For those who are unfamiliar with the term cybermobbing, cybermobbing is when cyberbullies incite large groups of online users — usually the bully’s supporters, followers and online friends — to target a single victim as a group with the intention of causing irreparable harm to the victim. In some cases, this has led to the target committing suicide due to the level of bullying the target is hit with non-stop, and in a very few cases, it has led to homicide when a follower has gone too far with the bullying.
According to Jerry Pinto, Founder of Safe Zones, “Cyber-mobbing is a terribly malicious tool which is employed by cyber-bullies to extend their reach and power over victims.”
A little over a year ago, the media reported that schools in Austria are banning social networking sites such as Facebook from schools due in large part to the increase in cybermobbing. Recently, it was reported in Consumer Reports magazine that in the United States alone, one million children were bullied on Facebook alone. The degree to which someone can be cyberbullied and cybermobbed is staggering when one takes into account the many other social networking sites including, but not limited to, Bebo, LinkedIn, Flickr, Netlog, YouTube, MySpace, StayFriends, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Xing, Vimeo, Clipfish, Windows Live, MyVideo and digg.
It’s gotten to the point where some countries are considering Internet licenses for users in an attempt to educate children on the dangers of the Internet and social networking sites before they find themselves at the centre of cyberbullying and cybermobbing. But cyberbullying and cybermobbing isn’t just the domain of tweens and teens. There appears to be a disturbing trend among some adults as well when it comes to cyberbullying and cybermobbing.
Cybermobbing targets, isolates and attacks the victim. There’s a disparity of force in that there is usually one victim who finds himself or herself facing one or more attackers/cyberbullies. The attacks happen at least once a day although some cyberbullies like to torture their victim with being unable to tell when and where the next attack will happen. The victim is forced to endure negative actions over an extended period of time because it usually takes some time for the victim to be able to prove who the ringleader is. And, unfortunately, the victim is unable to stop the bullying unless the authorities are called in to deal with the attackers, and even then, it can be difficult to be helped by the authorities as the Internet is the Wild West of this generation.
Earlier today, I witnessed an individual who is known for her ability to foment many of her followers and supporters to the point where the group as a whole attacks individuals or organizations that the ringleader dislikes. She had taken a dislike to an individual posting to a group on Facebook for no other reason than she did not like what that person was writing. The person the ringleader did not like had already mentioned that she had been contact via private messages by friends of the ringleader and she was upset and frightened by the comments that had been sent.
When the ringleader saw the individual posting that she had been contacted via private messages by friends of the ringleader, stating that she was upset and frightened by the comments that had been sent, the ringleader publicly added this comment to the discussion thread:
For those who are unfamiliar with John Best, he is an individual with whom Autism Advocates, Autism Warriors, Autism Campaigners, Autism Ambassadors and others in the Autism community have had a number of tussles over the years.
Those who perpetrate attacks on others oftentimes don’t believe they have to follow the same rules as the rest of society and do not believe they should be held accountable for their actions as the ringleader of cybermobs. In fact, ringleaders enjoy the safety that invisibility between themselves and the victim that comes with leading a cybermob. What’s more, cybermobbing has longer lasting effects on the victim than traditional mobbing and has proven to be more damaging in the short and long-term.
In this case, when the desired reaction the ringleader may have hoped to see did not happen, the following exchange happened:
The comment was said to provoke more fear and stress for the ringleader’s target. It may not be obvious to readers of this blog article but the previous statement was deleted by the ringleader after another person posting asked that the ringleader either remove the comment or provide proof that her victim was, indeed, the John Best.
Rather than admit to posting a false allegation or providing proof that her allegation was true, the ringleader merely deleted the comment thereby leaving the impression that it was just as likely the victim was or was not this John Best to whom she had referred. This increased her victim’s chances of being cybermobbed even harder by those of her followers and supporters who choose to believe that the victim is actually John Best in disguise. It doesn’t matter that the person with whom the victim was conversing in that thread stated that the victim was not behaving in a way that was consistent with her experiences of interacting with John Best. What will stick in the minds of many of the ringleader’s followers and supporters is that the victim MAY be John Best.
What makes this scenario all the worse is that the ringleader is an outspoken Autism Warrior who claims to be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. She lays claim to 3,000 followers on Facebook alone. I doubt very much that the ringleader’s target has anywhere near as many Facebook friends; most people don’t.
The world is starting to see the dangers of cybermobbing. In 2008, South Korea passed legislation against cybermobbing after actress Choi Jin-Sil committed suicide due to cybermob attacks. In the United States, Congress saw the introduction of the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act” named after the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide due to cybermobbing. It may or may not be passed as a law but it has been put forth as an option.
In the meantime, it’s important to realize that words have impact. You can choose to go with facts and proof, or you can choose to go with innuendo and rumours. Just remember that actions have consequences, both positive and negative. There’s a world of difference between making people aware of factual situations, and targeting someone for cyberbullying and cybermobbing.
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MIDNIGHT IN CHICAGO