It should be pointed out that criminal behavior, by itself, does not indicate mental illness. Most of the time, criminals are just ordinary people who had been pushed to crime by external conditions and lacked the willpower to resist. However, there are individuals who do not need an external stimulus to engage in illegal or anti-social behavior. Abnormal lack of impulse control, lack of inhibitions, hallucinations, paranoia, poor communication skills etc. are all manifestations of psychiatric illness.
Individuals who commit crimes due to mental instability are few and far between but, all too often, they are the most feared and dangerous criminals. Pedophiles, stalkers, serial killers more often than not are from this category and the same applies to the cyberworld. Abnormally powerful motivations lead them to achieve their aims by any means necessary. At the same time, totally random and erratic online behavior also makes it extremely difficult for the law to know where or who they are or even when they will strike next.
In the real world, a pedophile is one who has an abnormal sexual attraction towards children. Online pedophiles are no different apart from the fact that they have a much larger pool of victims. There are two types of pedophiles; passive and active pedophiles. Passive pedophiles simply use the Net to find and download pornographic pictures or videos of children. They get an inexplicable pleasure out of watching images of children in various stages of nudity and bizarre positions. This has always been immoral but became illegal only recently in the United States. All pornographic material involving children has been banned on the premise that the children involved had their rights breached when the pictures were being taken.
However, active pedophiles do not stop at merely looking at pictures. With the advent of this law, many passive pedophiles have also taken their pleasure to a new level. By hanging out at chat rooms and making friendly conversation, they gradually get into close relationships with children. Eventually, they convince their impressionable victims to reveal personal information and ask them to meet them somewhere, preferably in secluded areas. Sexual assault or rape usually follows. This is an example of cybercrime taking to the real world.
Cyberstalkers tend to wait in the shadows and torment their victims from a distance.
Not as directly dangerous as active pedophiles, cyberstalkers prefer to wait in the shadows and torment their victims from a distance. Cyberstalkers are of various kinds and are not always sexually aberrant. Some stalkers simply want revenge on their victims for something he or she may have done a long time ago. However, the fact that these individuals resort to such unusual methods of payback means that they are mentally unsound anyway. As a result, the victim will receive threatening messages via phone, email or maybe even fax. His or her PC is also likely to be hacked into and taken control of. Usually, however, cyberstalkers have sexual motivations and seek all ways and means to observe their victims closely at all times. Often, observing their victims getting increasingly distressed makes them feel all the more powerful and motivated.
A pedophile is one who has an abnormal sexual attraction towards children.
This is probably the most dangerous type of cybercriminal of all. Highly unpredictable, they themselves rarely have a clear plan of who and when they will strike. There rarely is or needs to be a motive to kill and the Internet is an invaluable tool in finding and tracking down his or her victims. Disorganized killers are the kind who have lost all control over their actions and tend to be social outcasts due to their typically low IQs and inability to relate normally with others. They are usually somewhat easier to catch as they are poor at covering their tracks. It is when intelligence is combined with a desire to kill that a really dangerous criminal emerges. Organized killers know exactly what they want, how to get it, and how to get away with it. The notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter from the movie “The Silence of the Lambs” is a fictional example of such a person. Imagine the terrifying ease with which such a person would propagate crime with a tool like the Internet on his or her hands.
Psychiatric science is still a very long way away from fully understanding the unstable human mind, let alone curing it. Until then, for the good of general society, people who have no control over their actions still have to be charged and punished for their actions just like everyone else.
Psychiatric Illness Associated With Criminality
The Internet: A Breeding Ground for Online Pedophiles
BBC World Home Page: Cyberstalkers