Alyson Hannigan's Online Stalker: Is a 3-Year Posting Ban the Answer?

4 years ago

When a New Hampshire man posted online comments about actress Alyson Hannigan, including threats to kill her and her family, she took the matter to court. The result was a three-year restraining order banning him from posting anything online about her or her family and from making any effort to meet her.

Alyson Hannigan, Alexis Denisof and family by MWP via ZumaPress

The stalker, John Hobbs, apparently agreed to the terms the judge set down. There were no fines, no jail time, just a warning in the form of a restraining order.

Hannigan, known for her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie and How I Met Your Mother, is married to her former Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof. They have two children (Hannigan was pregnant with her second daughter in the photo above).

According to this report in The Mary Sue, there had been a temporary restraining order against the man earlier in the year.

Earlier this year, E! News reported Hannigan got a temporary restraining order against a New Hampshire man after he threatened not only her, but her family, online. They write the man “has possessed a pistol permit since 2000 and was recently discharged from a mental hospital.”

Hannigan is married to former Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof and the couple have two girls together. The individual in question posted threats of violence and death on Facebook more than once with one directly mentioning Denisof. In her original filing, Hannigan reported local police visiting the man who “fully acknowledged his interest” in the actress. They say he agree to visit a mental-health clinic but still said he would be traveling to California to find her.

Question: Are Restraining Orders the Answer

The case involving Alyson Hannigan is just one in a long string of similar cases. Sometimes when the identity of the person doing the harassing is revealed, all anyone gets is a public apology. At least in this case, there is a rule of law to provide more clout.

But my question is this: are restraining orders enough in this type of situation? A restraining order is just a piece of paper. It provides no physical restraint. Should there be more? Should there be fines, jail sentences, required mental health counseling? Should stalkers be put on probation and required to wear ankle bracelets so that police can track their location at all times?

At the very least, couldn't people who threaten others online be deprived of Internet service and a data plan on their cell phone?

We live in a very public world, a very small world. Privacy for anyone, not just celebrities, is more and more an issue. We know women get threatened online just for speaking at conferences or being bloggers. You don't have to be a well-known celebrity to be threatened in our current online culture of haters, trolls, and crazies. Are legislators and the legal system in step with the current culture, or do we need some changes – fast?

Virginia DeBolt, BlogHer Section Editor for Tech
Virginia blogs at Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

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