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8 Infamous Cases of Cyber-Bullying16

By Chris Littler

8 Infamous Cases of Cyber-Bullying

There’s been a nearly incomprehensible plethora of internet-only phenomena since the Internet took over our lives over a decade ago. Forget your local coupon cutter, now there are deals you can only find on the Internet! Fads? They’ve been replaced by memes that can go from obscurity to common-knowledge in a matter of hours! “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT!? And don’t even get us started on Twitter. Sadly, along with instant information for the well adjusted, the Internet also means opportunity for those with less than good intentions. The information age has digitized everything, including crime, slander and even bullying. Bullying still exists in the real world, of course, but it’s quietly moved away from school hallways and onto laptops and cell phones.

With the anonymity the Internet affords us, cyber-bullying is a natural fit. Kids can now torture each other both at school and in the comfort of their own homes in a way that the Carousel of Progress couldn’t possibly have predicted. Most of the time, these things lead to equally as many tears as a rude handwritten note would have back in non-digital antiquity. But from time to time, things spiral out of control. The repercussions of this new faceless society we live in are explored vividly in the series, World Full of Nothing, which follows a teenage girl, an Internet predator, an FBI agent and the media in the wake of a string of suicides that have been broadcast over the Internet.

Does cyber-bullying have to be between two kids? Couldn’t it be between adults, companies and even governments? Here are eight of the most infamous cases that have plagued the digital superhighway.

World Full of Nothing – I Know What I’m Doing

1. The United States v Lori Drew (2006)

On October 17th, 2006, thirteen-year-old Megan Meier received a message from a boy named Josh Evans saying, “The world would be better off without you.” Megan, who had feelings for Josh despite never having met him, took his words to heart. She was found dead twenty minutes later in her bedroom closet. She had hung herself.

What makes this story even more tragic is that Josh Evans did not exist. He was the creation of Lori Drew, who, together with her daughter, created the boy to find out how Megan felt about her daughter, among other things. According to Drew and a temporary employee who supposedly wrote most of the messages, the final missive was meant to end the charade and give Meier some sense of closure. Drew was arrested in 2008 for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act but was acquitted in 2009.

2. The Stuxnet Virus Attacks Iran’s Nuclear Program (2010)

The international community has made it clear that they have no interest in allowing Iran to complete its nuclear weapons program. What we never could have imagined is that while politicians were issuing Iran public warnings and edicts, their agents were already attacking it from the inside… or at least that’s what Iran wants you to believe.

The Stuxnet Virus is a state-of-the-art computer worm that infested Iran’s nuclear facilities and fiddled with its industrial processes – an 007 made entirely out of code. Though Seimens, the engineering company that designed the Iranian digital infrastructure, claims the virus did no damage, Iran says otherwise. And considering Iran was the obvious target, having bore the brunt of the worldwide attack, they claim that Stuxnet could only have been created by a massive multi-nation effort. Essentially, they believe the free world got together and ganged up on them. If true, Iran would be the first country to ever be the victim of real cyber-warfare.

3. The Suicide of Tyler Clementi (2010)

Freshman year of college is all about the horrible roommates assigned to you. Tyler Clementi was paired with Dharun Ravi, a reportedly “open-minded” prankster who enjoyed putting Clementi’s homosexual experiences on the Internet for all his Twitter followers to watch. Clementi was disgusted and embarrassed. He went to his RA and complained, but apparently intervention didn’t come fast enough. On September 22nd, 2010, Tyler jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. The Internet hate storm that ensued must have made Ravi and his hall mate and alleged accomplice, Molly Wei, feel worse than they already did. Both are awaiting trial.

4. Project Chanology (2008)

On the Internet, anonymity is power. That makes Anonymous, an amalgamation of hacktivists who undertake protests, one of the most powerful forces on the Internet. They have no leader, no power structure, and most importantly, no rules. They band together under causes they agree on and make up plans as they go along. Their favorite target, not surprisingly, is Scientology, who they see as an evil cult that brainwashes their victims and destroys families. Most importantly, they see Scientology as perpetrators of the most serious crime of all: Internet censorship. On January 21st, 2008, Anonymous launched a full-scale attack on the Church beginning with a declaration of war in the form of a YouTube video. The battle consisted of black faxes, prank calls, masked protests, and a request to the IRS to investigate the church’s tax-exempt status. Scientology’s response? They called them a bunch of “computer geeks.”

5. Anonymous Goes to War with Gene Simmons (2010)

An army of passionate young people going to war against what they perceive to be a dangerous cult is one thing, that same army going to war against a member of KISS is another. That’s Anonymous, though. They’re a reactionary entity willing to bully anyone who dares to challenge them. Gene Simmons became a target after speaking at the 2010 MIPCOM and saying, “Make sure your brand is protected. Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don’t let anybody cross that line.” Anonymous immediately went after Simmons’s websites, bringing them down for hours with Denial of Service attacks. Simmons, who clearly had no idea who he was dealing with, put out a notice that whoever was responsible would be punished severely. His sites were again brought down. Though the whole charade seems kind of pointless in hindsight, it reveals Anonymous as one bully that refuses to be out-bullied.

6. The Suicide of Ryan Halligan (2003)

13-year-old Ryan Halligan spent most of the summer of 2003 online. It was a safe place for him. He was small for his age, and he had a learning disability. Regrettably, the kids from school found Ryan online and began tormenting him over instant messenger. After a summer of finding no respite from the teasing, Ryan had to return to school where the bullying escalated. One girl, who was particularly cruel to him, called him a loser, to which he responded, “Its girls like you who make me want to kill myself.” And then he did. On October 7, 2003, his sister found him dead in the bathroom of their home. After Ryan’s death, his father began reviewing his son’s chat logs on the family computer. What he found shocked him and exposed the catalyst for Ryan’s suicide.

The Halligans have since befriended one of Ryan’s former bullies, and together they’ve gone on to educate others about the dangers of cyber-bullying.

7. The WikiLeaks Release of U.S. Diplomatic Cables (2010)

Is WikiLeaks a bully? They release information with the express purposes of putting pressure on politicians – embarrassing them into correcting bad policy. That sounds like a bully to me, no matter how good a force it ultimately ends up being in the world.

WikiLeaks, a nonprofit organization run by Julian Assange that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media, has over a quarter million confidential diplomatic cables from 274 US embassies and is in the process of releasing them at the time of this writing. How the Obama administration has reacted has been interesting, since one of the major tenets of their platform was transparency. Things don’t get any more transparent than this.

Like Anonymous, WikiLeaks means well and believes it is defending basic rights, however, its methods are questionable. Will the tide eventually turn against WikiLeaks – exposing them for the bullies they are? Probably not.

Assange is currently under house arrest in London on four charges related to a Swedish sex crimes investigation. Whether Assange will be held to account for the release of confidential U.S. documents is yet to be seen.

8. The Attack on @Cyxymu (2009)

Not a lot of people like to keep up on what’s happening between Russia and Georgia. That’s a shame, since it’s really interesting stuff. There’s a cyber war going on between them that’s unprecedented in its scope. Who could have imagined that when Twitter went down on August 7th, 2009, that it was the work of a team of Russian hackers who were trying to silence a Georgian activist blogger named Cyxymu? Not us. @Cyxymu has been extensively covering the lives of Georgian civilians in the War in Abkhazia, something the Russians are not too keen on having covered.

This social media warfare, fought on the battlegrounds of Facebook and Twitter, is a major leap forward in the political game of chess. One that’s being fought in real-time and around the globe.

Cyber-bullying is a serious issue. For more information go to: StopCyberBullying.org

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Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.

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Must Reads 7/29/2014