Whether you run a simple Internet forum for like-minded individuals or a social media site like Myspace, bullying is an issue. Online, a bully can feel invincible, protected by the vast enormity of the worldwide Web. Confronting someone on the Internet is so much easier than doing it in person.
Social networking site Ask.fm has recently announced they'll be fighting online bullying after a group of separate suicides in the UK led child safety groups to rally against the site, which was linked to their deaths. But should the cheap hosting site owner be held responsible? Should they be expected to be ‘cyberpolice' of sorts, weeding out the instances of bullying and acting accordingly?
Cyberbullying: The Facts
In a recent study by The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), who believes that social media sites should most definitely be held responsible for keeping bullying off their cheap hosting sites, 81% of respondents feel cyberbullying is a detrimental to the overall mental health of children and teens. 12% of them feel cyberbullying is more harmful than traditional bullying.
The NAPD believe that parents should most definitely have an active role in policing the activity of their teens online (66% of those surveyed said the same), but they also believe that social media sites should be employing people charged with the specific task of seeking out cyberbullies and deleting offensive posts.
Cyberbullying: What About The Government?
Following the deaths of the UK teens, Labour MP Barry Sheerman said, “The government is simply not showing enough leadership in this area, the fact is the response has been inadequate. Childhood is being squeezed all the time, particularly by this horrific manipulative bullying children are now exposed to online.
“We need the government and leadership across the political parties to come together and tackle this. There is no simple solution, we need to find a balance between legislation and conversation with the people who run these sites, but if the law needs changing, then let's do it.”
There's no question PM David Cameron is on board with this, with his efforts to filter out questionable content nationwide. Regarding this issue, Cameron wants a full boycott of Ask.fm if it neglects to “step up to the plate, clean up their act and show some responsibility.”
Cyberbullying: The Blame Game
Whether or not the government should be in charge of wiping out cyberbullying is up for debate. In regards to the Ask.fm example, the social media site already has policies in place. The site “actively encourages our users and their parents to report any incidences of bullying, either by using the in-site reporting button, or via our contact page.” Additionally, Ask.fm has extended its condolences to the family affected and has pledged full cooperation with authorities.
UK parenting site Netmums feels that parents and teachers can only do so much to monitor the activity of their children. They call on experts, activist groups, and ultimately the websites themselves to take action. In the end, though, they feel this isn't going to do enough. “Ultimately there needs to be action taken by the government,” said the site in a statement.
Cyberbullying: The Big Question
Will even government intervention stop cyberbullies? While most can agree that social media sites do bear responsibility in acting against cyberbullies, many more are against the government dictating what is or is not an instance of bullying. And then, how much further would they go in the censorship of the Internet? Would this new task of seeking out cyberbullies be used in other ways, such as Internet surveillance?
How do you feel about this issue? Should the cheap hosting company be held responsible for the content contained on the sites they host? Should the website owner be doing more to prevent this activity? Or, should the government get involved?