The National Centre for Cyberstalking Research (NCCR) was established to address the need for research and analysis of the increased threat of cyber abuse to individuals and society.
The Centre is interdisciplinary in nature and draws upon the expertise of a number of people working in different fields including health, computer science, psychology, sociology and law.
The Centre engages with multi-agency groups in the criminal justice system.
The NCCR team carried two versions of Electronic Communication Harassment Observation (ECHO) and provided insight on the devastating impact of cyberharrasment on victims and is actively working to improve support available.
More recently, experts from medical discipline joined the team to evaluate the impact of cyberharrasment particularly on people living with chronic conditions and disabilities in the UK.
Findings showed that people with disabilities were vulnerable to online abuse and struggling for health and legal remedies.
This issue was found to be a continuation to the documented discrimination against people with disabilities -such as hostile incidents or hate crimes- which was further reshaped by the involvement of technology in our everyday lives, resulting into continuous trauma from anonymous offenders or known offenders equipped with technology.
It is documented that cyber abuse is associated with physical and mental health consequences such as depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), social isolation, unemployment or even suicide.
With such consequences in mind the team is concerned about the risk of such impact on people with chronic conditions and disabilities who are already coping with illness in everyday life and vulnerable to discrimination or abuse.
In order to address this issue, an ongoing project is being carried, targeting people with long term conditions and disabilities in the UK and encouraging them to share their negative online experiences via an online survey as a first step:
The aim is to understand these experiences and inform/propose improvements to the current system of support, and call for clear collaboration between healthcare, police and non-governmental organisations.
National Centre for Cyberstalking Research, University of Bedfordshire, UK