08 Aug Has the internet denied us freedom of speech?
My father was a journalist and so I grew up surrounded by reporters, editors and photographers. My entire adult career has been in Public Relations and so I have continued my love of the media. You’d think I’d be the last person condoning censorship, but I worry the internet has allowed society to take things too far.
There are guidelines in place for irrefutably harmful material – child pornography is illegal, but where do you draw the line? What about pro-anorexia sites – is this not also unquestionably harmful?
This week, Hannah Smith, a 14 year old girl with her life ahead of her, committed suicide after being bullied on the vile Ask.fm website, a portal that allows young people to viciously attack one another anonymously. God only knows what draws kids to this website and what keeps the bullied so attached to it, but following months of online bullying, Hannah couldn’t take it anymore. She is the fifth kid to kill themselves directly because of this specific site.
According to the charity BeatBullying, one in three young people are bullied online. This is horrific! When I was young, you got picked on for wearing Clark’s shoes! These days children are subjected to systematic and sustained attacks through the internet and social media, often being urged to harm or kill themselves. Hannah even had one message that said her uncle deserved to die of cancer. What kind of people are we developing here? Where is their moral compass? What is bringing on such extreme hatred in ones so young?
I don’t have the answers and I don’t know who gets to be judge and jury about what is and isn’t acceptable, but call me Victorian, until you are 18, you aren’t emotionally mature enough to cope with extreme situations and likewise, you make poor choices by participating in this escalating propensity toward cruelty. I know it would be difficult to police but these sites should have an age appropriate policy or be fined where it hurts.