Thursday, October 7, 2010

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Notes from a pseudoanonymous blogger named "dissent" on cyberbullying cases and the law and privacy concerns....


Privacy invasion aftermath: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”
September 30, 2010 by Dissent

I didn’t sleep much last night. I felt sick inside over the suicide of
a young man whose privacy had been horribly invaded. There will be
those who lump this case in with what is often referred to as
“cyberbullying,” but cyberbullying does not necessarily involve
invasion of privacy. The suicide of Tyler Clementi is about privacy in
its most element form — to be able to engage in sexual activity in the
privacy of your own space without prying eyes.

Back in August, I blogged about my concerns that schools were grooming
students for a surveillance state in which they are growing up with
reduced expectations of privacy. At other times, I’ve covered news
stories about whether the younger generation has abandoned its privacy
or is less concerned about privacy. Whether it’s the schools,
Facebook, parents trying to be “friends” with their kids or
electronically snooping on their kids, or anything else, the bottom
line is that although privacy is certainly not dead, respect for
privacy is in peril.

We are failing our children if we do not teach them that not only do
they have a right to personal privacy, but they have a responsibility
to respect others’ privacy, too. The tragic case of Tyler Clementi,
which Kashmir Hill discusses on Forbes, the “Star Wars” kid video that
Daniel Solove discussed in his book The Future of Reputation, or any
of a number of cases where teens have either been the victims of a
privacy invasion or the perpetrators – all of these cases signal a
failure to teach respect for privacy. And in some cases, these privacy
invasions have had tragic consequences. Whether Clementi killed
himself out of depression or out of anger and desire to get revenge on
his roommate or for some other reason is unknown to me, and as a
psychologist, I will not speculate about his mental state. What does
seem evident, however, is that had it not been for the actions of
others who invaded his privacy, he would almost certainly be alive

Older teens and young adults are old enough to consent to having their
privacy invaded. They are also old enough to take responsibility for
invading others’ privacy. I’ve little doubt that many will clamor for
new laws criminalizing the conduct of the two students involved in the
Clementi case. Suddenly, five years for invasion of privacy will seem
too light a penalty. Where were all these people when many of us kept
warning others that we need more privacy protections, not less. Where
have the courts been when many of us have urged them to recognize
privacy harms that are not just unreimbursed financial losses or
demonstrable impact such as job discrimination?

And can we really hold young privacy invaders accountable or
responsible if we have failed to teach them what our parents taught
us? Knowing that what you are doing is wrong is one thing. Fully
appreciating how devastating a privacy invasion can be is another.

Being a parent is the toughest job on earth. When was the last time
you had a conversation with your child about privacy and respect for

Notes from a law professor at GW in DC

From the facts I’ve learned thus far, it remains unclear precisely
what motivated Ravi and Wei’s actions. What is clear is that this
case illustrates that young people are not being taught how to use the
Internet responsibly. Far too often, privacy invasions aren’t viewed
as a serious harm. They are seen a joke, as something causing minor
embarrassment. This view is buttressed by courts that routinely are
dismissive of privacy harms. It continues to persist because few
people ever instruct young people about how serious privacy invasions
are. Another attitude that remains common is that the Internet is a
radically-free zone, and people can say or post whatever they want
with impunity.

But privacy is a serious matter. People are irreparably harmed by the
disclosure of their personal data, their intimate moments, and their
closely-held secrets. Free speech isn’t free. Freedom of speech is
robust, but it is far from absolute. Today, everyone has a profound
set of powers at their fingertips — the ability to capture information
easily and disseminate it around the world in instant. These were
powers only a privileged few used to have. But with power must come
responsibility. Using the Internet isn’t an innocuous activity, but
is a serious one, more akin to driving a car than to playing a video
game. Young people need to be taught this. The consequences to
themselves and others are quite grave.

I doubt Ravi and Wei realized that their actions would contribute to a
young man’s suicide. I doubt they had any idea that their actions
were criminal. They’ve learned these lessons now. Sadly, it is far
too late.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bullying, Suicide, Punishment

from the pen of JOHN SCHWARTZ, at the NY TIMES

TYLER CLEMENTI may have died from exposure in cyberspace. His roommate and another student, according to police, viewed Mr. Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man on a Webcam and streamed it onto the Internet. Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old violinist in his freshman year at Rutgers University, jumped off of the George Washington Bridge, and now the two face serious criminal charges, including invasion of privacy.

The prosecutor in the case has also said that he will investigate bringing bias charges, based on Mr. Clementi’s sexual orientation, which could raise the punishment to 10 years in prison from 5.

But the case has stirred passionate anger, and many have called for tougher charges, like manslaughter — just as outrage led to similar calls against the six students accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, a student in South Hadley, Mass., who also committed suicide earlier this year.

What should the punishment be for acts like cyberbullying and online humiliation?

That question is as difficult to answer as how to integrate our values with all the things in our lives made of bits, balancing a right to privacy with the urge to text, tweet, stream and post.

And the outcry over proper punishment is also part of the continuing debate about how to handle personal responsibility and freedom. Just how culpable is an online bully in someone’s decision to end a life?

It is not the first time cruel acts and online distribution have combined tragically. In 2008, Jessica Logan, 18, hanged herself after an ex-boyfriend circulated the nude cellphone snapshots she had “sexted” to him.

Public humiliation and sexual orientation can be an especially deadly blend. In recent weeks, several students have committed suicide after instances that have been described as cyberbullying over sexual orientation, including Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., who hanged himself from a tree in his backyard last month and died after more than a week on life support.

A survey of more than 5,000 college students, faculty members and staff members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender published last month by the advocacy group Campus Pride found that nearly one in four reported harassment, almost all related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Warren J. Blumenfeld, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Iowa State University and an author of the Campus Pride study, also conducted a smaller survey of 350 nonheterosexual students between the ages of 11 and 22 and found that about half of the respondents reported being cyberbullied in the 30 days before the survey, and that more than a quarter had suicidal thoughts.

“Those students who are face-to-face bullied, and/or cyberbullied, face increased risk for depression, PTSD, and suicidal attempts and ideation,” Professor Blumenfeld said.

But punishment for people who do such a thing is still up for debate. In the Rutgers case, New Jersey prosecutors initially charged the two students, Dharum Ravi and Molly W. Wei, with two counts each of invasion of privacy for using the camera on Sept. 19. Mr. Ravi faces two additional counts for a second, unsuccessful attempt to view and transmit another image of Mr. Clementi two days later.

If Mr. Ravi’s actions constituted a bias crime, that could raise the charges from third-degree invasion of privacy to second degree, and double the possible punishment to 10 years.

Still, for all the talk of cyberbullying, the state statute regarding that particular crime seems ill suited to Mr. Clementi’s suicide.

Like most states with a cyberbullying statute, New Jersey’s focuses on primary and high school education, found in the part of the legal code devoted to education, not criminal acts. The privacy law in this case is used more often in high-tech peeping Tom cases involving hidden cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. State Senator Barbara Buono sponsored both pieces of legislation, and said the law had to adapt to new technologies. “No law is perfect,” she said. “No law can deter every and any instance of this kind of behavior. We’re going to try to do a better job.”

Still, the punishment must fit the crime, not the sense of outrage over it. While some have called for manslaughter charges in the Rutgers case, those are difficult to make stick. Reaching a guilty verdict would require that the suicide be viewed by a jury as foreseeable — a high hurdle in an age when most children report some degree of bullying.

Besides, finding the toughest possible charges isn’t the way the law is supposed to work, said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in cybercrime. “There’s an understandable wish by prosecutors to respond to the moral outrage of society,” he said, “but the important thing is for the prosecution to follow the law.”

The fact that a case of bullying ends in suicide should not bend the judgment of prosecutors, he said. Society should be concerned, he said, when it appears that the government is “prosecuting people not for what they did, but for what the victim did in response.”

Finding the right level of prosecution, then, can be a challenge. On the one hand, he said, “it’s college — everybody is playing pranks on everybody else.” On the other, “invading somebody’s privacy can inflict such great distress that invasions of privacy should be punished, and punished significantly.”

There is also the question of society’s role. Students are encouraged by Facebook and Twitter to put their every thought and moment online, and as they sacrifice their own privacy to the altar of connectedness, they worry less about the privacy of others.

Teenagers “think that because they can do it, that makes it right,” said Nancy E. Willard, a lawyer and founder of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Impulsiveness, immaturity and immense publishing power can be a dangerous mix, she said. “With increased power to do things comes increased responsibility to make sure that what you’re doing is O.K.,” she said.

That is why Daniel J. Solove, author of “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet,” said society needed to work on education.

“We teach people a lot of the consequences” of things like unsafe driving, he said, “but not that what we do online could have serious consequences.”

That sounds good, of course, but adults still drive recklessly after all that time in driver’s ed. And it is easy and cheap to say that “kids can be so cruel at that age,” but failures of judgment can be found almost anywhere you look.

After all, what are we to make of Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan who devoted his off hours to a blog denouncing the openly gay student body president at his alma mater, the University of Michigan? His posts include accusations that the student, Chris Armstrong, is a “radical homosexual activist” and a photo of Mr. Armstrong doctored with a rainbow flag and swastika. He told Anderson Cooper that he is “a Christian American exercising my First Amendment rights.”

On Friday, the attorney general’s office announced that Mr. Shirvell was taking personal leave pending a disciplinary hearing.

網路忠告 -- ''DIGIRATA'' - A 'Desiderata' for the Digital Age -- translated into Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan by Tracy Li and Jacky Lin

Dear Friends in Taiwan,

當你慢慢地點擊網路上的連結並接收 KUSO 訊息 的同時,記住,你生活原有的寧靜正被連根拔起。











快樂,要快樂!用最簡單的符號做到所有的可能,並努力做個快樂的 24/7, 偶爾離線放鬆一下吧!

----------------------------- (c) 2010 ----------------------------

[words by Dan Bloom, American writer in Taiwan]
[translated into Mandarin Chinese by Tracy Li at Chung Cheng University in Taiwan and Jacky Lin, editor, CCU graduate now working at Chiayi Christian Hospital in Taiwan.]