With the growth in technology and the increase of social media websites, the appearance of the number of cyber-bullies and trolls have also increased. These individuals whose sole purpose is to create drama for their entertainment, range from annoying and can be ignored, to downright disgusting and even threatening. In the United Kingdom, as stated in this article from TNW, the government has made the decision to increase the sentence for those found guilty of cyber-bullying from six months to 2 years following the threats made via social media to Judy Finnegan and family. According to BBC Magazine, the Malicious Communications Act of 1988 and other similar laws have been amended and updated to include internet trolling as an offense in light of this recent event.
Now, the severity of this penalty even before the increase may seem harsh, even petty and not worth taxpayer’s dollars. After all, sticks and stones break your bones but words will never hurt you, right? Let me break this down for you carefully. While it seems like a lot, being punished for cyber-bullying is necessary. I want you to take into consideration all the cases in the recent years here in the United States alone of individuals between the ages 13- and 30 who have committed or attempted suicide as a result of ridicule and threats from their peers. Anything recorded online is permanent, for the entire world to see. Posting a lie about someone, or even publicly shaming them with photos or video(including revenge pornography of your target), will be permanently etched in the minds of the people who witness the debacle, and worst-case scenario, ruin the target’s lives. Furthermore, in the event that there is a crime, such as suicide, assault or murder, any altercations that occur over social media could become evidence to resolve the legal side of the situation. And even with a fake profile, it is still possible to find an instigator. In this article from Buzzfeed, they chronicled the suicides of nine teens who succumbed to the pressure of cyber bullying. When you read the summaries under each photo, one may think why would you believe what someone else says about you? Why do you care? Even the most socially independent person will suffer a blow to their ego and confidence with enough hurtful words. They start feeling alone, lost and unsure of what to do and thus turn to ending their lives as a solution. This is a painful and sad experience, one that I myself have had a brush with in varying stages of my life. I survived being branded a social reject because I saw the ridicule for what it was, a cry for help disguised as superiority, and chose to ignore them and work on building my inner fortress (think the Bat Cave but purple velvet, wine, and a state of the art gaming computer – HEAVEN).
Now, we all have those instances where we may post something about lashing out physically at someone (goodness knows I have had my moments). Although that is still considered bad, those posts really only gives your peers an small insight of your character, and can only be held against you for a short time before it is forgotten, especially if you are typically a peaceful person. However, if you decide to issue a threat to someone directly (i.e. you have a disagreement that escalates to where you threaten to assault them or worse), that can be classified as cyber-bullying. The law will see fit to get involved if the target of your threats feels in anyway endangered or harassed and reports it. Naturally, as with any harassment case, evidence of a viable threat will need to be built over time (based on severity). Once that happens, a person persecuted for cyber-bulling may be seen as someone mentally unstable and unfit for society, hence the jail time.
From the standpoint of someone who has dealt with trolls and witnessed what my friends go through, it really is the best step to not feed the trolls. Unless they outright threaten you and stalk you, if you sense that the person is escalating the situation, simply wrap up your comment to be vague and final, then do not revisit the post, or delete it if it is on your profile. It will only serve to make you upset, and give you wrinkles (wrinkles are not your friend). And if you ever get the impulse to entertain an argument further, I want to you keep it at the forefront that you could put yourself in a bad place, both to be a victim and to be accused of harassment. In the end, you are also in control of how you react. many songs in the past decade quote, shake it off. I love you all, and be safe.
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