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Rebecca Ann Sedwick was harrassed by two girls, ages 12 and 14, who have been charged with felony aggravated stalking. Sedwick later killed herself image www.socialselect.net

Rebecca Ann Sedwick … Florida has a bullying law, but it leaves punishment to schools, not police.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick was harrassed by two girls, ages 12 and 14, who have been charged with felony aggravated stalking. Sedwick later killed herself. Photo: Supplied

After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick killed herself last month, one of her tormenters continued to make comments about her online, even bragging about the bullying, a sheriff said on Tuesday.

The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. They were charged with stalking and released to their parents.

“‘Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a …’ and you can add the last word yourself,” the sheriff said, quoting a Facebook post the older girl made on Saturday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talks about the events leading up to the arrest over the weekend of two girls in the Sedwick Florida bullying case image www.socialselect.net

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd talks about the events leading up to the arrest over the weekend of two girls in the Sedwick Florida bullying case.

Police in central Florida said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she took her own life on September 9. A dozen or so suicides in the past three years that have been attributed at least in part to cyberbullying.

The sheriff said they were still investigating the girls and trying to decide whether the parents should be charged.

“I’m aggravated that the parents aren’t doing what parents should do,” the sheriff said. “Responsible parents take disciplinary action.”

About a year ago, the older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School and told her “to drink bleach and die”, the sheriff said. She also convinced the younger arrested girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends.

The girls repeatedly intimidated Rebecca and called her names, the sheriff said, and at one point, the younger girl beat up Rebecca at school.

Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. If convicted, it’s not clear how much time, if any at all, the girls would spend in juvenile detention because they did not have any previous criminal history, the sheriff said.

The bullying began after the 14-year-old girl started dating a boy Rebecca had been seeing, the sheriff said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old’s Lakeland home said he was her father and told The Associated Press “none of it’s true”.

“My daughter’s a good girl and I’m 100 per cent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true,” he said.

At their mobile home, a barking pit bull stood guard and no one came outside despite shouts from reporters for an interview.

Neighbour George Colom said he had never interacted with the girl but noticed her playing roughly with other children on the street.

“Kids getting beat up, kids crying,” Mr Colom said. “The kids hang loose unsupervised all the time.”

A telephone message left at the 12-year-old girl’s home was not immediately returned and no one answered the door.

Orlando lawyer David Hill said detectives may be able to pursue contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge for the parents, if they knew their daughters were bullying Rebecca yet did nothing about it.

But it “will be easy to defend since the parents are going to say, ‘We didn’t know anything about it,'” said Hill, who is not involved in the case.

Perry Aftab, a New Jersey lawyer, told AP last month that it was difficult to bring charges against someone accused of driving a person to suicide, in part because of free-speech laws. “We’ve had so many suicides that are related to digital harassment. But we also have free-speech laws in this country,” Ms Aftab said.

In a review of news articles, The Associated Press found about a dozen suicides in the United States since October 2010 that have been attributed at least in part to cyberbullying. Ms Aftab said she believed the real number was at least twice that.

In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself in Missouri after she was dumped online by a fictitious teenage boy created in part by an adult neighbour, Lori Drew, authorities said. A jury found Ms Drew guilty of three federal misdemeanours but a judge threw out the verdicts and acquitted her.

Florida’s law, the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, was named after a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. The law was amended on July 1 to cover cyberbullying.

David Tirella, a Florida lawyer who lobbied for the law and has handled dozens of cyberbullying cases, said law enforcement could also seek more traditional charges.

“The truth is, even without these school bullying laws, there’s battery, there’s stalking,” he said.



Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line

Duncan Bannatyne,

star of British television show Dragons’ Den, has caused a Twitter storm after offering £50,000 ($75,000) to anyone who would break both arms of a tweeter who threatened his daughter.

The 62-year-old Scot offered a £25,000 reward to anyone who could identify the tweeter calling himself @YuriVasilyev, to be doubled “if his arms were broken”.

The self-made millionaire quickly removed the post from his Twitter page, replacing it with another softer message promising “£30,000 reward for info leading to his arrest”.

Duncan Bannatyne offered a reward to anyone who would break the arms of a tweeter who threatened her daughter.Duncan Bannatyne offered a reward to anyone who would break the arms of a tweeter who threatened his daughter. 

Bannatyne received a message three days ago, saying: “I’m looking for a £35,000 investment to stop us hurting your Hollie Bannatyne. We will bring hurt and pain into your life. We are watching her. She is very attractive. Want photos?”

Another message said: “Duncan Bannatyne – Hollie is going to get hurt. We will bring pain and fear. You should have expected us. We are the men of Belarus.

“We do not give up. We will stand tall. You should have paid. £35,000 to stop it. Contact us to pay. We are watching. Expect us. We are the men of Belarus.”

Despite the messages, Bannatyne later said he suspected the sinister tweeter was based in Moscow.

“My family is well protected but I take any threat to them very seriously and will do all I can to ensure the person or people involved are caught,” Bannatyne said in a statement.

Dragons’ Den airs on Foxtel in Australia.


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Character Attack in Cyberland

Who is being so toxic on the net?

And why?

March 1, 2011
Facebook is one of the most common habitats of internet trolls.Facebook is one of the most common habitats of internet trolls.

Trolling – posting inflammatory comments on web sites is on the rise. Recent victims include a schoolgirl who committed suicide; a reporter attacked in Egypt; and a pregnant celebrity. Jojo Moyes reports from London.

At first glance, Natasha MacBryde’s Facebook page is nothing unusual. A pretty, slightly self-conscious blonde teenager gazes out, posed in the act of taking her own picture. But unlike other pages, this has been set up in commemoration, following her death under a train earlier this month.

Now though it has had to be moderated after it was hijacked by commenters who mocked both Natasha and the manner of her death heartlessly.

“Natasha wasn’t bullied, she was just a whore,” said one, while another added: “I caught the train to heaven LOL [laugh out loud].” Others clicked on the “like” symbol, safe in their anonymity, to indicate that they agreed.

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The messages were removed after a matter of hours, but Natasha’s grieving father Andrew revealed that Natasha’s brother had also discovered a macabre video – entitled Tasha The Tank Engine on YouTube (it has since been removed). “I simply cannot understand how or why these people get any enjoyment or satisfaction from making such disgraceful comments,” he said.

He is far from alone. Following the vicious sexual assault on NBC reporter Lara Logan in Cairo last week, online debate on America’s NPR website became so ugly that moderator Mark Memmott was forced to remove scores of comments and reiterate the organisation’s stance on offensive message-posting.

He added: “Here’s a suggestion based on my more than 30 years of reporting and editing experience. Before you submit a comment, ask yourself this question: If I had to put my real name with this, would I hit ‘publish?’ If the answer is no, the better move might be to hit ‘delete’.”

It’s a sensible message. But it’s one that fewer internet users seem to be heeding. “Trolls”, or users who deliberately post offensive or inflammatory comments, are on the rise and few websites – this one included – are immune.

America’s Today Show recently ran a story about trolls’ behaviour after the deaths of three adolescent girls. One of the girls, Alexis Pilkington, was referred to as a “suicidal slut”, while the grieving family of an 18-year-old who had died in a car crash were targeted by trolls who emailed them leaked pictures of her mutilated corpse.

Last year, after others defaced the Facebook pages of two murdered children, Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy claimed that the free-for-all nature of the internet had become “a recipe for anarchy and the Wild West”.

In Britain, website Little Gossip prompted outrage after it enabled – some say encouraged – school pupils to post unproven sexual gossip about other, named pupils. It was closed earlier this month after the owners confessed they were unable to prevent what they called “malicious and unwanted comments”.

But who is posting such vile content? And why? British neuroscientist and member of the House of Lords Baroness Greenfield has expressed concern as to whether internet use is responsible for what she sees as an increasing lack of empathy among the young. At the British Festival of Science she said that while some “very good things” were emerging from information technology, “by the same token we have got to be very careful about what price we are paying”.

Website netbullies.com has identified four kinds of people who post offensive content. The most dangerous, it says, is the “power hungry” bully, often someone who has little power or voice in real life. “They are empowered by the anonymity of the internet and communications and the fact that they never have to confront their victim.”

Someone who would agree is Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman, who has to deal daily with offensive tweets and postings that, he says now, “come with the turf”. “It’s getting worse because the internet allows for anonymity,” he says. “And anonymity is the email equivalent of drunken courage in a bar. It allows people to fire off vulgarity and threats sans consequences.”

Last month, however, Pearlman, decided to track down and confront those who had insulted him, and, in one case, tricked him into opening a link containing extreme pornography while his young daughter was present. “Matt”, the first of the commenters he confronted, apologised profusely, saying he had simply wanted to get a rise out of Pearlman. “I thought it was cool,” Matt said. “I never meant for it to reach this point.”

“Andy”, another, confessed that he was not proud of what he had done, “but the internet got the best of me”. He pleaded, without irony, for Pearlman “not to eviscerate me”. “The main problem,” says Pearlman, “is there’s no longer a stamp-and-envelope moment. Back when we communicated via letters, there was time between writing something and sending it to kick back and re-think your sentiment. Now, there’s no time. It’s write, click, send – bam!”

This appears to be true for Nir Rosen, a Fellow at New York University’s Centre for Law and Security, who resigned his post last week after his own unpleasant tweets about Lara Logan’s plight were publicised. “It was the Twitter equivalent of blurting something out…” he explained afterwards. “In those few minutes I didn’t think about it, you’re lying in bed late at night… just f…ing around on the internet thoughtlessly.”

Etiquette expert William Hanson agrees: “Writing something on Facebook, Twitter or an internet forum detaches you from your remarks… it gives people a kind of ‘courage’ to be vindictive and come out with things that in their right mind they would never say.”

But this apparent licence to express one’s most toxic thoughts is evident on ordinary newspaper websites, where, this week, for example, comments below a photograph of pregnant British pop star Myleene Klass included: “She looks a complete mess,” “totally gross”, “saggy breasted” and even “revolting”. One pregnant woman told me she had felt intimidated just reading them.

Technology experts are divided as to whether insisting on the use of real names would improve online behaviour – or whether trolls would simply find a way around it. But some websites are trying to solve the problem, harnessing the wisdom of the crowd, and relying on the good sense, and manners, of the majority.

Tech website Slashdot has for years only made visible comments that receive a certain number of “approvals” from other users. Websites such as Huffington Post and Jezebelhave recently introduced similar systems, with posts requiring peer approval. Gawker, meanwhile, requires commenters to “audition” before their remarks appear. In a bold strategy, weblog site Metafilter requires its users to pay to comment – those who make offensive remarks are banned and lose their money. It has proven a powerful deterrent.

But Facebook, which is primarily a networking, rather than commenting site, is struggling to deal with the problem, as evidenced by the callous comments left in support of killer Raoul Moat after his recent death.

In the meantime, few have faith that the internet’s “Wild West nature” will change any time soon. Anyone who writes or is written about is now a target for abuse, says Pearlman. “I don’t think it can be improved, unless there’s some sort of genuine accountability. And that’s probably impossible.”

Hanson believes the issue may simply reflect society as a whole, and that people are becoming less respectful of each other generally. “Manners are selfless – they put other people first, and we as individuals second. We must remember that the whole point of manners and civility is other people, internet or no internet.”

The Telegraph, London

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha