Cyberbully (2015)

Following the story of Casey Williams shows reminiscence of a bygone error as she is trolled by a hacker, only to discover that she herself has been cyber bullying for a long time and ignorant as to the consequences of her seemingly innocent actions. I am not going to give a play by play of what happens, but rather a commentary on the real life situations this film attributes too including the seemingly forgotten case on Amanda Todd whose name still resonates within certain circles.

During the course of the film it is clear that the ‘younger’ generation seem to be abhorrent towards one another and the online norm is to slate what others attempt including the actions of Jennifer Li, this young woman posts a video of herself singing for pure enjoyment. As innocent as Jennifer’s actions were it opened her up to ridicule from her peers who said she was a ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ who would never be good enough for ‘x-factor’ (which in my opinion is pretty dire in itself) in an attempt to lower her self-esteem and ridicule the poor girl. As you would expect she moved away, changing schools and her life in order to try and live a normal life; after several weeks however her peers discovered the old ridicule and began to jump on the band wagon by even dressing as Jennifer for Halloween and sending the pictures to her family. When Jennifer could take no more she took her own life.

Now Casey was the first person to take Jennifer’s video (along with a few others) and ridicule them for being who they were behind an anonymous name. It has often been said that the facelessness of the internet can cause people to be irrational and say things that they would not dare in person; this is one of the many reasons Facebook and Google+ require you to use a real name in order to make an account, as I have said previously this has caused issues for drag  queens and alike whose accounts have been suspended or removed because they can not prove that they are who they say they are.

Casey herself is made fun of in a public Twitter post, to which you can now report abuse, but it may not be acted upon for a distinct period of time by which point an unlimited number of people may have seen and screen-grabbed the post. Peoples stupidity have been the butt of many a web and television series including RudeTube and Why Would You Put That On The Internet. When she gets the chance to post on the persons account as them she implies they have erectile dysfunction, her actions in themselves are referred to as a frape (originally a Facebook rape, which in itself is a disgusting name, but in this film for some  reason is applied to Twitter (maybe people are getting stupider or I’m just old)) and the onslaught of this innocent boy begins.

Whilst the whole film is going on the hacker is threatening to post images of Casey that she took for her boyfriend, which in itself should tell you their nature. This is always a risky thing to do, and illegal for those under 18 to take, especially with the amount of revenge porn websites in existence (as demonstrated if you take Media Law) and the fact that when you are in a relationship you tend to connect with some of one another’s friends so if they post an inappropriate image it is there for the world to see and can be copied to any number of places.

Casey’s images are never posted but ones of her friends are from her account which can, and presumably did, cause irreversible damage to that persons public image and relationships as a whole. In the film a video was also posted outing one of her friends as homosexual, to which her class mates replied with an onslaught of homophobic posts and personal attacks which should appal. Unfortunately these kinds of responses are common place if you go on YouTube and look up whoever ‘come out to’ whoever you will see these kinds of ugly people are everywhere in the world.

One last point before I summarise, although a far fetched story elements of it alone can apply to most peoples lives, the webcam in your device can be hacked and turned on without your knowledge and if you are on an unsecured or public network it is so easy to take control of your device and steal your content without you knowing.

Here’s the clinch, Amanda Todd. Now if you do not know her story watch the video below but in essence she exposed herself to someone she trusted who threatened to expose her publicly if she didn’t ‘put on a show’. Amanda stood her ground but the image was sent out and she developed depression and got involved with drugs. The guy made a profile with the images of Amanda before proceeding to add people at her school who then alienated her to the point where she self harmed so that she had some sense of control in her life, and as a reminder she was human.

As Jennifer did, she ended up moving schools and everything was working out again so she thought she could reconnect with a friend who said he fancied her even though he had a girlfriend, he invited her over and she regretted it as they ‘hooked up’. Not long after a gang of peers told her no-one liked her and that she should go before getting physically violent and recording the incident.

After years of abuse she drank bleach and tried to kill herself, when she recovered and went home she saw a barrage of abuse on Facebook saying how she should have ‘done it better’ and ‘deserved it’. She moved again but as things were online they just followed where ever she went until finally she committed suicide. Below is one of the many uploads of her story and the start of the trend of the card holding in videos.

The film in itself shows how one small thing can spiral out of control and ruin someone’s life, and although a one room film with essentially one actor and very little overheads, it hits home with its point and although derivative of Amanda Todd and many other similar stories throughout the world it is well executed and will hopefully help make people think before they post.

Lets Kill Twitter!! Or At Least Redesign It….

Twitter has long come under fire for not protecting its users, after all it took some vile and intrusive threats to feminists such as Caroline Criado-Pere before they even considered a report button on every tweet (which is carefully hidden under the extended menu). Prior to these changes in 2013 is was quite archaic to report anything, you had to find a way to their separate report page and write to the Twitter team with a copy of the offending material and an essay on why it should be removed, although this was often ignored or at least over looked.

Now that you have some context what horrid betrayal of humanity had Caroline done? Well she organised a petition to keep Elizabeth Fry on the £5 instead of replacing her with Churchil…. Wait she wanted to protect the image of a strong female character who provided great good from being replaced with arguably one of the best prime ministers who was well known for alcoholism and violence. Am I missing something or is Twitter protecting trolls?

Prior to this (also in 2013) there was the distressing trend of #Cut4Bieber (potentially distressing link to real time Twitter search) where young girls were self-harming in a bid to guilt Justin Bieber into stopping his recreational use of marijuana. Not only did Bieber ignore these girls and Twitter allowed it to go viral world wide but it ended in the death of at least one young girl. No images or videos of these girls harming were removed, and are still available today; this has lead to the development of mental health conditions for some and attributing factors to others preexisting conditions.

Now before anyone goes on to point out the greater good that Twitter was able to provide during the Arab Spring rising, with global coverage directly from the people involved and no state censorship I think you need reminding of the connections Facebook have forged and that the state have taken measures to block such sites in places such as China and even disconnect from the internet in Egypt.

Now is is partially the anonymity of Twitter which affords activists their voices as they no longer have to fear being kidnapped or bullied after exploiting inequalities or dangers that may be around them. A quick Google search will show you that because of the identifying nature of Facebook some activists are targeted by governments such as Vietnam, Syria and Bahraini just to mention a few. This anonymity also affords for faceless hoards to come out and attack beople just as much as it does defend them.

Now Twitter is changing; with services such as WhatsApp gaining more active users it may be a sign that people want more control over those who can contact them as you have to accept a user before they can interact with you or send you spam. Just look at my Twitter feed where @Miss_Millies follows me despite me never having even visited them, tweeted them or even mentioned them in recent memory. WhatsApp also affords the fact that you are identified by a mobile number rather than some temporary email address, and unlike Facebook and Google + you can change your name and details as much as you like without having to provide proof of your identity. Now I love that you have to accept your friends in WhatsApp, rather than having to block someone on Twitter who could set up another account in seconds and be bombarding you with words or images which aren’t appropriate.

Now as we look at what is appropriate pornography is freely available on the Twitter-sphere with each day being assigned an act or body part which people will promote to the world at large. It took a mass movement before Twitter took heed and actually removed beheading videos and the accounts of ICIS which had been immediately removed and blocked by YouTube and Facebook alike where they never really resurfaced, where as Twitter had repercussions until they finally took a firm stance on their preexisting policy of no violence.

Now as Twitter slowly realizes the responsibility it has to its customers and it moves forward they have announced the ability to sign up with a phone number for app developers to incorporate a single sign in system, much like that already existing in both Facebook and Google. But the question is will this end up like their announcement at Chirp back in 2010 (Twitters official developers conference) where they said that more meta data would be available from tweets and media uploaded to their site.

Now as Twitter is evolving their executive will hopefully move away from the 4chan type reputation it is developed over the past few years and avoid repercussions such as GamerGate which I shall leave you to read about in your own time as it has gotten so convoluted and worrisome I really have not read enough to be able to comment. Before I end this post it may be worth you considering, how are accounts actually verified (the little tick) and what can be done either than to go down the routes of Google and Facebook to control those who are just there to troll?

The Etymology of Your Insult

A lot of people are prone to throw around words these days without thinking about their etymology, as such I thought I would try my best to paraphrase a blog post I have read and visit the most popular words I have witnessed in use. I hope you find this educational!

“LAME”

THE BACKGROUND: Historically, “lame” was most often used to describe trouble walking, whether the trouble occurred in people or animals. A horse with an injured leg was lame, as was a man with the same problem. The roots of this word mean “to crush” or “to break,” and it was first used in its original meaning sometime around the 12th century.

To be lame is now to be ineffectual, un-useful, unpopular, uncool, inept, or generally crappy. Our modern day interpretation has only evolved around the middle of the 20th century; unfortunately the modern interpretation has come to mean that having a disability affecting movement is a bad thing to have, an idea that serves to marginalize disabled individuals.

“RETARDED”

THE  BACKGROUND: The word comes from the Latin for “to delay,” and around the turn of the 20th century it formally came to be associated with intelligence testing; individuals with an IQ result of less than 70 were said to be “mentally retarded.” (I am not planning to go into the mirage of problems associated with the use of IQ testing and the segregation, discrimination and general abhorrence it causes.)

“Retarded” as we have come to know it came into being in the early 19th century as a clinical designation for children who were developmentally delayed compared to their peers. Ironically, it was initially used to replace socially negative terms for not-smart people, like “idiot” and “moron”.

In today’s slang use, “retarded” generally means dumb (which is itself a word with a problematic background), ridiculous, or socially awkward. In essence, when we call something “retarded,” we’re saying it’s like a developmentally delayed person suggesting these are bad.

“GHETTO”

THE BACKGROUND: While in the US today it has a very specific racial connotation, it was originally an Italian word to describe the area, usually outside a city’s walls, where lower social class individuals such as workmen and Jewish people lived. As is true for many of these terms, the word was free of negative connotations for a couple hundred years, until the rise of Hitler and his Final Solution for the eradication of Jewish people, and the Nazi movement to cluster all Jews in specific sections of cities in occupied Europe during World War II.

During the Nazi occupation, Jews were forced into overcrowded ghettos prior to being sent to concentration and death camps, or before simply being executed in the nearest expedient location. Although the Nazis did not often use the word “ghetto” themselves, its long use to denote a Jewish area meant the word became strongly associated with this horrific period in history.

Later, “ghetto” came to indicate any socially segregated non-white urban neighbourhood.  In the US in particular it tends to suggest a black neighbourhood,  and usually a poor one with a high amount of crime. Hence the slang use of “ghetto” to indicate something that is low class, dirty, slapdash or otherwise in poor condition. 

“TRANNY”

THE BACKGROUND: “Tranny” is usually a diminutive of “transgender” or “transsexual,”  is a relatively new term, and one whose rise to popular use was well lubricated by the porn industry (sorry if that pun offends you but it’s true) , which used it to describe porn usually containing trans women. Said porn was rarely if ever created by trans individuals themselves, who might be invested in their own representation, but was instead a handy appellation applied by cisgender producers.

From here (out of porn designed to appeal to a particular mainstream cisgender hetero male perspective, because even in these more sex-positive times, the bulk of porn is still aimed at straight men) the term evolved into a slur on a level with “faggot” and “dyke.”

More recently, “tranny” has become a popular term amongst gay men, often used in the spirit of positive reclamation (as many oppressed groups have reclaimed other words traditionally used against them). Of course, the problem here is that gay men are not always trans individuals, and liberally using “tranny” (a word, to be clear, that has been used to devastating effect against trans folk, and which underscores their social marginalization and position as culture outsiders) in this way is not always perceived as a friendly act by actual trans folks who have heard it hurled at them in anger and feared for their safety, if not their lives.

“CRAZY”

THE BACKGROUND: Up until now, the controversies around most of these examples were probably at least somewhat familiar, but “crazy” might be a new one to you. Originally meaning diseased or sickly, and by the 17th century specifically referring to mental unsoundness, “crazy” is a awkward word because unlike many of the examples above, its use has become so common even to describe non-mentally-ill scenarios that many argue its meaning has sufficiently changed such that it is no longer exclusively a slur.

At any rate, the popular use of “crazy” to describe everything from heinous mass murder to mildly irritating politicians is troubling to many people because it associates a very real, very socially stigmatized condition as the cause of all the bad things that people do, thereby creating a connection between crazy people and people who do horrible things, while also dehumanizing everyone involved.

“MENTAL”

THE BACKGROUND: Many people use “crazy” and “mental” as synonyms and do not realise the differences. Mental means “pertaining to the mind” from the middle French “mental”, from late Latin “mentalis” (of the mind), from Latin “mens” (genitive mentis), from PIE root “men” (to think). As you can already see since it’s origins it has been manipulated from a word around thought to meaning of the mind.

The way we perceive the word mental has only come into being since around 1972; it is now seen to mean “crazy” or “deranged”, this has been thought to stem from its combinational uses such as in “mental hospital” where people with “diseases of the mind” would be treated hence the negative connotations the word now carries.

“STUPID”

THE BACKGROUND: Stupidity is a massive concept. From its origins in the 15th century to mean “mentally slow,” “stupid” has since evolved to denote a more broadly defined lack of common sense or intelligence, and usually a wilful one. Stupidity is an idea and a word we use and hear constantly, likely every day. 

Complicating this particular word is that, unlike many of the terms above, “stupid” does not have a recent legacy of being used to define and dismiss a specific group of people; although, like “retarded,” it has been used to identify developmentally disabled individuals, it has also been used in broader applications to all sorts of actions and misdeeds. Opponents of “stupid” argue that the word’s primary association is with developmentally or intellectually disabled people, and that to use it is to insult people of below-average intelligence.