Yes, bullying has been around long before Facebook, but is there any question that bullying on social media is out of control?
Another sad story of a young girl who killed herself after being bullied on Facebook.
An Italian prosecutor has opened an investigation into how Facebook allowed the publication of insults and bullying posts aimed at a teenager who later leapt to her death from her third-floor bedroom window.
Carolina Picchio, 14, from Novara in northern Italy, died in January after a gang of boys circulated a video on Facebook of her appearing drunk and dishevelled in the bathroom at a party.
Obviously most of the blame falls on those who did the bullying, but should Facebook also have some accountability?
A third of teachers have said they have been subjected to online bullying – including by parents who see them as ‘fair game’.
Facebook and Twitter have been used to intimidate teachers over bad grades or simply because they are not liked.
More than a quarter of those that admit they have been targeted say the abuse has come from parents with one headteacher was driven to the brink of suicide by a year-long online hate campaign.
One parent even set up a ‘Google group’ and asked others to join in their abuse.
Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility in IT at Plymouth Business School who researched the matter, said: ‘You expect a little bit of abuse from children. But when parents launch 12-month campaigns of abuse you have to think “something has gone wrong here”.
‘Parents are saying “You gave my child a bad grade, I’m going to give you a slating on Facebook” – it is something that is growing and growing.’
On top of the abuse from pupils and parents, one in 10 said they had been a victim of another teacher’s cyber-bullying.
The report said: ‘It seems to a subset of the population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom.’
One headteacher told the team: ‘A parent set up a Google group and devoted it to saying unpleasant things about me. It started off as “the Head” and then he started referring to me just by my surname. He invited other parents to join in but only one did.
‘I eventually had a mini breakdown in the summer holiday needing an emergency doctor to be called out – as I had become suicidal – a fact that none of my staff know as I was much better by the start of the term – greatly helped by him removing his children from school.’
The survey was carried out by academics working for the UK Safer Internet Centre and it found that the most common type of abuse was through Facebook groups that targeted specific teachers.
There was also evidence of pupils creating fake Facebook pages in a teacher’s name, posting videos of teachers in class on YouTube, and setting up whole websites to be abusive about a single or group of staff.
RateMyTeacher.com was also mentioned a number of times as a site where abusive comments had been posted. In some cases where teachers had complained, the comments still remained.
‘While some defenders of free speech have argued that such sites have a right to exist, we would question the role of a site where pupils can freely post slanderous and abusive material about a member of the teaching profession and threats of violence toward them,’ the team wrote.
Prof Phippen said it was important more training is provided to senior managers and others to help combat the rise of online bullying.
A Facebook spokesman said: ‘At Facebook we have worked hard to develop reporting mechanisms that enable people to report offensive content they are concerned about.
‘Having the tools to report content in this way gives people more control over what is said about them on Facebook than over the wider web where few such controls exist.’
Facebook has agreed to disable the profiles of prison inmates in California whose accounts have been updated while they are behind bars.
“Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement Monday.
“This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims.”
CDCR said prison inmates are allowed to have Facebook profiles created prior to their incarceration but “if any evidence shows the account has been used while in the facility, Facebook Security will disable the account.”
Facebook accounts set up or updated on behalf of an inmate will be reported to the Facebook Security Department and removed as a violation of the social network’s user policies.
CDCR said there have been “numerous instances in which inmates, using their Facebook accounts, have delivered threats to victims or have made unwanted sexual advances.”
Inmates are maintaining their accounts using smuggled cellphones or having someone on the outside do it for them, according to CDCR.
It pointed to a “massive influx” in the number of cellphones being used by prisoners. Some 7,284 cellphones were confiscated in the first six months of this year, up from 261 devices in 2006.
ScanSoft, an Internet security provider states that there has been a 20% increase in the number of companies choosing to block social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter at work.
The addition of social networking sites to “black lists” follows commonly banned content at work such as pornography, gambling sites, and file sharing applications.
Not everyone agrees with such decisions though…
“James Norrie, the associate dean and professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, harshly criticized the trend.
Instead, companies should be teaching their employees to use social media so they can promote the company’s brand online, he suggested.
Taking the privilege away will only encourage skilled workers to seek out more dynamic employers, he said.”
Well, sure. In an ideal world all empolyees would use use Facebook to efficiently schedule meetings, brainstorm with collegues who are away from the office, and promote the company online.
In reality though, I think we all know that the temptation to hatch eggs, create bumper stickers, and take compatibility tests is just strong to resist.