When watching the ‘Tonight’ program on ITV this week, I was inspired to write this week’s article. CyberBullying has been in the media this week and it involves individuals filming attacks, and then posting them on to video sharing sites such as Youtube for others to watch and take enjoyment from.
I personally can’t imagine the kind of individual that obtains pleasure from watching such videos and of course, I do agree that something needs to be done however as I sat and watched I couldn’t fail to be amazed how, in true Tonight style, the situation had been overblown to epic proportions. If you were watching this program uninformed you would come to the natural conclusion that all school kids do nowadays is go in to school with a camera phone, beat up their headmaster, then upload it to Youtube.
According to the program, one of the most popular uploaded videos had already had 1,600 views, although the program failed to mention that this was out of the estimated 1.1 billion people that have access to the Internet. The number of people watching this video is absolutely dwarfed by the millions upon millions of Internet users that went online to watch an overweight American teenager dance to “Dragostea din tei”. This video went on to become known as the Numa Numa Dance and as a side point, if you haven’t already looked it up on Youtube then do so now. I’m not comparing the two videos directly but if the nation is obsessed with CyberBullying then it would seem that we’re a million times more obsessed with larger blokes dancing in front of their webcams to foreign songs.
Getting back to the point in hand, I today read on Sky News that members of the Professional Association of Teachers want not only Youtube but ALL other sites where users can freely upload their own videos shut down. This to me really does scream out as a knee-jerk reaction and not only is it completely impractical but I think completely irrational. Once again, I will stress how appalling I think such videos are but it does annoy me when professional organisations fail to even attempt to understand a problem before insisting that their half baked idea is the ONLY solution.
Just recently, Youtube has been sold for $ 1.65 billion, millions use it everyday for legitimate reasons and to suggest you can simply flick a switch and shut it down based on the actions of a handful of users is just preposterous. Even if you were able to (which you’re not) to shut down EVERY such website you would only drive the problem underground, creating millionaires out of those with no morals who would go to a law free country and create clone websites dedicated to the subject. The Internet is a completely open platform, and as such it really can’t been controlled by any given individual, organisation or even government. Unlike the Profession Association of Teachers I understand this, and so I would suggest taking a much more rational approach.
I believe that changes need to be made in society just as much as they do in technology. When I say this I don’t mean to preach that children should be bought up to know the difference between right and wrong because, as I said before, the people that upload these videos are in a very small minority. I believe, instead ,that we simply need to stand up and let the commercial websites know how strongly we object to ANY of this content being allowed to filter through; they are businesses after all and if public objection and media scrutiny hits profits then of course they’ll listen.
At present most of these sites have links where you can flag up inappropriate material and they do employ moderators to remove such material but only through public pressure can we ensure that all violent content will be removed.
Will this cure the problem? I don’t know; I don’t have all the answers, I sell cartridges for a living. One thing, I do know is that a little common sense is needed in situations like this. We’ll need fewer knee-jerk reactions if we’re to tackle all the problems we face when making use of a relatively new technology.
Chris Holgate writes a weekly article of all things tech related. He is a director and copyrighter of the online computer consumables business Refresh Cartridges who sell cheap ink cartridges, toner cartridges, computer hardware and other computer consumables online. An archive of his work can be found at www.computerarticles.co.uk.