Politicians were derided long before social media
Net Results: one of the more ludicrous sideshows in the online bullying debate was the regularity with which politicians made the story all about them
“The Government could have been rash and panicky. Instead it opted for a progressive approach.”
The Government’s report on cyberbullying, published at the end of last week, was a welcome bit of common sense.
Despite a fear that Oireachtas hearings on this important and poorly understood subject could lead to a knee-jerk vigilantism aimed at the context (the internet and mobile phones) rather than the actual problem (unacceptable human behaviour and poor awareness), the report generally takes an informed and balanced approach.
There will be quibbles about the details, but I was glad to see that those advocating tracking IP addresses and individual internet users (why, hello, Prism!), and
other dire suggestions for heavy handed surveillance and site-blocking, didn’t
find a welcome for their proposals.
The Government could have been rash and panicky. Instead it opted for a progressive approach: better training for those working with children, awareness workshops for kids so they better understand the online environment and how to negotiate it and deal more confidently with unsavoury and cruel behaviour,
partnerships between industry, law enforcement, and education.
To target the internet, social media sites and mobile handsets is as ludicrous as taking heavy-handed surveillance and policing to the individual classroom - where, after all, routine real world bullying continues as a problem, too.
One of the more ludicrous sideshows in the online bullying debate surrounding the Oireachtas hearings and submissions and the consequent report, however, was the regularity with which politicians made the story all about them.
They too, were the victims of online bullying, these people stated. People out there were not nice to them - and could be downright rude and nasty - on various social media forums, blogs, Twitter and via direct emails.
Many were clearly still licking wounds after being bombarded by emails during the so-called SOPA Ireland campaign. This was an Irish internet campaign that achieved wide national and even international reach, arguing against having the Government here permit certain types of surveillance against internet users, by forcing their internet service providers to take a policing role.
A huge net campaign had recently helped halt the US government bringing in a much broader, but ideologically similar measure nicknamed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), and the Irish version was quickly nicknamed SOPA Ireland.
That bit of sharp naming was undoubtedly the single biggest factor in the consequent high profile of this silly and industry-kowtowing piece of legislation (subsequently brought in by statutory instrument) and it piggybacked onto widespread anger and frustration with US SOPA.
Politicians suddenly found they were flooded with, in some cases, thousands of email messages on the issue, many spitting fury.