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Abuse Using Technology

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Updated: August 11, 2016

How does online harassment differ from online stalking (cyberstalking)?

Online harassment and online stalking (cyberstalking) resemble each other and often happen at the same time, but the laws covering each behavior may differ.

Cyberstalking laws usually require proof that the abuser’s harassing behaviors made you feel scared that you or someone else was in immediate physical danger, and that the abuser knew his/her actions would make you feel that way. Cyberstalking laws also usually require proof that the abuser engaged in a “course of conduct” (more than one incident).

Online harassment laws may cover a broader degree of abusive behavior. Many online harassment laws can cover just one incident and may not require proof that the abuser knew or should have known his/her actions would cause you fear. However, some online harassment laws may require you to prove that the abuser meant to annoy or alarm you (or should have known his/her actions would annoy or alarm you), and/or that the abuser had “no legitimate purpose” for his/her actions. To see how your state defines harassment, you can read the language of the law on our Crimes page. Note: Not every state has a crime called “harassment,” but on WomensLaw.org we list similar crimes found in each state.