Stalking by WhatsApp

In Italy, stalking was introduced by Law Decree no. 11 of 2009 so that any continuative harassing, threatening or persecuting behaviour which causes a state of anxiety and fear in the victim or which forces the victim to change his lifestyle, is punished.

 In 2013, the rules on stalking were updated and now, Article 612-bis of the Italian Criminal Code, provides that the penalty is increased by up to half if the act was committed by electronic or telematic means.

The article was recently referred to in a case where a person was convicted of stalking by means of WhatsApp. In particular, in the initial proceeding, the convicted person objected that telephone messaging between only two users, such as WhatsApp, could not be qualified as an electronic mean.            
However, the Italian Supreme Court rejected that objection and, by judgement no. 3989/2019, ruled a 6-month jail sentence, qualifying the telephone messaging between two users as a suitable circumstance to aggravate the crime of stalking.          

The Supreme Court, therefore, judged that the use of WhatsApp fully falls within the scope provided by Article 612-bis, hence it has to be considered among the electronic and telematic means suitable to aggravate the crime of stalking and the penalty inflicted.

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