Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wild West of Anonymous Social Media - YikYak

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

The relatively new social media App known as YikYak has been mired with controversy nearly since it began. Known as the “Wild West of anonymous social media,” this App allows users to send and receive anonymous messages to others within a 10 mile radius – perfect for campuses such as universities which is where it now thrives. Despite architects of the medium providing “geo-fencing” for most middle and high schools from using the App, it remains wildly popular, particularly on university grounds. 

YikYak claims to use extensive filtering techniques to screen out inappropriate words and content, including offensive slurs, threats, and now even pictures of people, however despite this much hurtful damaging content continues to get through. Consider the recent case out of the United States at Eastern Michigan University where several female professors unknowingly were the brunt of a storm of vicious demeaning comments among freshmen students enrolled in their classes. According to the university, there is no recourse due to the complete anonymity of the perpetrators, a characteristic trademark of the App.  

Simply bannig the use of YikYak would seem a logical combatant to the problem. This has unfortunately proven to be rather difficult as the argument of free speech rears its ugly head. In fact, it shows no sign of slowing down but instead is experiencing explosive growth and is crossing into the borders of other countries including the UK. Based on negative reactions of many as a result of YikYak use, its reputation precedes itself and is finding keen resistance particularly from British educational institutions albeit this appears to be of no matter.  The new social media is proving to be unstoppable in its popularity with the younger generation and along with that come increased risks.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meet the weird cousin of sexting called frexting

By Abigail Clarke: Contributing Content Blogger

Well now we’ve all heard and know all about sexting don't we? The online vermin where transmission of revealing erotic pictures of one’s anatomy to a romantic partner is sent through some form of digital media. We also know don't we how this oftentimes escalates to nasty cases of revenge porn where those pictures you intended only to be seen by a boyfriend or girlfriend you were surely to be with the rest of your life, are now painted all over the internet since you broke up with them recently? Not bad enough? Just listen to this:

Now there’s something new people are biting off their arm about called, frexting. This is the same thing as “sexting” except you send pictures of your derriere to your trusted friends, not your love interest. This happens to be much more popular amongst females looking for validation or encouragement from girlfriends they trust. Can you imagine? Who does this? Who thinks this is a good idea? Well, apparently, younger women feel a measure of safety in knowing that their BFF is not going to pass around a frext of them in their bra and panties to some random boy. Why does their BFF even want to see such a thing you ask? I've no idea.

It is also less likely that a female friend will use the image as a sexual stimulant or weapon. Why are they being send round this way again? All well and good, but what if you have a falling out with your best girlfriend?  It’s not as if that doesn’t happen all the time. This may put you right into the fire, and possible in worse shape than your old beau having at you. Although women fall victim to online harassment more than men, studies show they can also be more vicious in their attacks against others online. There seems to be somewhat of an exhibitionist mentality among many young women these days as they strive to find validation and empowerment through their physical appearance. This is the most unhealthy frame of mind and a mind frame that may lead to the most damaging experience of their lives.

Keep your derriere where it belongs is my advice!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ending A Climate of Apathy

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

It is known that people holding high positions in organisations such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google are less likely to have firsthand knowledge of what it is like to be harassed online. This establishes a climate of apathy by these individuals when it comes to making progress in resolving the issue. When one experiences something firsthand it inevitably impacts their perspective driving how and how often they are inclined to think about it.

For instance, the legal director at Scribd, Jason Bentley, changed his views about online harassment after someone he had banned from the platform decided to target his personal life.  The harasser made claims on sites such as Scribd, Craigslist, and Ripoff Report, that Bentley was guilty of raping his own daughter. The obvious result was Bently’s name therefore becoming prominently associated with these claims on Google’s search engine. He took action and pursued the individuals responsible with legal action. He commented in an interview about the ordeal and committed that he will do everything in his power to stop these online abuses against others as well in going forward. However, obviously there are far more people not in positions of power and who cannot afford legal recourse, yet suffer the same. Unfortunately, they become part of the ever growing population that has no way of escaping from their aggressors. One sure way to see positive change occur is for those at the helm of the social media to be subjected to the same relentless obscene nature of what is occurring in their own platforms. Certainly I do not intend to convey I would wish it upon them, rather to make the point that I do believe the destructive consequences of internet abuse and harassment would come to an end quite quickly.   

Monday, July 13, 2015

Resource For Police To Suspend Twitter Accounts

By Carolyn Davies, Contributing Content Blogger

We'd all like to think police have a handle on internet abuse but that's just not so. Many police agencies would know how to contact twitter or could figure it out, but believe it or not there are some police who are unaware and still take an indifferent view of alleged abuse reported by online victims. I thought this would be a useful link everyone should have to provide police an immediate way to request abuse account suspension on the twitter service. If they don't have to look up procedures or think they need to go a more formal route through the court system, an officer will probably move to complete the form at the time a victim reports initially reports it. File under good to know. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Parental Involvement Key In Decreasing Cyber-Harrassing Incidences

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Recent trends in youth cyber-bullying indicate a sharp decrease in large cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, where research shows greater parental involvement. This is ironically contrasted with increased social media penetration in smaller towns where generally less parental control is reported.

It seems there is a rather strong correlation between parents having free and clear access to their children’s accounts, and a trend of less reported incidents of cyber-bullying behaviours. Experts are calling this an indicator that knowledge of one’s parents monitoring actions online is enough to deter most young people from instigating or participating in bullying and other harrassment behaviours. They stretch further to suggest adults would react quite similarly – refraining from cyber-harassment activity – under like circumstances and with the impending sense of consequences for their actions.  

Children fear immediate repercussions from their parents and are under their authority. In most Indian households parental authority is respected and abided by. However, in the adult world, the authority structure necessarily shifts to allow for more autonomy and rights such as privacy. This is so because there is an expectation of maturity and awareness of one’s actions. Interestingly however, the same bully-like behaviours experienced online by children are also seen in adults. It is alarmingly common to see child-like immaturity in many adults who, under the right circumstances, will act out as reckless children. Unfortunately, it takes a sense of consequence and threat of punishment to quell these destructive behaviours for both young and old.  

One key problem arises when right-to-privacy issues come to bear. Whereas children have little privacy with their parents as the monitoring authority and wielders of discipline, adults have ample rights to privacy and with no monitoring, especially on the Internet. It seems for adults a better balance must be struck between reasonable monitoring and the complete lack thereof. Until this happens, there is no doubt the problem of cyber-harassment and all its forms and degrees will continue on indefinitely creating further victim hazard and tangible loss and impeding authorities from dispensing appropriate justice. Much has been done to combat the issues of internet safety and these destructive behaviours but until the safety and standards community stops chipping away at the surface consequences and begins to address the underlying causes and ways to cut them off at the pass, we can expect to boast little about any true degree of change leading to a safer online navigation for users trusting they will be safe when logging on. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Online addiction is no excuse and never will be.

By Abigail Clarke: Contributing Content Blogger

It has come out lately that more and more mental health administrators are recognising internet addiction as a legitimate condition. Fine. Are they only getting to this now? Yes. The internet is still a fairly new phenomenon but even I could put the dots together to call this one is it really that much a surprise? British doctors are describing those suffering from online addictions as people who have lost touch with the real world through social networks and websites. Really? They say addiction behaviours are much more common than most of us realise and that temptations to overindulge in one’s compulsions are always there for every one of us. Talk about poppycock confusing the issues and it sounds like the granting of excuses and condolences to dangerous individuals who have the power to choose not to do what they do. I refuse to accept that. Giving people an excuse to harm others is empowering to them and only works to increase the explosion of sick behaviours we are already experiencing. Victims of sick online people are seeing lives ruined and committing suicide!

Cyberharassment is the only type of addiction, if you call it that, where the behaviour is focused on harming others, not the behaviour harming the addicted. There is no doubt a phenomenon exists that is going on en masse, but I don’t believe it is an addiction per se and if it really is it can NEVER be used as an excuse or tool to help the violators get off legally from what they do to someone else. I believe what we are seeing is spawned by a new generation incapable of forming normal healthy relationships away from a screen. Look at the world today, much among youth, do they talk on the phone? No. They text. They carry out whole relationships in text. To now label online abusive behaviour as an addiction could dangerously cause more grief going forward. We should be wise to not begin educating the public that this is an addiction issue, rather the unveiling of what has been there all along which is that piece of human nature that finds fascination in seeing others suffer and is willing to harm others for nothing more than a cheap thrill and power trip.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't Feel Intimidated When Reporting Online Abuse To Police

By Carolyn Davies, Contributing Content Blogger

If you are considering approaching police to file a report about online abuse, you may feel intimidated and worried you will not be taken seriously. That's common but do not let it keep you from seeking the help you need and deserve. Police want to help victims but some facilities, areas, and countries are still catching up to technologically committed crimes. Here is a link victims might well find helpful and though geared toward the UK police process the same should well apply elsewhere.

Remember, the more evidence you have to provide police the more able they are to deal with the online crimes committed against you. Do not delete voice mails, text messages, emails, or social media posts and if abuse is posted online be sure you screenshot and print it before it can be deleted and you lose that evidence before the police can review it.