Friday, August 2, 2013

On-Line Trolls; IRL Trolls; Cyberbullying and the Ability to Block

I was just reading an article about how the women legislator who fought successfully to have Jane Austen put on an English banknote was cyberbullied with rape threats. Luckily the threatening person was caught and is now in police custody. Interestingly rape threats seem to be de rigueur on twitter nowadays when arguing with a female, never mind using the b***, s***, or c*** word during the discussion. Read these eye-opening articles:
Here, Here, Here, Here, Here

Europe has some interesting laws outlining hate speech, verbal threats and there are activists in these countries trying to use  these laws in order to put a stop to twitter hate (death threats, threats of rape, bodily harm, etc). Also in France the courts have required twitter to turn over information related to an antisemitic twitter storm campaign that originated in that country last year.

Fundamentally, in the United States, we have issues with the use of government power to curtail any form of speech. Hate speech only becomes anathema in our nation as a way to "up the ante" for violent crimes. In some areas of the country if the perpetrator of a crime can be shown to have animus based upon religious, ethnic, racial lines the  penalty for a crime goes up exponentially. Other than that, our population is told to "grow a pair" and deal with those that say hateful things to you. Here This is why you will find so many twitter activists will simply retweet the hate so everyone knows who to block or call out as spam.

Yes,  when hate-speech happens in an educational setting we can invoke anti-bullying school programs and anti-hate speech school regulations to make sure that the nastiness stops. Of course that always doesn't work as cyberbullying has now also become epidemic among children and they have found that this behavior lasts through college. Honestly I have seen so much of this on twitter and have actually even occasionally documented (Here) it myself.  Adults are as prone to bullying/trolling and abuse as any child. Sadly sometimes more so. I suppose the real question is simply why is there such an epidemic of hatefulness? Answer: There are no in-real-life consequences for being hateful, overtly or otherwise.

Indeed, anonymity also adds to the ability of those with antisocial tendencies to perpetuate their own misbegotten ways.  That, in fact, is why so many bloggers do not allow anonymous commenting. There has to be some identifiable name or moniker associated with a comment or post. By the by, you can trackback on comments through the cyberbully's ISP if you want to. It's how the authorities catch people worldwide. Personally I haven't blocked anonymous posting yet. But I do regulate comments. If I find any particular comment offensive they don't get posted and on occasion I have left notes in the comment sections to named person not to come back because they violated the rules. Happily it doesn't happen very often on my blogs. But it does happen.

Meanwhile considering the prevalence of bullying and trolling on the internet that goes unreported or undeterred it is not surprising that young people actually feel no compulsion to always be polite, nice or appropriate. This is not even an "autism" related problem. This is a generational issue. So many young people are held to such low standards in their academic and social lives that they have no fear in cyberbullying another individual or in even being disrespectful and caustic in their daily lives.

Parents and educators have no one to blame but themselves. Too often parents of today are afraid to say "no" to their children. The egotistical need to be their child's "friend" instead of their parent is pushing so many of this generation down the wrong path. Educators turn a blind eye because they simply don't want to be sued by the parents for a violation of their children's right of free expression. (Read HERE. A discussion of a father who sued the LAUSD for punishing his daughter who had been cyberbullying another student including posting a viciously evil video up on You Tube. The courts held that the regulation violated the students right of free expression. In the discussion you will notice just how disturbed the father was when challenged for his behavior and the non-lesson he taught his daughter.)

Quite frankly too, in many cases when the parent expects the educators to do something about bullying the educator can't be bothered or they make excuses for the bullier until you as the parent stand-up to school district. By the way, that is the new politically correct part of the bullying issue: feeling bad for the bully and how misbegotten they happen to be. (Yes there are exceptions to every rule. CM2 was lucky enough to have been the recipient of a thoughtful administration Here.) At times, it's almost as if, "he who threatens to sue first wins." Remember bullies are not born, they are certainly made, encouraged and doted upon by narcissistic parents. So I think it is time that we held the parents/guardians responsible for the nastiness of their children as well.

At least on twitter you can block a troll (as I have done) or report them for spam (which I have done as well). There is no "law" that says you have to put up with being the victim or target of a hate campaign. Also there is no rule that you have to engage with a bully on any social media. You block, ignore and report. Sometimes I do try to have fun and keep pushing the trolls' buttons until they completely explode. You know you've won when during a discussion the troll ends up resorting to name calling, vulgar language, even threats. Of course the threats are not very nice and I generally remove myself from the discussion way before that happens, as the troll descends into their state  of mental confusion. I also do not tend to partake in "troll hunting" very often. But when it is a subject near and dear to my heart I won't let ignorance and hate be the only thing people read as they peruse the internet. Also when people tend to get unhinged on the internet they can be unhinged in-real-life, so it is important to know when to block and move on too.

Note: it is very important NOT to feed the troll or you may get this:

Yes I know its Gremlins not Trolls but it's still generally the same idea.

The problem becomes when cyberbullies and in-real-life trolls and bullies pervade your life or your child's life. The question is what are you to do?

In the USA laws do have to catch-up with technology. Luckily some states are implementing laws that add penalties for all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. HERE
and from

The courts and legislatures in most states (California always tends to be the exception to everything not the rule) are remembering that no freedom is absolute and that even the most sacrosanct freedoms outlined in our Bill of Rights come with caveats. Here, Here, Here

Meanwhile, happily employ that block button and teach your child how to protect themselves online from trolls  and in-real-life (cyber) bullies. You can start with this government website.



How to Annoy Your Child on Social Media and Sleep Well at Night