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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Friday is Stop Cyberbullying Day

Andy Carvin has started a new movement to stop internet bullying. This isn't limited to blogs, but to all of the net; in forums, on listsevs, on mailing lists, and on Usenet. Bad behavior isn't limited to the blogging world, nor did they invent it. But it does exist in the blogosphere. Who can forget Trainwrecks, the cyberbullying site galore? Yes, it's gone, but other such trash buckets have sprouted up in it's place, and will continue to do so as long as people think it's funny to embarass and insult other bloggers.

In honor of Kathy Sierra, the Blogher community has joined forces with Andy today and declared that Friday should be Stop Cyberbullying Day. I'm totally behind this movement. I read the account of bullying and intimidation that was made public by Kathy herself. It was a courageous attempt at letting the world know that what happens on the Internet doesn’t stay on the Internet. This community is not one that is going to allow intimidation and scare tactics to overrun its halls. We will stand up for our rights to live without fear of cowards who hide behind anonymity.

I have been a victim myself on more than one occasion, and by Blogher members themselves. Not just a Trainwreck attack, but a concerted effort to attack me continually in a bullying fashion by encouraging their friends to join in the 'fun'. People that behave like this do so because they are insecure and feel threatened when they are disagreed with. I know that from my first of many psychology courses. It's common knowledge that people who get off on bullying are the people who feel the worst about themselves. It's easier to attack than it is to stand back and try to accept people's differences.

Most of my regular readers know that I've been on the internet almost since it's inception. I've seen some extremely ugly cases of cyberbullying over the years, on Usenet, on forums, and yes, in blog comments. In pretty much every case, the person that is the ringleader bully is the person who spends more time complaining about their own misfortunes than actually seeing anything positive in the world. Yes, it's easy to be a negative nelly, but when that attitude colors your entire perception of the world, then it easily leads to attacking people that aren't particularly supportive of your continual complaining.

According to the DesignMeme site, there are 8 different ways to fight cyberbullying. I've include several of her suggestions below:

Take it Seriously

1. Contact the Police
If you are receiving threats of violence, are being made to feel unsafe, or believe a law has been broken—call the police. Don’t believe that “it’s only the internet” and somehow not part of the “real” world. Kathy Sierra did the right thing when she contacted the authorities. Better safe than sorry.

2. Even if it’s not illegal it could still be breaking the rules
While you might at first think that since an abusive comment isn’t “illegal” you have no recourse, don’t forget that the various services we use online each have their own additional rules and regulations. Most companies providing web-hosting, email, and internet access have terms of use that extend beyond what is or is not allowed by law. It may be legal to make certain statements under free-speech laws, but many web hosting providers are more restrictive.

Know Your Enemy

3. WHOIS responsible for this?
If you find bullying content on a website with it’s own unique domain, such as meankids.org, you can use the service at WHOIS.net to lookup information on where a website is hosted. This will usually provide you with the name of the web hosting provider, and you can visit their site to find theirs terms of service and contact info to report any abuse of their service.

4. WHOIS the people in your neighbourhood?
In addition to finding more info on a URL, you can also lookup where an IP address is originating. An IP address is like a digital fingerprint—it’s traceable back to a specific computer. While a user could enter someone else’s (or a ficticious) name, email, or website URL with a comment on your blog, their IP address is recorded automatically. Doing an IP lookup will show you the organization that owns the address (the Internet Service Provider), and often the email address to contact to report abuse of their service. Be sure to include both the IP address and time the comment was posted. In wordpress, the admin panel section for managing comments posted to your blog includes a link from each recorded IP address to the WHOIS search.

Shut them down

5. Bullying Blog Buster
Blogger’s Terms of Service states:

“Member agrees not to transmit through the Service any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, or harmful material of any kind or nature.”

As well as:

“You agree that Pyra (Blogger/Google), in its sole discretion, may terminate your password, BlogSpot Site, use of the Service or use of any other Pyra service, and remove and discard any Content within the Service, for any reason, including, without limitation, for lack of use or if Pyra believes that you have violated or acted inconsistently with the letter or spirit of the TOS (Terms of Service).”

If you find a bullying blog, use the Blogger Problem Reporting Form to let them know about it.

You can similarly report abuse on Myspace.com for any content that is “offensive, illegal or violate the rights, harm, or threaten the safety of any person.”

6. You don’t have mail
If you’re receiving abusive email from a cyberbully, in addition to contacting authorities you can contact the email service provider and have their account supsended. Free email services usually include Terms of Service as well. Gmail states that:

“You shall not, shall not agree to, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: (i) use the Service to upload, transmit or otherwise distribute any content that is unlawful, defamatory, harassing, abusive, fraudulent, obscene, contains viruses, or is otherwise objectionable as reasonably determined by Google.”

If you receive email from a gmail account that is harassing and/or abusive, you can report it to them. Other free email providers like Yahoo! and Hotmail have similar policies, and methods to report problems.


I have actually done the top three, and am responsible for putting a cyberbully who also participated in mail fraud into jail. I'm not proud of this, but this person was so persistant and her actions so vicious that the only way to stop her was to get the authorities involved. Because this person forged my signature onto forms for items sent across state lines, the FBI got involved, and once they took over, she was toast.

This is a great place for educators to begin learning about fighting cyberbullying. Unfortunately, being a cyberbully isn't just for adults anymore. Now more and more children are learning that they can post inflammatory photos and posts about kids they want to pick on. Both MySpace and FaceBook are places where this can happen, although FaceBook is nowhere near as dangerous as MySpace, which is barely regulated.

I urge each and every one of you to join in the movement to stop cyberbullying. If you feel the need to gang up on someone, take a step back and think of the damage you might be doing. Every poster is a human with feelings. If you don't like them, don't attack them. You can disagree with issues all you want, but when you start focussing on the person themselves, that's going over the line.

Unfortunately, some people don't understand the difference and feel that every disagreement on content alone is a personal dig. For those people, get tougher skin. But if someone starts calling you names and says things that are not only unkind, but irrelevant to the topic, that's a person to avoid in the future. If someone is serious about attacking your integrity and your person, stop them in their tracks. You don't need that kind of tsuris.

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81 Comments:

Blogger dsk52 said...

Your comments are very right on and I like that you included steps for DOING somethig about being cyberbullied. I think so many people feel there is nothing they can do about it so suffer in silence. We all need to talk about this issue. Just also wanted to pass along some resources for teacher and parents on this issue that might be helpful including an interactive case study for students - Cyberbullying: Not Just Name Calling - that appears along with a wide variety of other Internet safety materials including a blog on Digital Safety and a booklet parent can download or send for on the Power to Learn site at powertolearn.com- a public service of Cablevision.


Diane S. Kendall
Editor
Children's Software Press

30/3/07 9:08 AM  
Blogger ElisaC said...

This is a terrific post that I'll be including in my Stop CB Day posts at all my blogs today. I hope you'll consider adding it to the comments section of Lisa's newsletter o the subject here:
http://blogher.org/blogher-news/2007/03/today-is-is-stop-cyberbullying-day

30/3/07 10:37 AM  
Blogger canape said...

Great information, Margalit. Thanks for posting it. Cyberbullying can also be from people you do know . . . like ex's. You've posted some really useful links and encouragement to go along with them.

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