Cyberstalking crimes increase 37% in Canada

Imagine Googling your name only to find what were supposed to be private, intimate videos and pictures of you posted all over the Internet. The discovery can be the beginning of a nightmare most people can’t even imagine, but this type of cyberstalking is actually among the fastest growing in Canada.

Cyberstalking-related indecent and harassing communication types of offences increased 37% in 2016, representing 1,655 offences reported in all. These cases seem to be so common that Parliament has actually enacted a new category of offence: the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Already, there have been 392 of these cases reported since March 2015.

For someone victimized by this, how do you go about getting these posts taken down? How do you prevent your friends, family or employer from seeing them?

Take this example. A woman had recently broken up boyfriend who claimed that she had been unfaithful in their relationship. Just months after, she found all these images posted on multiple porn sites. To make matters worse, the intimate images had already been watched by potentially hundreds of people by the time she found them.

The case was documented in R. v. A.C. This woman had to fight for three months to get the content removed from the web, but they kept appearing. Despite her efforts, the images still remained available online.

By the time the case came to court in 2017, the court discovered that the woman still receives unsolicited, sexually-explicit messages on social media two years after the images and videos were first posted online.

If that wasn’t enough, the court discovered that her former boyfriend deliberately attached her name, age, ethnicity, and place of birth to the images. And despite all this, the offender only received a five month prison sentence, while she will likely have to deal with the consequences of his actions for the rest of her life.


Cyberstalking is a growing problem 

In Canada, approximately 8% of women have experienced cyberstalking within their lives. 

This online harassment can include receiving repeated texts, emails or social media messages. It can also include doxxing — posting someone’s personal contact information, such as phone numbers, emails, or home addresses. Its worst form, revenge porn, involves sharing intimate videos or pictures online without the person’s consent which threatens their safety, reputation, and mental health.

Women on online dating platforms, like Tinder and OkCupid, have been reported being doxxed by spurned males who create fake accounts distributing their cell phone numbers and even their home addresses. One woman who experienced this was turned away by the RCMP when she tried to report the incidents. 

And this problem is likely widespread. In 2016, Angus Reid reported that nearly half of all Canadians aged 18–34 reported being harassed on social media. Unsurprisingly, many of the early online harassment or cyberstalking cases we looked at involve people under the age of 34 who are more active on online platforms. Sadly, women, visible minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience this harassment.

Cyberstalking is a serious offence and taking action is recommended if you are being targeted. Call us to find out how you can pursue a legal avenue if you are dealing with an online harasser or cyberstalker. 604-685-8889.


Police have been ignoring harassment issues for too long

Stories of cyberstalking involve a range of offences but they are all horrifying. In seemingly less serious cases, it can be very hard for victims of cyberstalking to have any recourse through the law or police.

But finally, it seems the legal system is starting to do something about it. 

In 2015, Parliament implemented Bill C-13, which added non-consensual distribution of intimate images to the Criminal Code under s. 162(1). Since coming into effect there have been 392 incidents of non-consensual distribution of intimate images reported to police.

Even with this legislation, the fear is that all too often, police aren’t taking these cases seriously. 

In an extreme example out of Port Coquitlam, one man eventually pleaded guilty to 46 counts of criminal misconduct involving 25 online victims he tormented in 2013 and 2014.

Almost all of the offences involved using a computer to harass the victims who were usually young, female online gamers. The offender regularly threatened to release personal information of his victims, hacked their social media accounts, and also “swatted” his victims by sending police to their addresses with fake emergency calls involving hostage situations or bomb threats. The victims had their homes raided and were dragged out in front of their neighbours at gunpoint.

One of these online victims called police after the man demanded compromising photos from her, but was told to ignore the man’s online threats, even though he had threatened to reveal her credit card information and disrupt her Internet service unless she complied.


Canada’s cyberstalking laws are barely catching up to an online world

Over a year after Bill C-13 passed, the first case under s. 162.1(1) was reported in R. v. P.S.D.

This case involved a couple who had a volatile on again/off again relationship. The man in the case took and distributed intimate photos of his ex-girlfriend without her consent while she was partially clothed. He then sent them to his friends with instructions to save them.

The judge noted this case was unique because the photos were taken while the victim was not consenting — as opposed to photos sent consensually and later reposted non-consensually. But despite these aggravating factors, the man was sentenced to just two years probation.

The judge said young people and women are especially vulnerable to these types of crimes:

“Where such conduct includes cyber-bullying, in which the victim is further tormented by the receivers or recipients of those images, the result has even been tragic, with young women seemingly taking their own lives as a result.”


Nobody should have to worry about being safe online

The British Columbia branch of the Canadian Bar Association recommends six steps if you are being stalked, harassed, or cyberbullied.

  1. Telling the person to stop and not replying to any harassing message aside from this request to stop.
  2. Reporting the problem to the police, and giving them a detailed record of all incident or materials, including time, date, place, who was involved and what was said. Making back ups of all text messages, emails, social media interactions, or online posts is also recommended.
  3. If cyberstalking is happening at school, to report it to school authorities as well as the police. Or if it happens at work, report it to your boss.
  4. Reporting cyberbullying or harassing communications to your Internet or cell phone company. Companies might be able to cancel the service of a customer who violates their acceptable use of service policies.
  5. If you are harassed via landline, dialing *57 immediately after a harassing call ends — the phone company can record the phone number that made the call so the police can get it. Cell phone companies can also help in tracking calls.
  6. If you need civil protection in court, seeking out legal aid.

Cyberstalking is a serious offence and taking action is recommended if you are being targeted. Call us to find out how you can pursue a legal avenue if you are dealing with an online harasser or cyberstalker. 604-685-8889.

Written by