Digital violence and stalking
Digital violence refers to a phenomenon where someone is harassed, controlled, monitored, or stalked with technology. The technology used is, for example, smartphones, computers, social media platforms and instant messaging services, e-mail, location devices or internet connected home electronics.
Violence can also occur as an attempt to restrict another person’s use of technology. Digital violence often occurs as a form of domestic violence where the perpetrator is the victim’s partner, former partner, or another family member.
Digital violence is not included in the criminal code of Finland. However, many acts of digital violence can fulfil the essential elements of an offence. The criminal classification can be, for example, stalking, tapping or identity theft.
The essential elements for digital violence can, for example, be that the person:
- threatens or repeatedly and intentionally insults you in calls or messages
- continuously calls or sends you messages and gets angry if you do not answer immediately
- requires you to prove with photos or video calls that you are where you say you are
- requires getting or secretly takes your login information to social media, e-mail or other electronic services in order to follow your activities or to pretend to be you
- checks your phone without permission or requires you to show your messages or calls
- controls your use of social media, such as what content you are allowed to publish or who you may be friends with or follow
- spreads or threatens to spread intimate images or video material of you
- takes photos or intercepts you with various devices
- tracks your location using the location data or other positioning equipment on your device
- monitors your activities using spyware installed on your smartphone, computer, or other device that you use
Here’s how you can protect yourself from digital violence or stalking:
- Check the privacy settings of your social media accounts. All information should not be shared publicly.
- Do not give your login details or password to anyone. Do not save your login information on devices that you share with someone else.
- Take control of the data security. Learn how to protect your account and device from intrusion and spyware. You get good basic information, for example, from Yle’s Digital training service (Digitreenit)
- Protect your account and your device with a strong password. Do not use the same password in multiple services. Enable a 2-step verification if possible.
- Enable login notifications in all services where possible showing you if someone has logged in to your account from a new device.
- Be especially careful if you get a device as a gift from a potential perpetrator or if the perpetrator has access to your devices. Various spyware programs can be installed on the devices.
If you suspect that you have been subjected to digital violence or stalking
- Contact professionals to analyse your situation. For example, Victim Support Finland, The Women’s Line Turv@verkko services and the support centre Tukikeskus Varjo offer free help. Make a criminal report to the police if necessary.
- If you notice or suspect that a spyware program has been installed on your device, do not delete it without permission from the police as you might delete important evidence. You can get a separate secure device with a prepaid contract to manage important matters.
- Save received messages and call records. If necessary, take screenshots.
Sources and additional information: Hakkarainen, Louna: Digitaalinen väkivalta parisuhteessa ja sen jälkeen and Nyman, Linus & Kankaala, Laura: What to Do If Your Ex Is Stalking You With Technology
- Victim Support Finland 116 006
- Lawyer Phone Serive 0800 161 177
- A support person from the service point
- The Women’s Line, Turv@verkko services
- The support center Tukikeskus Varjo