There has been a lot of talk recently about this incident of a youth suicide as a consequence of bullying. It’s interesting not simply because a poor young girl suffered, nor because she was caused to take her own life, but because much attention and worry has been put upon the means by which she was caused to do so, namely the internet.
As per the (uncorroborated) facts, it sounds like the person who perpetrated this was an adult. This raises the concern of pedophilia. Pedophilia and harassment, truly a terrible combination.
Where for are we to then look for a resolution of this? We cannot bring the girl back, nor will punishing the perpetrator do a whole lot to stop such things from happening (not to say that shouldn’t/ will not occur). Websites like 4chan, reddit, youtube, really any website where people act and speak from a position of anonymity have always been places where hate is thrown about as if it were a plush play ball, and trolling a game. Ought we to remove the resource of anonymity? What ought we do? Ought we do anything at all?
I believe that to react to this case, at all, would be a mistake. No good legislation ever comes from knee-jerk reactions. And I do not believe that we ought to here do that.
I think the problem is one of morality. You knew I was going to say that, and perhaps saying so is a cop-out. People will believe what they believe, and as many people get stepped upon, they’re going to continue to stomp upon others. I have even heard claims which amount to bullying being natural, and what we perceive to be a wave of online hate is actually nothing novel, but since we’re all connected we can just see it all now.
When it comes down to it, I think we need to continue to teach our kids well, and to as adults not allow the adults which we deal with to be dicks. Perhaps that’s the key. Out jerks for what they are, make being an asshole a socially reprehensible act.
As per what ought to be done with respect to the internet? I argue nothing. Anonymity doesn’t just protect those who do evil, it also protects those who do good, and those who simply do. I view the internet as the backbone of international freedom. States and groups can do and act as they please, but with the internet they cannot get a whole lot by us. Without the internet, powerful people and populous groups could do just about anything, get away with it, and really none of us would know.
When I see people attacking the openness of the internet for things like child pornography, hacking, and harassment, I recoil with fright. I believe we’re always going to have such things, but we’re not always going to have a free and open internet. And it is worth keeping the internet open and free, if only for good information (with the bad) and for keeping a free line of communication between all the citizens of the Earth.
Put it this way, if in the time of slavery in the United States there was accounts of sexual abuse in the underground railroad, ought those who depend upon it for their own freedom scrap it in favour of protecting those affected? No. Of course not, because the problems associated with having no underground railroad are larger than these other problems which are going to happen anyway.
We cannot kill the current state of the internet to protect people, because keeping the internet open and free is a great means to protect the very same people.
Now, I am not condoning these terrible things. I am just asking for patience. We need to keep the internet as it is and we need to turn our focus onto the citizens which constitute our world(s).
It’s really terrible what happened to that girl, and all the other horrible things which occur on the internet ought themselves to be stopped/rectified/known by every soul that lives to be bad. But we’re not going to be able to do this if we scapegoat that resource which we require to make it through this period of transition which is causing all the world(s)’ joints to creak and groan.
The internet isn’t our savior in the sense of Christ without sin, rather the internet is more like a human in that it has a lot of good, a lot of bad, and everything in between. And like a child, depending on how we treat it and what we put into it, and how we interact with it, it will become better or worse accordingly.
I hope we can treat the internet better than we did that poor girl. And perhaps if we can do so then the internet (as an aggregate of information and people) will be in a better position to protect a similar such person in the future.