Social networking sites, internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile phone companies should do more to help victims of online stalking, according to research from the University of Bedfordshire.
The study by the university's National Centre for Cyber-stalking Research (NCCR) found that a third of respondents feel let down by ISPs on this issue and want them to take more direct action against cyber stalkers.
NCCR co-director Carsten Maple argued that ISPs have a duty to remove defamatory content, and that victims should be able to get mobile phone operators to block calls from specific numbers, as BT does for landlines.
"Network providers leave it to the phone manufacturers as they claim that blocking numbers is too much on the network. But it's the network that puts through the call so they are the ones responsible," he said.
"People can write all kinds of disparaging things online and some of the survey respondents said they need more help from hosts [to have this taken down]."
Maple explained that most social networking sites have methods for reporting cyber stalking behaviour, but that they are largely inadequate.
Facebook, for example, allows users to block or report people they believe are stalking them, and limit their privacy settings to stop people accessing certain profile information, but Maple told V3.co.uk that most people are not aware of these safeguards.
"It's not so much that Facebook should be doing more. It's more Facebook's communication strategy that needs to be addressed. Clearly the people we surveyed found social networking sites should be doing more to help them," he said.
A Facebook spokeswoman told V3.co.uk that the site removes people if they exhibit threatening behaviour and "is constantly evolving policies to make Facebook as safe as possible".
Finally, Maple noted that more needs to be done to let people know where to get help if they feel they are a victim of cyber stalking.
"People don't know where to go. Do they go to the police or their mobile phone provider?" he said.
The university set up the NCCR in April to research the effects of cyber stalking and to ensure that academic research is carried out into the problem as a basis for prevention and response.
The study warned that the psychological impact of cyber stalking should not be underestimated, as it can be just as traumatic as a sexual assault or terrorist bombing.
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