Blog Assignment #1 (COM0011) Post #3: Cyberbullying and the Law

Keyboard-with-handcuffsCanada is among the world leaders of internet use and social media penetration in the world. According to recent studies, 86% of Canadians use the Internet and 91% of Canadian Internet users have a social media account.

As the Internet and social media become more prevalent in people’s everyday lives, it’s opened up a Pandora’s box of cybercrimes such as computer hacking, online fraud, identity theft, cyber terrorism, online sexual exploitation, physical violence and sexual assault. While Canada has taken steps to confront cybercrimes, the breakneck pace of technological advancements and the cross-border nature of many online crimes will require new policing measures to keep pace with internet-related crimes.

The examples of cybercrimes given may seem to be in obvious conflict with the law, however other – more subtle – crimes are quickly emerging. One example is cyberbullying. While bullying is hardly a new problem, in today’s online world the seriousness and potential harm caused by bullying can escalate rapidly.

Unlike other forms of bullying, the harassment, humiliation, intimidation and threatening of others through cyberbullying occurs 24 hours a day. It is relentless and aggressive, reaching kids at the dinner table while sitting with their parents, or in the privacy of their bedroom. There is no safe zone.

As a tragic response to online bullying, there’s been a number of teen suicides across Canada: from 14 year old Amanda Todd in Port Coquitlam, BC (2012) to 15 year old Todd Loik in North Battleford, Saskatchewan (2013) to 15 year old James Hubley in Ottawa, Ontario (2011) all the way to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where 17 year old Rehtaeh Parson died a few days after attempting suicide on April 4, 2013.

McLeans - Cyber Bullying in Canada

But cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for kids, adults can be bullies too. According to Statistics Canada, 7% of Canadian adults experience some form of online bullying. Examples aren’t hard to come by. In 2009, an Ottawa restaurant owner began an online hate campaign against a dissatisfied customer which included impersonating the victim and sending sexually explicit e-mails. In 2013, a group of mothers in Arizona created a Facebook group to bash pictures of babies toddlers. In 2014, an Ottawa man was charged after a decade-long, cross border campaign of harassment and cyberbullying against 38 people.

According to Get Cyber Safe – national public awareness campaign created to educate Canadians about Internet security –  the following cyber-related offences could be charged:

  • Criminal harassment
  • Uttering threats
  • Intimidation
  • Mischief in relation to data
  • Unauthorized use of a computer
  • Identity fraud
  • Extortion
  • False messages, indecent or harassing telephone calls
  • Counseling suicide
  • Incitement of hatred
  • Child pornography
  • Defamatory libel

However, while measures are already in place to tackle cyber-bullying, some claim it’s not enough. The federal government has addressed these concerns with Bill C-13 – the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act – which comes into force on March 9, 2015.

It’s hard not to applaud efforts to address the problem of cyberbullying and give police greater powers to fight cybercrime. There is no doubt that Canada’s Criminal Code needed to be modernized for the digital age to protect Canadians from online predators and exploitation. However, many believe Bill C-13 is part of a larger agenda aimed at increasing the surveillance powers of police while impinging on Canadians’ fundamental right to privacy using tragic suicide cases as a guise for pushing a broader agenda.

With the March 9 deadline soon approaching, how do you feel about cyberbullying, privacy rights and Bill C-13?

“We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.”
– Carol Todd (Amanda Todd’s mother)
Visit the following links to learn more about Bill C-13:

Have you or someone you care about suffered from cyberbullying?

Don’t suffer in silence, talk to a friend or family member and get help now.

Learn more about Cyber-Bullying, the Law and What You Can Do:

Need help right now? Call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868

Yik Yak, yes or no: anonymous location-based social app raises concerns (COM0011, post #6)

Want to know what everyone’s saying around you? Well, Yik Yak allows you to do just that – listen to all kinds of comments within a 2.4 kilometre radius. Only you don’t know who’s saying it. And if you contribute, no one will know it was you. It’s an anonymous twitter feed that’s based your on location. And even though it’s not intended for high schools, it has become very popular among secondary and university/college students alike, with a few challenges…

For example, two California high schools were put on lock-down recently after bomb threats were posted via Yik Yak (CBC article). According to the Huffington Post, 11 college students in the US have been charged with threats of violence made through the app this past semester alone. The second challenge is a flaw that de-anonymizes users and even allows hackers to hijack someone’s account through third-party software (Softpedia article). I suppose they can look into fixing that – urgently, I hope. But the last issue is, yet again, cyber-bullying.

Recently, an 18 year-old who was encouraged through the app to end her life after a failed suicide attempt started a petition to fix or get rid of it. So far it has nearly 70,000 signatures. “The app claims to not tolerate bullying or threats, but no action is being taken to remove threatening or harmful posts, or suspend users who write them,” the petition reads.

“That is why I am calling on the inventors of the app to create a stronger set of community standards and employ a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and threats — if they don’t, we want the app removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play immediately.”

But like Snapchat, Yik Yak is taking off in popularity and just received an investment of $62 million. What do you think? Should it be banned in schools? Or are people overreacting?


COM0011 Post #4 – The Evolution of Hate

To every positive, there is a negative. Social Media has given us the power to share our thoughts, feelings, interests, and more, and connect with people all over the world like we never could before. It’s a powerful tool with many positive aspects. However, this power has also allowed people to use it for a more darker purpose. It comes in many shapes and forms, but when it boils down to it, it’s simply known as Cyber Bullying.

I ask you to direct your attention to the short video below, as it describes the basics of what Cyber Bullying consists of- if you don’t know already.

Now, I’m sure this is a concept that isn’t new to you. However, it’s becoming a bigger problem on a much larger scale. Teens are falling under the pressures of these poisonous individuals and their increasingly vicious words. I have a few examples of just how atrocious these anonymous attacks can be. I’ve taken the liberty of blurring out usernames, as well as some of the more colourful vocabulary used, for the sake of the public.

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These are just three examples of the thousands of hate messages that get sent to people everyday. My question is, why? It’s always been said that bullies bully because they’re unhappy and uncomfortable in their own lives. But, I can’t help but wonder what the cause is behind these anonymous attacks, and why they’ve become

so vicious. Before the internet, I’d never seen such intense bullying in my everyday life on the schoolyard as a child.

What changed? Is it the false sense of anonymity and security that these individuals possess, as stated in the video above? It’s curious to think about. Especially when one takes a look at a post like this.

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While the message from this series of event should be “Don’t send anyone hate period”, I find it curious that this particular anonymous individual seemed to understand the consequences of what their actions mean if this user actually had taken their life. So, what is the motive in sending these messages to people? Is it out of some sick form of amusement? Boredom? I find it scary to think about the possibilities myself.

Even scarier is what’s occurring as a result of this hate. Victims are starting to spread hate of their own out of frustration to innocent parties. That’s right, people who have done absolutely nothing wrong are receiving hate of their own from victims of bullying simply because they share similar traits to their attackers.

I don’t know about you, but I find the online community becoming a scarier and scarier place with each passing moment.

What do you think can be done to solve the problem of hate online? Personally, I think we need to start educating children and teens about the consequences of their actions both online and offline a bit more than we already do. Especially when it comes to sending online messages of hate and death threats.

(all examples used in this post are taken from Tumblr.)

COM0015 Blog #4 | Cyberbullying: The Ugly Side of Social Media

cyberbullyingPerhaps I’m too much of a decent human being—or just too naïve—but, I’ve never once thought of using social media to harm people or ruin their lives.

Social media has proven itself to be a valuable tool for communicating, engaging and forming relationships, but by the same token, it has also proven itself as an effective tool for cyberbullying and propagating hate. We’ve all seen spiteful messages exchanged on Twitter and Facebook. While adults are guilty of such behaviour, cyberbullying seems most prevalent amongst young people. A survey conducted in 2011 by Kids Help Phone found that 65% of respondents, aged 13 to 17, had been the targets of cyberbullying—defined as being insulted, being threatened or having rumours spread about them via electronic means—at least once. Also according to the survey, cyberbullying is most rampant on social networking platforms with harassment via text messaging coming in second.

No one can dispute that youth must be protected from cyberbullying. Kids Help Phone recommends educating people in Canada about issues relevant to cyberbullying, developing clear definitions and guidelines about what constitutes cyberbullying and supporting work that addresses cyberbullying.

After three Canadian teens, victims of cyberbullying, committed suicide within the last two years, the federal government has decided to crack down on cyberbullying. Last week, the government tabled a bill aimed at modernizing the Criminal Code and combating cyberbullying. If passed, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act would amend existing criminal harassment laws to cover harassment through electronic means. The bill would also make it a criminal offence to knowingly distribute sexually explicit photos of a person without consent; an act punishable by as many as five years in prison.

Along with legislative changes, the federal government announced that it’s taking action to address all forms of bullying through education, awareness and prevention activities, including a number of websites that Canadians can use to get the information they need to protect themselves from online threats as well as report incidences of online sexual exploitation.

Bullying is a behaviour that will most likely never go away, and with the popularity of social media growing, especially among young people, it’s a problem that will only become more prevalent. Legislative changes are helpful, but education is what’s needed. Bullies need to learn the true consequences of their actions, and victims need to know where to turn for help. Society also has a role to play: bullying must become unacceptable. Just as society’s attitude towards smoking changed, so too must its attitude towards bullying. And social media would be the perfect vehicle for an anti-bullying campaign.

Image from the Canadian Press/Sheila Boardman

COM0011-521: “You’re Banned from Social Media!!!”

Yesterday, a Nova Scotia (NS) Crown attorney asked a judge to kick a 15-year-old girl off social media as part of her sentencing after she pleaded guilty to a “brutal” assault that was filmed and posted on Facebook.

cyber bullying keypadYou’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of the rise of cyber bullying in Canada and the US.  Mostly girls, examples of teens that succumbed to the online bullying include high profile cases like Amanda Todd , a 15-year old from British Columbia (BC), and Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year old from NS, both of whom committed suicide after repeated online or cyber bullying.

Another case involves a 15-year old girl from NS who was charged after a female student — with autism — was punched at school earlier this year.

“It was a planned attack. It was lunchtime, the accused stood and waited for the victim to come through the hall at lunchtime, stated her name and then sucker punched her, knocked her on the floor and proceeded to grab her by the hair and kick her in the head and facial area,” said Steve Drake, the Crown attorney. “It all happened in approximately 10 to 12 seconds. It was brutal.”

As horrible as this was, it was the actions of a second student who filmed the assault and posted it on Facebook, spreading the episode and garnering unwanted attention, that raised the profile of this incident

The NS Attorney General likens the social media ban to barring a drunk driver from driving or requiring a drug abuser to stay away from drugs. Here’s the issue — How do you effectively enforce the ban when there are a multitude of devices from which one can access social media tools?

I perceive this as similar to “shunning” in certain religious communities in that enforcement responsibility lies with family, friends and the local community to ensure this girl does not access social media.

Will this be enough of a deterrent? Will this engage others, such as parents and the local community to help combat cyber bullying?

What are your thoughts?