Friday, February 21, 2014

Talking the Cyberbullying Talk

What we have here is a failure to communicate! (With thanks to Cool Hand Luke.) Unless you understand the terminology you can never solve the problem. You are talking about one thing and students or parents think you are addressing something else.

When Parry was asked to be the only female speaker at Microsoft’s first privacy and security event many years ago, she was thrilled and honored. When they assigned her the task of creating the presentation on defining terms, she was crushed. “Defining terms!,” she complained to one of her law partners who was there. “Why? Because I am a lawyer? Because I am a woman?” 

While she ranted (quietly), her trusted sidekick and law partner, Nancy Savitt, explained. “You can’t solve anything unless you can plot your course. You have to define the problem. To do that you need a common language. Think of people from one country trying to solve a problem with those from another country when each speak a different language and have no common basis of communication. This is no different. You may think of 'privacy' as protecting personal information. I may think of it as defining civil rights about what you can and can’t do in your own home or bedroom. Someone else might think of it as seclusion. Unless we know which 'privacy' we will be addressing, we’re wasting our time.”

As with most important matters, Parry listened to Nancy, enough to include the “Talk the Talk” theme here.
Here are some of the most important terms you need to understand and use consistently if we are going to work together towards the common goal of stopping cyberbullying.

StopCyberbullying Terms

Lots of terms apply to cyberbullying. It will help to come up with common terms we can all use. These are helpful when discussing the issue, so everyone understands what we are talking about.

“Accidental Cyberbullies”: another term for “inadvertent cyberbullies,” this type of cyberbully was careless or clueless and hurt the other person by accident. They may have sent the message to the wrong person, left out a “jk” or “J” or mis-communicated their message.

“Account takeovers”: when someone takes over your account, changing your login/password or account information so you can’t use it or access it.

“Click and Runs”: this term describes cyberbullying that takes place when the cyberbully is bored and looking for entertainment. They cyberbully someone for their reaction, which is monitored online and offline.

“Cyberbullying or cyber-harassment”: when someone uses technology as a weapon to hurt someone else. When minors are involved, it’s called “cyberbullying.” When adults are involved (18 and over) it’s called “cyber-harassment.”

“Cyberbullying-by-proxy or cyber-harassment-by-proxy”: when someone does something to manipulate others into doing their dirty work for them. (“Bullying refers to minors and “harassment” is reserved for the same activities conducted by adults (18 and over).)

“Cybering”: the online equivalent of phone sex, but with the communications being typed instead of spoken. If it involves sexual or nude images or videos, it is “sexting” or “sexing”, not cybering.

“Cybermobs”: large numbers of people who engage in mob behavior online by hacking, harassing, attacking and spreading nasty messages. They are often the unwitting victims of master manipulation by the abuser, who has orchestrated the situation to do his or her dirty work. They are frequently also self-righteous and believe that they are righting wrongs online. The damage they do can ruin reputations permanently.

“Dupes”: for the purposes of cyberbullying, “dupes” are people who have been manipulated into cyberbullying others in a cyberbullying-by-proxy campaign. They engage in harassment or cyberbullying activities after being convinced that they are doing the right thing, giving someone something they deserve or believe that the person they are targeting started it by harassing them first. The person is being manipulated by the real cyberbully into falling for this. It’s a cyberbullying-by-proxy campaign designed to get others to do their dirty work and the “dupes” fall for it.

“Extortion” or “coercion”:  for the purposes of cyberbullying, extortion often takes the form of an online threat or a threat offline to do something online. It includes when someone threatens to disclose secrets or embarrassing images, puts an unreasonable amount of pressure on you, threatens to do something to you, someone or something you care about or post something online, takeover your accounts or attack you online in order to convince you or force you to do something or not do something.

“Flamers” and “flaming”: nasty comments, insults and rude communications posted online for various purposes, including anyone holding opposing opinions or doing things they don’t approve. “Flamers” tend to act alone in their attacks and are highly opinionated, attacking anyone with other opinions or if they find them offensive in any way.

“Hacking”: a commonly-used term to cover all non-consensual digital intrusions. For the purposes of cyberbullying, “hacking” involves the use of technology to damage, alter or destroy data, online accounts or digital devices or content of the target.

“Inadvertent Cyberbullies”: another term for “accidental cyberbullies”, this type of cyberbully was careless or clueless and hurt the other person by accident. They may have sent the message to the wrong person, left out a “jk” or “J” or mis-communicated their message.

“Mean Girl Cyberbullies”: Always mean but not always girls, this type of cyberbully attacks reputations and engages in cyberbullying designed to socially exclude or humiliate their target.

“Photoshopping”: named for the Photoshop™ software tool that allows photos to be altered or edited, this involves teens manipulating the real photo of someone else to make it appear that they were doing something they hadn’t really done, such as putting their head on someone else’s naked body or replacing the bottle of soda they were holding in a photo with a bottle of alcohol.

“Posing”:  when someone pretends to be someone else online, either through setting up a new account while pretending to be that person, using an account with a screen name similar to theirs (using a lowercase “L” instead of a “1” in the name), communicating anonymously or taking over someone else’s account for the purposes of hurting that person.

“Power Hungry Cyberbullies”: this type of cyberbully is often also an offline bully. They use threats or physical force in real life and threats and fear tactics online. There is a subset of this type of cyberbullying, called “Revenge of the Nerds.”

“Privacy Invasions”: for the purposes of cyberbullying, include misuse of someone’s passwords that had been voluntarily provided to the abuser, unauthorized use of passwords and online accounts, digital surveillance, stalking or monitoring (“spying”), unauthorized access of someone’s digital accounts, devices, activities, content and communications, coerced or pressured access to friends, digital communications, photos and videos, private messages, profiles and game accounts, text messages and cell phone call logs, public sharing of private facts, intrusion into someone’s private space or time and “hacking” for data access purposes.

Revenge of the Nerds”: this type of cyberbully is a special online profile of a power hungry cyberbully. They too want to see their victims sweat and use threats and fear tactics. But they are often the victim of power hungry bullies in real life and unable to fulfill their physical threats. They aren’t a “tough guy,” just playing one online.

“Set-Up”: when someone poses as someone else and communicates with the target to see what they would do, using it to teach them a lesson or test them.

“Sexting”: taking and sending sexual, sexually provocative or nude images to someone via any digital device including a cell phone (such as a webcam, online or using a photo-sharing (such as Flickr) or video-sharing (such as YouTube) network). Typed communications are not “sexting.” They are “cybering.”

 “Spying” or “digital surveillance”: using technology to monitor someone else’s digital communications, such as spyware or physically reviewing cell phone, text or other digital communications without the permission of the person whose account is being monitored or reviewed. It also includes audio or video surveillance.


“Trolls”: are people who like to stir up trouble online and see what happens. A juicy rumor campaign can “feed the trolls,” allowing them to act out and giving them the attention they crave, especially in virtual worlds and interactive games.

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