I am tidying up this blog. I have gone back through the comments and deleted a few that were pointless, and I will soon be taking out some of the old posts that have become irrelevant.
What I have noticed is how this blog degenerated to an extent that it went too far away from having any value. That was for several reasons. Very few people bother to read any of the informative links I provided, and that can be frustrating. Why bother to find interesting articles when no one reads them? I quickly learned that, in general, people don’t come to the Internet and expect to actually have to think – they just want opinionated ideas that feed their own thoughts.
However, knowing that if I went down the path of rationality the amount of views this blog would get would plummet downwards, I made what now seems to be the wrong decision – to cause a ruckus and get more attention, in the hope that maybe 1% of the new viewers might get something from it. It has worked to a slight extent – there are regular readers who come here so that they can lose their tempers yet go away with even more to think about, but I feel that I have let down those people who actually did want answers and solutions.
So the blog will change slightly. No stupid comments will be allowed. There will be no more deliberate provocation, no more playing with the Todd supporters. I will try to return to common sense. Therefore we come to today’s post.
What should have happened with the Amanda Todd story, and why is it so important to know the truth?
The Todd story is not all about cyberbullying. Searching for evidence of cyberbullying in the story is actually quite difficult. There is no appearance of it around the BlogTV displays and, in fact, Amanda seems to have reacted much more to the attraction of online admiration. There is absolutely no evidence of it from 2010 through 2011, when Amanda’s output was at its height. Just think – if Amanda had been so depressed and terrified in that period, she would have turned off. Simple as that.
Not until late 2011 do we have evidence of someone creating a ‘shitfest’ by publishing Amanda’s details – an unfortunate event – and the first instance of any bullying only appears in the real-life fight, and, although we have an idea that this episode was dealt with, maybe it should have been handled differently. It is not until after Amanda’s bleach episode that we see the next instance of what could be termed cyberbullying, and after that there is little trace of it. We know without shadow of a doubt that it is very likely that Amanda’s final action was triggered by something else. And yet it’s all to do with cyberbullying.
Yet stand back and look at what the source – the main source – of the problem really was: online webcam use in unregulated chatrooms.
This is what should have happened:
After the Amanda Todd event, there should have been a huge investigation into the problems caused by the existence of sites like Omegle, BlogTV and so on, and further investigations into the sites like cameracaptures where money is made from trawling webcam chatrooms for pictures of girls and boys in compromising situations. However, because the truth was avoided, this wasn’t done.
It would have been very easy to launch a campaign against the kinds of sites that got Amanda into so much trouble. The Canadian government should have looked at options:
1. Make sites like cameracaptures illegal – strictly illegal. This is a huge task, but at least try to make if difficult for them. I would suggest that all porn sites are required to have written confirmation that the people involved are over 18, that all porn sites have at least some barriers to entry such as registration by credit card or driving licence, and that all ISPs are forced to exclude porn sites unless specifically requested by the user. I would also advocate a compulsory payment for each visit to a porn site, or at least an established subscription cost.
Problems: the porn sites are too many and in too many countries. Not a good excuse. I am sick and tired of governments saying the problem’s too big so we will ignore it, yet somehow they can manage to eavesdrop on all our private conversations for the so-called sake of National Security. Barriers will be overcome. Of course they will, but perhaps they will deter a few of the very young kids that are being exposed to all this. And it is easy for ISPs to ban certain sites, yet they know that it costs a bit of money and that a huge amount of traffic comes from porn.
2. Regulate these sites in the same way that restaurants are monitored by food inspectors, or that builders are regulated by Health and Safety experts. With the massive advances in technology available, it’s getting easier by the day to do that.
3. Strongly regulate sites like Omegle and the rest. At the first hint of child porn, slam them with hefty penalties. Close them down.
4. The press is regulated. Television is regulated. There are rules about what can and cannot be shown. Impose the same set of rules on media like Facebook. It’s easy. All you have to do is say that Facebook facilitates the publication of pages, therefore is a publisher. Instead of having Facebook set their own haphazard rules about what constitutes hate speech and what have you, the government should set clear rules. My suggestion is that the moderation of Facebook should be done by a seperate not-for-profit organisation, and that Facebook should pay for the running costs. It’s not like they are short of a few dollars.
5. Like with cigarette pack warnings, force Facebook, Google and the likes to publish advice on their home pages – perhaps links to suicide helplines, general notices, or a simple ‘Take care when surfing the Internet’ note. Or even ‘Cyberbullying is a crime’.
All of the above points need debate, but I think they are valid.
So what has happened? Because people avoided the stark truth about Amanda’s activities, sites like cameracaptures and Omegle, even Facebook, must be killing themselves laughing. It’s like they are magicians, deftly drawing attention to one thing while doing some trickery behind the scenes.
Where does a lot of blame lie in this aspect of Internet threat? With the porn, chatroom and social media providers. Where has the blame been firmly placed? On so-called cyberbullies who are, for the most part, young kids. Watch the madness of the news. A young kid sexts relatively innocently. He becomes a child pornographer. A young girl sends photos of herself in a stupid moment – she becomes a child pornographer. Kid says a snarky remark, they become vicious suicide-causers. Someone puts themselves on YouTube and gets called fat, and suddenly it’s a major crime.
And when the raving lunatics have finished blaming the kids, they go on some mad vigilante hunts for pedophiles and stalkers.
I need to say a couple of things. People have become extraordinarily confused in their hatred-driven fervour, and have lost all their senses.
First. Pedophiles and predators exist. Yet there is a vast, vast difference between the child porn circulating on Tor and the child porn of a dick pic sent by a teen to his girlfriend, yet they now close to falling in the same category.
Second. The headless chickens have run around looking for pedophiles and in most cases they are hopelessly wrong, unable to distinguish between genuine pedophiles and people who are being set up. It is dangerous to act in this way. Take my word for it, if you think you’ve found a pedophile, then you haven’t found a pedophile. However, these vigilantes have ignored one simple fact. The existence of the sites I have already mentioned make it easy for perverts to have access to whatever they want. Chasing down a mixture of young curious kids, dirty old men, or idiotic teens does little, while the sources are left untouched. But hey – a vigilante campaign in which people run around saying they are ‘Anonymous’ and acting like they are the Batman and Robin cyberpoliz is much easier than organising a proper campaign to get governments to tackle the problem. ‘Oh let’s send a stern rebuke to Facebook’. ‘Oh, let’s report a Facebook page’. ‘Let’s sign an online petition’.Ya. The political activism of the couch potato.
So what has happened due to the truth not being told?
The sources remain untouched. Unmoderated chatrooms thrive, kids still pile on to them for a chance of nakedness, cameracaptures is still there.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government for some bizarre reason has used the Amanda Todd story to try and force forward a bill against privacy. And what does it do to combat all this? Nothing much. I will not go into detail, but would it have helped Amanda? Just think of this scenario:
Amanda goes online and gets naked. It would have saved her, because she would instantly have become a child pornographer (there is no lower age limit for this crime).
So we enter the plea that she was too young to know what she was doing. However, we are in dodgy territory. Amanda published her videos. On BlogTV her videos were archived, so anyone capturing the image didn’t actually have to be in the chatroom at the time. So do we have a problem – as with Tara Murphy – that these images are in the public domain? Amanda was on BlogTV and YouTube and displayed herself. How would this be treated in the ‘sending of photos without the user’s permission’? The Canadian law is concerned with private photos being sent – not with public broadcasts.
Now people will say that all the viewers will have realised it was child porn, and therefore are guilty of owning it or spreading it. Fair enough. But there were already laws in place to deal with that. The publication of Amanda’s photos was already illegal, covered by the anti-child-porn laws. So is that proof that laws don’t work? Like the law against Amanda smoking weed and drinking?
In Amanda’s story, would anything have saved her? Firstly, let’s forget that the new laws make Amanda the criminal. Would the cops have been able to help? No, not at all. Let’s also forget that Amanda had 100s of viewers, so tracking any one single scapegoat would be virtually impossible. And really, judging by the huge footprint of Amanda on the Internet, we are talking 1000s, not 100s.
So to make it simple, let’s just deal with the potential blackmailer. First things first. The message that Carol received on Christmas Eve was a word of warning, not a threat. Amanda was deeply into the Capper world at that time, and the message was from someone trying to help by describing the blackmail techniques.
Now, given the new laws and a lot of luck, say we find the sender of that message. He/she simply turns around and tells is like it is – ‘Amanda is in the world of the Cappers’. What do the cops do? Investigate all of BlogTV and the rest? Arrest the sender of the message for trying to warn Carol? Or – as they chose, try to desperately get Amanda to stop, which she didn’t. In fact, she got worse.
So let’s move on a year. Austin Collins? Tyler Boo? OK. In order to find them, the cops have free rein. They find out that Tyler Boo is registered on Facebook as Tyler Boo, 999 Nowhere Street, Nowhere (that’s how lax Facebook registration is). They find that Austin Collins’ IP address leads to a WiFi system in Starbucks.
But let’s just imagine that these two are idiots, and the cops find them easily. What would the penalties be? Who knows. Going back in time they would have simply got some sort of slap-on-the-wrist reprimand. Even now, once the police discovered who they were, it’s unlikely anything would happen. Using a mixture of observation, knowledge, and a little guess work, I would say that Austin Collins was definitely 14-15 years old, and that Tyler Boo would be not far off the same age.
Now consider the last downside of all laws destined to do good – nine times out of ten, they do worse.
Tale time: In the 1960s the UK police were getting fed up with robberies with people using knives or coshes (around the time of the Great Train Robbery). So they decided to get heavy and make the penalties the same as they were for robberies using guns. The result: the criminals used shotguns instead of knives and coshes, because the punishment was the same. Deaths and injuries escalated.
If Canada decides to make it a terrible crime to spread pictures, it will just go secret. Like Snapchat. Kids aren’t dumb when it comes to technology. A potential Tyler Boo or Austin Collins will just make damned sure they are hard to trace. Sure, it may make people think twice, but there’s a thing with kids – make something a double-dare and, for a few, there is more excitement in doing it. Dolan and a few others posted the videos on the RIP pages knowing full well they would never be caught, and getting the thrill of the naughtiness of it all. Even now, the videos appear on YouTube from time to time, and there have been no arrests.
The Todd supporters remain convinced that not only was Amanda enticed and coerced (let them think that) but they think that Tyler Boo or Austin Collins or the 100s of other people involved with Amanda were predatory and professional stalkers aged 40+. They weren’t. Austin Collins was definitely a kid (40+ predators do not talk of ‘shitfests’) and Tyler Boo was, if you read his messages, much more likely to be a misguided 4Chan activist. The very fact that Amanda was so easily contacted shows a much more different problem.
I will stop for now, but maybe later on in the week I will explain more about why the truth needs to be told.
Meanwhile, back to tidying up this blog.