Perhaps because Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have been around for some time now, we’ve forgotten just how easy it is for others to participate in cyberstalking, stalking but via the Internet. Recently, however, a man who works for the Silicon Valley giant, Google, has been indicted on multiple charges of cyberstalking and 1 count of computer intrusion. A San Jose resident working in Mountain View, 23-year-old (name withheld to protect the accused) allegedly used his computer savvy to stalk a former University of Texas at Dallas classmate.
For a period of 15 months, the FBI reports, he worked to persuade a woman who is referred to only as “CC” to send photographs of her breasts to a disclosed (Gmail Account A) a website he seemingly held out to belong to a scientific enterprise. Once CC was eventually convinced, by the promise of a good bit of money, to send in the photos, she was contacted, according to the FBI, by another person (Gmail Account B), who told her they’d come across the photographs on the ‘net and would be happy to keep them from ending up spamming the internet, if CC provided more explicit photographs. Investigators eventually determined that both Gmail accounts belonged to the same IP address and an arrest was made. Turns out that CC knew him from college and was able to identify his photograph.
California law provides extreme remedies for those who have been stalked or harassed via the Internet (“cyberstalking”). According to CA Penal Code 646.9, in order to be convicted of cyberstalking a federal charge, prosecutors must be able to prove that threats and/or harassment made electronically must cause the victim to experience fear, either for themselves or for their loved ones, as a consequence of the stalker’s actions. This crime is a ‘wobbler’ in the state of California, meaning that it may be prosecuted at will as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. Conviction on a misdemeanor cyberstalking charge may mean 1 year maximum in county jail and a $1,000 fine; a felony sentence means facing up to 5 years in state prison, a fine of $1,000 and potential lifetime registration as a sex offender (CA Penal Code 290).