Cyberbullying: Victims to unmask public perpetrators, but what about bullying in private?

I invited Matt Williams to write a guest post on cyber bullying. Thanks for a great article Matt!

Cyberbullying is a topic of discussion that is becoming increasingly mentioned in today’s electronic world. In a time where the Internet is a staple part of our everyday lives, the ability to communicate one’s feelings by the click of a button is often taken for granted. This is particularly the case when referring to the mobile arena, as thoughts and ideas can translate to an SMS, Tweet or Facebook post almost instantly. Whilst many welcome the advancement with open arms, such steps forward naturally arrive with significant disadvantages. Cyberbullying is one of the most profound, and after a recent case of the practice came to light in the media, the UK Government is now being put under pressure to increase its efforts in a bid to address the matter.

Unmasking trolls and cyberbullies

The consistent rise in pressure began to escalate last week, when a British woman successfully won a court order allowing the identities of the individualsharassing her online to be revealed. Nicola Brookes had suffered a barrage of abuse from other users of the popular social media website, Facebook. Having achieved the court order, the users who posted defamatory comments against Mrs Brookes will now have a select amount of their personal details made known. This includes the IP addresses of the devices used by the cyberbullies. It is hoped that the added threat of having parts of a person’s personal profile revealed will help in the fight to combat the ever-growing threat of cyberbullying.

However, some organisations have expressed great concern about having the ability to reveal the proposed information. Privacy International states its position on the matter, claiming that on an international scale, certain operators may become too lax on the ability given to them. They fear that such organisations are at risk of exposing personal details, even in the event that only an allegation has been made. Therefore, the appearance of this ability in the social media market comes with new considerations, in many other aspects and on a much wider scale. But how would this tie in to mobile devices?

Image by Adam Clarke

Well, the clear advantage of the portability of mobiles phones poses as a threat in itself, as it presents one of the best methods of allowing cyberbullying to take place. These days, it is difficult to find a person in the UK without some form of mobile device. For many, the simplicity of being able to communicate with another individual has never been greater, thanks to the mobile phone. It is for this reason that mobile devices can more easily act as a catalyst to such an act as cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying in Private via Mobile

Another reason why cyberbullies prefer to use mobile to carry out their attacks is because phones often come with a lack of parental interference. Considering that the issue is most common within the teenage demographic, parents of younger phone users tend to distance themselves from their child’s mobile communications and online lives. Likewise, it is common for adolescents to find a means of preventing their parents from accessing their messages. It is this separation that can pave the way for cyberbullying to take place on a more private scale. In many aspects, this is more significant than a public example of online harassment, as the issue can steadily manifest itself and worsen with time.

But it is important to remember that cyberbullying isn’t only exclusive to text communications. Photos, videos and audio recordings, that demonstrate offensive behavior, also contribute to the problem. In many situations offensive material of any form is deleted soon after having being sent, especially on mobiles. This is often the case for both the architect of such material and the victim themselves. As a result, a record of the exchange becomes difficult for parents, teachers and the Police to trace, as the evidence is no longer present on the front end.

Government pressure on cyberbullying should continue

However, this recent development enabling victims to unmask cyberbullies can ultimately be considered to be a significant step forward, when attempting to tackle online perpetrators. Consequently, it is a move by the Government that will be well received. But it is important to remember that the private side of cyberbullying will continue to take place, and the Government must maintain its interest in combating the matter in the long run.

Last night’s Channel 4 News in the UK carried a piece on cyberbullying and guidance on what to do if you are being bullied: 

About Matt Williams

Matt Williams has just completed his second year as a student at the University of Derby, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Computer Forensics and Security. He has a keen interest in up-and-coming mobile technologies, particularly in reference to mobile security.

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