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Stalking, literally meaning sureptitiously following someone, has come to be used to describe repeated, out-of-process attempts to become involved in a victim's life. The term saw popular use starting in the 1980s, when laws prohibiting stalking were enacted to provide PreemptiveJustice?. Most stalker incidents involve a woman being followed by an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. Just as often the gender roles are reversed. There have also be stalking cases involving current, former, and potential employers. Stalking can occur when faith relationships sour, or when a fan has an inappropriate degree of interest in a public figure.

Most stalking is motivated either by mental illness or a desire to provoke fear or anger in the victim. It is an extreme form of the PowerOverCycle.

Stalkers in MeatSpace use phone calls, letters, physical visits, and contact with others in the victim's social circle in an effort to deny the victim the ability to terminate a relationship (deny the RightToLeave). In most jurisdictions stalking is a crime only when threats of harm are made or other unlawful acts occur (such as breaking and entering). Some stalking cases escalate to violence. Sadly, most of the time stalking is seen as the victim's fault (BlameTheVictim).

Widely used debt collection practices are remarkably similar to stalking. In the USA, debt collectors are limited by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Among its chief provisions are limitations on public defamation and contact with the victim's friends and employer.

In online communities, the term "stalking" has been used similarly, but also (confusingly) to describe a wider range of behavior, such as following a person's online activities from one forum/community to another and criticizing or attacking them in each community, or using feedback mechanisms to uprate or downrate the contributors posts based on authorship rather than content.

Behaviour like this can flourish when punitive actions can't be PeerReviewed easily, especially when the actions are anonymous. However, a feedback mechanism with poor ChannelRichness? can also exhibit this phenomenon because one needn't explain one's ratings. Thus, if I rated your comment as crap, it's difficult to say I did that out of malice, especially if people generally AssumeGoodFaith. Really, to understand the motivations of the alleged stalker, more information is required. Maybe he or she has legitimate reasons for thinking the "victim" deserves such treatment.

CategoryRatingSystem CategoryConflict CategoryDifficultPerson


Mullen, et al. (1999) developed a multiaxial typology of offline stalking based on a study of convicted Australian stalkers in a mental health unit. From this, they identified the following types of stalkers, where we (here) place them on a scale between Sex and Vengence (as extracted from MacFarlane and Bocij, 2003):

More related to sex

More related to vengence

The relationship between the victim and the stalker offline was skewed heavily towards former intimates (quoting from the article):

"The stalkers were ex-partners in 44 (30%) of the instances; 34 (23%) had had a professional relationship with the victim, most often a medical practitioner. Initial contact had been through work-related interaction with fellow employees or customers in 16 cases (11%). Casual acquaintances made up 28 (19%) of the victims, with 20 (14%) having no previous contact with the victim. There were three stalkers of celebrities. Twelve women stalked women, and nine men stalked men."

McFarlane and Bocij (2003) discovered four major types of cyberstalking (as summarized below):

The relationships between the stalkers and the victims were far less intimate online than offline. While only 14% of offline victims did not know their stalker, 22% of the offline victims did not know their stalker; further, 33% of the online victims had just met their stalkers in some online forum. roughly While only an 12% online had a previous intimate relationship, 30% did online. And more to the point, not all online stalking is related to vengence; some is just a naked ploy for power, which is particularly distressing in the case of the random vindictive stalkers who are also the most dangerous. Since all stalking is related to power, this suggests the 'Net affords these purer forms more readily than in person, perhaps due to the safety of anonymous and pseudonymous communication (WalledIdentity) that gives room for these impulses (AnonymityIsPower).


McFarlane, L. and Bocij, P. (2003). An exploration of predatory behaviour in cyberspace: Towards a typology of cyberstalkers. First Monday, 8(9). Available from http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_9/mcfarlane/index.html

Mullen, P.E., Pathé, M., Purcell, R., and Stuart, G.W. (1999). A study of stalkers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(8), 1244-1249.

In opening the KuroShin ratings up to public view, one of the most interesting results was that almost all of the perceived "stalker" issues were imaginary. There were several people who had felt themselves to be the victim of systematic downrating, and assumed it was one person in particular doing it, who discovered upon inspection that the downrating was the result of a wide variety of people, acting alone.

There were two cases of actual people acting as "stalkers". One was [Latrell Sprewell], who was systematically stalking and downrating many of the TrollTalk gang, for reasons that no one is clear on.

The other was much more interesting. People were very surprised to discover that [tewl] was another apparent stalker of TrollTalkers. She was actually a pretty frequent reader of TrollTalk, and seemed to enjoy bantering with the regulars. Her comments and diary gave no indiciation that she was at all the sort of person to engage in ratings stalking. And even her ratings were extremely inconsistent. She'd rate someone a one for a coment, then say the same thing herself in another comment. The whole scene was highly schitzoid.

So I emailed her, to see if she had any explanation. Well, she ended up posting [A Diary Entry] about it. It turns out, she works at a large law firm, with several other K5ers, and she's a "floater", which means she uses many different computers during the day. She was leaving her account logged in on these, and a co-worker was using it to stalk certain people, with her username. So, it is a case of stalking, but not by the apparent perpetrator. Bizarre.

Since the opening of peer review, a few people who were frequently controversial and downrated by others with an obvious bias against their opinion have noted that they are not downrated nearly as much anymore. This is what open ratings was intended to do, and I feel that so far, it's been very successful. --RustyFoster


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