an article posted just this morning, Aoife Finneran recounts a tragic story
about a 17-year-old teenage girl who has been a victim of cyberbullying over
the past year, which has led her to attempt suicide twice. The cyberbullying
began when the girl was falsely accused of being in a sexually vulgar video
that was going around the Internet. She began receiving dozens or more messages
a day on social media websites, calling her names such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore.’ The
girl attempted suicide to try to escape all of this, but was unsuccessful.
However, even after the situation had escalated to this point, the bullying
didn’t stop, which led to a second unsuccessful suicide attempt. The family
thought everything was over with until last week, when the video resurfaced on
Snapchat. On top of the devastating reaction this story brings about, it also
brings to light several ethical and social issues that must be examined.
The young girl’s mom is pushing for
legislation that addresses cyberbullying, stating, “At the moment, cyberbullies
are not being held accountable for their actions and this needs to change” (Finneran).
This statement raises a couple of questions. First, should cyberbullying be
treated the same as physical bullying? It has been argued that cyberbullying
can have the same or an even greater effect on the victim than physical
bullying, and that mental harm is just as serious as physical harm. This story
seems to lend credence to that argument, since the young girl felt the bullying
was so bad that she wanted to take her own life twice.
In addition, the question of when
the police/authorities should be able to step in needs to be asked. If
legislation is put into place as requested, it seems that those who cyberbully
could face some sort of punishment. What exactly constitutes punishment,
though? With physical bullying, authorities know to take action when an
incident becomes violent; the line isn’t as clear with cyberbullying. Do they
take action when one mean message is sent, or must there be a pattern? What
words/slurs should be considered inappropriate, and which are okay to use?
These are all questions that must be considered before making legislation a
reality, since every cyberbullying incident won’t look the same.
Finally, should tech companies such
as Facebook and Snapchat play a role in situations such as these? Obviously,
many people were using social media in a negative way in this story, torturing
a young girl so much that she felt she wanted to end her life to escape it. Many
would argue that Snapchat and similar social media entities should censor
potentially harmful material such as the video which started the bullying or
the violent messages which were sent. It is possible that the situation would
have never escalated to the near fatal point it did if this were the case. But
is it ethical for these companies to censor whatever they see fit? On the
opposing side, many would argue that censorship violates their right to free
speech, and that giving these companies the right to do so is a slippery slope
which could lead to giving them too much power.
story presented is an extremely sad one to read, and one that I hope ends well.
Unfortunately, it isn’t an isolated incident, as cyberbullying has become more
and more prevalent with the rise of technology. In many ways, advanced
technology has been a remarkable feat for society; however, as with most
things, there is a downside to it, and cyberbullying is one of its
consequences. In order to move forward on this matter, we must consider the
social and ethical issues raised in this paper.