Beating the CyberBully
If you have an online life, you know the CyberBullies are stalking around you. They send you hate mail or leave anonymous/faked comments on your blog. They hide their identities because they are not brave enough to own their own words. They live in the muck and tar of disease and depression and they are not happy unless they can try to bring you down to their sycophant level.
I have always wondered why sending death threats via postal mail or the telephone will get you arrested while uttering the same sort of dark nonsense on the internet rarely gets an authoritarian look unless you know how to press the matter.
I’m delighted to report that things are changing and the CyberBully can now be prosecuted for bad behavior on the Internet.
Prosecutors have begun bringing criminal charges under a new Missouri cyberbullying law passed in reaction to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl who was harassed on the Internet. After the suicide of Megan Meier and subsequent prosecution of her adult neighbor Lori Drew, lawmakers in Missouri amended the state’s harassment law to cover electronic bullying and stalking.
Drew, 49, was convicted last month of several federal misdemeanors for her role in what prosecutors called a cruel online hoax — using the social networking site MySpace — that allegedly led Meier to kill herself. Drew was prosecuted in Los Angeles, where MySpace’s computer servers are located, after authorities in Missouri said no state laws had been broken.
Almost half the states now have anti-CyberBully laws and more unions are joining the good fight every day:
Her enemies nicknamed her “Pork and Beans.” Eggs and thumbtacks were thrown at her car in August, police say. A week later, the 16-year-old St. Peters girl found a can of beans dumped on the car’s roof. Text messages — spurred by jealousy over a boy — soon filled the girl’s cell phone. Then came vulgar voice mails: one caller even threatening rape.
As a result, prosecutors used a new cyber harassment law to charge a 21-year-old St. Charles woman. Nicole A. Williams is charged with misdemeanor harassment. She is accused of sending harassing text messages to the girl and letting friends use her cell phone to leave threatening voice messages. Her case is one of at least seven involving adults in the St. Louis area filed since Missouri’s new cyber-bullying law took effect Aug. 28. Williams’ is the first harassment case involving text messaging filed in St. Charles County under the new law.
Eighteen states now have laws targeting Internet harassment and cyber-stalking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the fallout of the cyber-bullying case of Dardenne Prairie teenager Megan Meier, legal experts say the long-term impact of such laws is just beginning to take shape. Illinois lawmakers passed a similar law this year, but it doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1. The law includes prohibiting a website with third-party access that contains “harassing statements made for the purpose of alarming, tormenting or terrorizing a specific person.”
Singapore steps up to punch the CyberBully:
A 16-YEAR-OLD girl here created fake profiles on popular social networking sites MySpace and Facebook with a single-minded purpose: To befriend those she disliked in school. Once the connections were made, the teen turned on her schoolmates, hurling nasty insults at them.
The bullying was reminiscent of a now infamous 2006 case where American teenager Megan Meier killed herself after being taunted online. In that case, the mother of a former friend created a phony online profile to bully the girl.
According to psychologist Vanessa von Auer, the Singaporean girl was discovered by the school before her victims could suffer any deep emotional scars. Psychologists, counsellors and teachers, however, are worried that the methods of Singaporean cyber bullies have morphed into something more vicious than before. A 2006 survey found that a quarter of 3,488 Singaporean students polled had been victimised by cyber bullies.
‘The new breed of bullies is narcissist. They treat the Internet as their stage, with an instant audience of thousands – or even millions,’ said Dr Carol Balhetchet, the director of youth services at the Singapore Children’s Society. ‘It just takes one to get it going, and it’s like wildfire. Online, users can see what others are doing, even if they’re half a continent away,’ said Dr Balhetchet.
YouTube, MySpace and Facebook stand up to the CyberBullies to stare ‘em down:
Victoria Grand, YouTube’s head of policy, says she didn’t see the video and can’t comment on it but has “tremendous sympathy” for the family. YouTube has “a zero-tolerance policy for predatory behavior, stalking, threats and harassment” and reacts to most flags in less than an hour, she says; videos raising “more complicated” issues may take longer. Last week, YouTube took a major step by unveiling a new “Abuse and Safety Center” tool, including a tab on its home page that leads users through a step-by-step reporting process. Also, citing “the increasing number of videos showing children involved in violence,” YouTube recently changed language on a menu for flagging problems in order to encourage reporting.
MySpace, the biggest social-networking site, is building technology to improve its capacity to delete hate speech and other harmful postings even before users report them, Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer, told an industry safety conference last week. The site has been expanding e-mail and phone-reporting conduits for parents and generally responds within 24 hours. Parents can flag abuse through either the “Contact MySpace” tab or the “Safety Tips” tab, which links to a “For Parents & Educators” page and a parent guide to MySpace, part of News Corp., owner of The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook is continuing to refine its reporting and take-down procedures, says chief privacy officer Chris Kelly. The site posts “Report this” tabs and commits to responding within 24 hours to complaints about nudity, pornography or harassment of minors. Its Facebook.com/safety page has a link to an auditing firm to provide feedback on its responsiveness. Another site, myYearbook.com, posts a “Report Abuse” icon and usually responds within 24 hours.
What we need is a Federal criminalization of CyberBullying — in order to nullify the notion of “Safe Haven CyberBully States” — and I’m sure a nationwide blanket policy against CyberBullying is on its way, because no fair human community of conscience would ever rightfully support hurting and terrorizing people online, in person, or in their dreams.