Local News

N.C. Bill Could Punish Cyberstalkers with Jail Time

Posted April 9, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The Internet has opened the door to a new form of harassment called cyberstalking. A Durham woman says someone is sending her harassing e-mail. The situation is especially frustrating because no one can help her.

Christine Chamberlain is a homemaker who set up an embroidery e-mail list on the Internet. She says one of the people on that list, a man from Ohio, is sending her all kinds of abusive messages.

Chamberlain says she has received a half-dozen viruses in the e-mail. She also says the cyberstalker has looked up the names of her neighbors and threatened to tell them she is a thief.

"It's incredibly intrusive in my life," says Chamberlain. "It's taking up hours and hours and hours of my time trying to trace who is sending these e-mails to me."

It scared Chamberlain enough to call the Durham Police Department. An officer took a report, but said the department cannot help.

"We definitely wish there was more we could do," says a Durham officer.

There is a North Carolina law that makes profane e-mail a misdemeanor. However it does not cover viruses or out-of-state e-mail.

RaleighRepresentative Bob Hensleyhas introduced a more comprehensive bill to help people like Chamberlain.

"The introduction of any virus or boot sector or Trojan horse or anything like that into a computer makes it a Class H felony," says Hensley. "It's not just jail, but it allows our Attorney General to extradite people from other states who send these types of devices in from other states to ruin North Carolina computers."

Chamberlain says she is in favor of the bill being passed.

WRAL spoke with the person Chamberlain says has been bothering her. The man admits sending two harsh messages, but says he does not consider it harassment.

If you are getting harassing e-mail here are some tips:

  • Save the e-mail and print out a copy.
  • Look into privacy protection programs that can block e-mail.
  • Have your name cleared from online directories.