Social Enterprise

Cyber-bullying- the impact and the consequence

Social networking is coming to business. It is the hottest trend in Web 2.0, replacing Business Intelligence. But as a recent tragedy shows, it is important to define the policies around social networking as it will be used in your business in order to insure that it isn't abused.

This is a difficult story on many fronts. In reading the facts, it is hard to believe that this kind of thing can happen. There may be a desire to blame the victim- who should have been "smarter." There is also a desire to shake the perpetrator who clearly should have known better. But perhaps it is a cautionary tale that we can all learn something from on many levels- not only personal, but from a corporate standpoint as well.

On May 15, 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri with one count of conspiracy and three counts of unauthorized computer access. If convicted, each count could net Ms Drew five years.

Why does this matter?

Allegedly, Ms. Drew, her 13 year old daughter, and Ms Ashley Grillis, 18, who was employed by the Drew family, created a fictitious MySpace profile for the purpose of harassing Megan Meier, a teenaged girl living on the same block as Drew and her family.

For the next four weeks, a flirtatious relationship blossomed between Ms Meier and the fictitious person that Drew and Grillis created. And then it suddenly ended with the fictitious person telling Megan "The world would be a better place without you." Megan hung herself in her bedroom about an hour later.

State lawmakers gave final approval on May 17th to a bill intended to deal with cyber-harassment. This bill is expected to cover several aspects of technology, identifying as illegal the harassment from computers, text messages, and other electronic devices as well as standard written and telephone communications.

From eFlux Media:

Republican Governor Matt Blunt, who will soon sign the final version of the bill, issued a statement saying that the social networking sites and technology have provided criminals with a whole new set of weapons against their victims and the new protections and penalties are highly needed in order to ensure a safer environment for everyone.

While this case is certainly tragic, it is thankfully not the norm in social networking- a phenomenon that is taking the web, and business, by storm.

What it tells us is that there are definitely boundaries, and states are now recognizing those boundaries and stepping up to set laws in place to enforce those boundaries.

Blogs, wikis, and other social networking tools are beginning to find their way into the business corporate culture. They are useful tools for communication and collaboration between business partners in both the internal and external corporate structure and will continue to grow. According to Forrester Research, the foundation technology, Web 2.0, will cost business US$4.6 billion over the next five years, making Web 2.0 hotter in terms of growth than the area of business intelligence.

I can see that. Seems like everyone I meet wants to add me to one friend list or another.

But as business embraces social networking, one thing is clear. They will have to embrace some policy definitions along with the tools to insure that employees understand where the lines are firmly drawn.

Does your business use any kind of social networking tools? Do you have a community blog on your intranet or use a wiki to explain the workplace jargon? How does business set the standards for your communication?

More information:

Missouri woman charged in ‘cyber-bully' case - (PCWorld)

Missouri lawmakers pass bill against cyber-harassment after MySpace suicide case - (LA Times)

Web 2.0 and social networking for business: Take the plunge - (CIO)

10 ways you might be breaking the law with your computer - (TechRepublic)

16 comments
techie24chick
techie24chick

I am glad the perps are being held accountable!

Tig2
Tig2

I would like to think that all of my peers know what language is appropriate when dealing with business. Alas, I also know that regardless of what I would like to believe, that isn't the case. While I can't begin to imagine what in the world Ms Drew was thinking when she began building Megan Meier up in order to bring her down, I can easily think of times when I have said something stupid and been very grateful that my words would go no further than the airspace around me. The fact that we need to set laws in place to protect from cyber-bullying is a shame. But now that those laws are in place (or will be soon) it may be a good time to review what business considers acceptable behavior. And if business hasn't written a policy about it, it might be a good time to tap them on the shoulder and recommend that they develop one.

karen
karen

I would find this situation reprehensible whether it occurred online or not. Why? Because a GROWN WOMAN and a MOTHER chose to be the instigator of this bullying of a teenage girl. As a parent to two of the girls involved, she should have been the one to put a stop to the bullying, online or otherwise, not to coordinate it! Personally, I don't care what the girls were up to and why they chose to bully the victim. It is never acceptable for an adult to target and bully a child and even less so to encourage her children to do so. In my book, she deserves whatever penalties the law deems appropriate and I hope her daughters are given counselling to help them understand why this was not the right way to behave since their mother was such a sad excuse for a role model.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

These folks have been the center of a massive online-retribution campaign. Their full names, home phone numbers, work phone numbers, business names (they owned some sort of advertising company... a spammer, I think) business and home addresses, maps to their locations. They have incurred the wrath of the hacker communities on Delphiforums and a few others. The biggest outrage was that the prosecutor originally refuesed to charge them with anything. Obviously the pressure brought to bear on the prosecutor convinced him to change his mind.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Haltabuse.org Cyberangels.org Both organizations are well equipped and staffed for helping victims of cyber-abuse. Haltabuse has additional resources such as: 1)Current anti-cyber-stalking laws in the various states and several countries outside the USA. 2)Links to Lawyers who specialize in online stalking cases. 3)Links to private investigators who specialize in online stalking cases.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

an online "friend" turned on me. He posted my full name, address, place of work, etc. Hacked into my ex's computer, got all sorts of personal data and took it to RL. It was very messy.

Shellbot
Shellbot

Truly a horrible outcome in that case. :( Sadly people take things too far online, because of the anonimity it offers. While some carry on may be harmless, some can obviously lead to such things as these. As a parent, Ms Drew should known better and I shouldn't make such a generalisation, but if thats the type of parenting she does, then I would bet the apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree and this girl would have been bullying the poor girl in school or the neighbourhood in some form or fashion. Its a fine line isn't it? While I feel horrible for the poor bullied girl and her family,at the end of the day, the girl must have had some serious issues anyways. While this in no way excuses what was done to her, it could easily have been done to her in real life anyways with most likely the same outcome. On one hand I agree that something needs to be done, however where is the line drawn? If a teenage boy had purposely flirted with this girl and gave her the impression he really cared, then turned around and said "the world would be better without you" would he be subject to the same charges and penalties? Not saying him doing it would be right, but is it a jailable offence? I know dealing with kids is harder, but this is where the parents come in. Monitering software is readily available, use it.. Teach your children about the internet and its pitfalls. I have heard many people say "the monitoring software costs too much" or "I don't know how to use the computer myself". B*llsh*t. If you can afford a computer and the internet connection you can afford a few bucks for software... If you don't know how to use your computer, learn..take a class..ask a friend..whatever.. You wouldn't let your 13 year old drive a car without teaching them how to drive first would you? When it comes to adults, I take the approach of "get a grip". Several months ago there was an aticle in the paper about a woman who was suing someone for bullying them on Facebook or MySpace or soemthing like that..What the???? I would love to ask that woman "Is your life THAT pathetic that you cannot log out of these websites, or make a new profile or whatever?" Face it, unless the entire world is subject to the same laws and penalties, it will continue and there's not really much that can be done about it.

conspicuouschick
conspicuouschick

Actually, wasn't it the local (county) prosecutor who chose not to charge them? These are federal charges, a whole different thing. I would never condone the vigilante retribution this family has suffered, nor would I participate in it. It is also no substitute for criminal proceedings.

armadaarmada
armadaarmada

My ex-boyfriend from 14 years ago posted pics of me on Webshots. They aren't nude or anything. There is no copyright on the photos, but I took them myself (with a timer). I want them removed and contacted Webshots but haven't received a reply. From what I understand, they probably can't be removed since I gave him the pics freely and there is no copyright. BUT he also posted my full name & city and state on Webshots. I am concerned about weirdos finding me with this information. I hope I have the right to atleast have my name, city, and state removed. Thanks for any advice.

Shellbot
Shellbot

Sorry to hear that has happened to you but I would not consider it "bullying" as such, more theft, breech of privacy,hacking and worst of all breech of trust. We open ourselves up to these things if we divulge this information. This type of stuff has been around long before the internet... I must confess as I teenager I scrawled on a few bathroom walls "For a good time call at ". Not saying it makes it right, it IS wrong.. but when does morally wrong become the same as criminally wrong? I have given my full address to a TR member. Thankfully he has proven to be trustworthy and decent.. I don't believe he would ever divulge the information unless it was something I would approve of (like..oh everyone from TR sending me 100 bucks each :) ). But if he ever did post it openly on the web, I'd be madder than h*ll, but I would be madder at myself for giving it out. I have seen a lot of Facebook pages with personal contact details posted. I shake my head.....they've no one but themselves to blame if they start getting phonecalls at 4 am.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Get in touch with these groups. While you are doing that, also contact the hosting company again and tell them that they have one week to pull down the material before you take further action. Phrase it just like that. "You have one week to remove xxxx before I take further action." Also, if you took the photos, they are your property and subject to copyright. This post I am writing to you has copyright protections as well. You can honestly tell the hosting company that photographs that you hold rights to are being posted. haltabuse.org has a listing of laws, and lawyers for all the states, and I believe some international laws as well.

jck
jck

think ya can hook me up with Andrea Corr? lol ]:)

Shellbot
Shellbot

sorry JCK, but that gave me a good laugh :) ah poor thing :(

jck
jck

it hasn't gotten me a date in a long time...that's for sure :( usually the only women who get my number are the ones at a company where i'm ordering something lol oh well. that's life

Shellbot
Shellbot

Giving out yer number to strange women...come on JCK..what purpose does that serve ]:) :)

jck
jck

I try not to do that online. But, the really pretty ladies always seem to get it from me anyways lol ]:) Oh well. I can always change phone numbers lol :D

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