The internet's two-sided freedom: We can no longer ignore the many people who use the anonymity of the web to harass, bully, or insult
Posted in: Legal, Privacy & Security at 16/06/2012 17:55
It hasn't been a great week for the internet: highly sexualised and violent imagery on Habbo Hotel, which is meant to be a hangout for children and young teens; Frank Zimmerman, the 60-year-old who threatened the children of MP Louise Mensch given a suspended jail sentence; and the news that Nicola Brookes, who was hounded on Facebook, has felt goaded enough to apply to the company for the details of those who were making her life unbearable.
But then it's rarely a great week for the internet, if we're honest. The assumption has long been that getting more people online is going to be a universal good - rather like getting more people into work. Once everyone is connected to the internet, we'll all be lovely, shiny and happy, helping each other with homework (except when we shouldn't, when we'll blithely laugh and say "oh no, you have to work that out yourself!"). Not angry, snarky, blinkered and impotent, like some seem to be.
The more time I spend online, the more I notice that people are really struggling with the double-edged sword of freedom that the web provides.
Frank Zimmerman and me: The truth about the troll who tormented Louise Mensch
Frank Zimmerman has been called everything from a 'sick saddo' to 'utterly disgusting' and 'evil'. But Terence Blacker, his former neighbour and one of his victims, says he was just a deluded man feeding his fantasies online
The call from Louise Mensch, one evening last August, was guarded. She had no idea who I was and, as an MP increasingly in the public eye, she was becoming used to the unwelcome attention of strangers. Indeed it had been precisely that which had caused me to contact her, by email and Twitter, the previous day.
She had just gone public about a threatening communication she had received. An email, purporting to be from the powerful computer hacking group LulzSec, which had been much in the news, had threatened to kill one of her children if she failed to get off Twitter. At the time, she was in America, away from her children, and spent the night talking to the police in England and had then tweeted her defiance online. "Get stuffed, losers" was the burden of her message.