then ring you “accidentally” like all the time!!

Any of the above signs could be a cue to log out – like now!

Also note that the stalking in the first and second illustration could have been avoided, if the victims did not hand over personal information to the stalkers.  If you did not heed the warning stated in previous posts, do not hand out your personal real life information to anyone whether in social media sites on virtual sites.  The below link illustrates the dangers of the Internet and stalking brought to you by The Sims3.  Please note that the below link is not cyberstalking because there were no threats made online.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnAVsuoCloY&feature=related


[1] Virtual worlds are computer-based, graphically simulated, three-dimensional environment.  These environments represent a fictional place or a place with a real world counterpart on earth or in outer space designed for its user to inhabit and interact via an animated character in the virtual world, known as an “avatar.”  When logged in to the virtual world, avatars may communicate with other avatars within the same virtual world by using a keyboard text chat or voice communications via a microphone and speakers. Between log-ins, an avatar retains the same status and possessions. Some virtual worlds are objective-based and are similar to video games such as World of Warcraft.  However, there are other virtual worlds that are not objective-based and operate more like the real world including the maintenance of a functioning economy, such as SecondLife. Computer Games and Virtual Worlds: A New Frontier in Intellectual Property Law 3 (Ross A. Dannenberg, Steve Mortigner, Roxanne Christ, Chrissie Scelsi  & Farnaz Alemi ed.s, 2010).  There are others types of virtual worlds that resemble a hybrid of the two, e.g. EVE Online in which users “focus on gaining power and acquiring treasure through player interaction in trade, resource collection, piracy or a combination of these interactions.” Brandy Tricker, Taming the Wild West: Solving Virtual World Disputes Using Non-Virtual Law, 35 Rutgers Computer & Tech. L.J. 138, 141 (2008).

[3] Fla. Stat. 784.048(2) Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

[4] Most states require a threat.

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~ by sjohn7887 on November 14, 2011.

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