Friday, 5 December 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Cyber Abuse

Cyber abuse has become an ever growing problem that has mirrored the internet’s growth over the last decade. With the introduction and vast uptake of social media in recent years, cyber abuse has become a popular topic, prompting discussions on cyber bullying and trolling. This week, Twitter announced new anti-trolling tools in an attempt to combat online trolls. ‘Trolling’ is a description for when a user’s account or post (on Twitter, Facebook etc.) is bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Cyber bullying sees the ‘traditional’ form of bullying (physical and mental abuse) move online. This has a number of consequences: The most obvious being that it's much harder to control, monitor and discipline those partaking in cyber bullying, particularly as cyber abuse is often faceless and nameless. This means that recipients often don't know who is attacking them over the World Wide Web.

The anonymity of cyber abuse intensifies the insults because abusers feel they have the autonomy to behave without repercussion. Would they say the things they do if they were standing in front of the individual they were abusing? The internet and social media has allowed individuals to connect with a much greater audience than ever before, connecting with people who you may never meet or see face to face. This therefore makes it easier to insult another individual via keyboard. It takes away individual responsibility for what a person says as well as and more importantly, the consequences it has to the individual or the group the insult is intended for.

This also ties in with the concept of gang culture. ‘Pack mentality’ is as equally apparent online as it is in real life. More people are likely to join in if one person starts abusing a group, product, person, video or picture. For example, where avid followers of a band or artist have been seen to attack (online) journalists or individuals simply because they criticise said band or artist. What makes this scenario more worrying is the age of the online abusers and some of the deviant phrases posted. So as much as the young can be the targets for cyber abuse, they can just as easily be the culprits.

However, cyber abuse is not limited to certain categories such as age or profession. It encompasses anyone who has access to the internet. Being a part of a social media platform will also increase an individual’s chance of being targeted. Twitter in particular, has broken down barriers in terms of the contactable audience, placing every member on an even playing field. An example of this is the constant abuse aimed at celebrities on Twitter. Celebrities were once seen (and still are in some cases) as ‘untouchables’ – someone who would never be in contact with the ‘average Joe’. But with the increasing popularity of Twitter, it has been seen as a way for celebrities to connect with their fan base and stay in the public eye. It is now far rarer for example to find a celebrity who isn’t on social media than one who is.

After Robin Williams’ (comedian and actor) death earlier this year, his daughter Zelda Williams was driven to delete twitter after the intense online harassment she suffered following the suicide of her father (at least two people sent her “photoshopped” images claiming to show her father’s body). A more recent example occurred last month: Olympic gold medallist Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill received death threats via Twitter, after she said she would request her name to be removed from a stand at Sheffield United if it offered a new contract to convicted rapist Ched Evans. These are extreme examples of how easily anyone can be reached and targeted by online abuse with the even more troubling question remaining – can anything be done about it?

Twitter’s new anti-trolling tools announced this week is a good step towards abolishing internet trolls and bullies. Now a user can simply now click on a tweet and select ‘block or report’, then click through a list of reasons explaining why they wish to do this. The previous system meant the person had to fill out a report describing the alleged harassment. Users witnessing abuse will now also be able to report it. Twitter has improved their behind the scenes procedures so that reviewing and responding to abuse occurs faster. This is one step in the right direction as the attempt to eradicate this type of behaviour continues.

In the UK, there is no legal definition of cyber bullying, however a number of laws exist that can be applied to cases of cyber bullying and online harassment. In India on the other hand, cyber bullying is a bailable offence, punishable with three years of imprisonment and a fine; however the complainant and police can interpret what constitutes offensive behaviour. Perhaps using India as an example, the only way forward is to be harder on cyber abuse, making examples of the worst cases. With the internet and social media continuing to expand at such a rapid rate, cases of cyber abuse are likely to continue to rise with them. This may be the only way to turn online trolls and bullies into the equivalent of outdated technology.

Organisation All Rise are currently undertaking research into cyber abuse and collecting data on how wide spread it is. There's a short survey here which needs your input:

This week, Abchaps attended the Pre Xmas Social Drink of the East meets West Club in Kensington Gardens. Abchurch and East Meets West Club share the interest of connecting businesses in Asia and the West. As well as joining Stickland Tucker's Christmas Drinks, we also participated in Gordon Dadd’s tech roundtable event, where we contributed our insights into the UK tech scene, especially on London tech IPOs.

Edison Investment Research appointed Hans Boström to its global healthcare team in London, who joins from Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, Jim Muir has joined Baker Tilly as its new head of Financial Services. Muir Joins from KPMG. Finally WH Ireland have create the position of head of Risk for James Baptise. Baptise joins with 20 years’ experience in the industry, having previously worked for Espirito Santo Investment Bank.

‘Cyber Abuse’-Using the internet or digital media platforms to deliberately cause harm or harrass another individual or group, often repeatedly.

Starting with something a bit different, The London Illustration Fair returns with a three-day event of artist-led stands, workshops, live DJs and pop-up food stalls. Showcasing the most innovative and exciting illustrators, printmakers and draftsman working in London today, the fair also champions four invited designers as part of its Affiliated Artists scheme, which this year includes Mr Bingo and Louise Pomeroy.

Continuing with the weird and the wonderful, if you are set on spreading the Christmas cheer this Saturday, then join in with Santacon. Dress up as the man of the moment and run around London at this 'non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical' celebration of Christmas cheer. Santacon is a flash mob-style gathering that sees three huge groups of Santa’s wandering through the city, giving out gifts and free hugs, singing carols and occasionally popping to the pub. Towards the end of the routes the groups join together into a huge throng of merry Santa’s (plus a few elves and reindeer – they're allowed to join in, too).

Finally for a relaxed Sunday away from the high street crowds of Christmas shoppers, Spitalfields City Farm is the place to go. The farm is hosting stalls selling handmade cards and non-massed-produced presents, as well as Christmas tress themselves, and will be invoking a non-jarring festive atmosphere with carol singing, mulled wine and seasonal family activities.

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