Stand up and be seen – protect those behind the screen

My name is Jonathan Bishop. I am a member of the Cardiff Mixed Speakers Club. My speech is entitled, ‘Stand up and be seen – protect those behind the screen’.

For over a decade I have researched online communities, first at the University of Glamorgan, then Kingston, then Aberystwyth, and now UWIC and the Open University, as well as having a dedicated research centre at Swansea University.

Some of you may have heard of the tragic death of Natasha MacBryde recently, who newspaper reports say was bullied online so much that she took her own life, and then even after this those cyber-bullies taunted her family through her online tribute website.

This bullying is often done by people known as Snerts, or ‘Snotty-nosed egotistical repressed twits’. They are often men in their 20s and 30s, denied opportunities by much older ‘job-squatters’ hanging on to the most rewarding jobs and denying them their opportunities in life. The more privileged 20 to thirty year olds will have degrees, and working in unpaid internships as ‘degree slaves’.

Like Natasha, I went online recently during a difficult time, and like her I was subject to a tirade of abuse from lowlife cyber-bullies. People like Natasha and me were looking for help are known as ‘Rippers’. In search of empathy they look for the ‘My Heart Bleeds for You Jennies’, rather than solutions, which are offered by the rational minded and opinionated ‘Big Men’ – yes that’s me!

All too often we are greeted by these Snerts, who ‘flame’ us – by telling us to GFGI (Go ‘flipping’ Google it) or suggesting ‘M/S’ (murder/suicide).

It is not just in these internet forums where vulnerable people are at risk. Searching for the term ‘social networking’ and a two word term that child sex offenders search for, on the search engine statistics website called Google Trends shows that there has been an decrease in the searches for that term for obscene pictures of young people directly proportional to an increase in searches for the term ‘social networking’ . This suggests to me that child sex offenders are lying about their age and identity on sites like Bebo and MySpace and asking minors to ‘sext’ obscene pictures to them so that they can ‘groom’ them and get instant gratification from the without detection. When I was young my mother heard me talking to a potential predator on the citizen band radio. She con hear this, but with unseen written messages and graphics on the computer screen protecting one’s offspring is more difficult. Studying online communities for decades I have studied interview data showing tat minors are complicit in the proliferation in these offenders lurid fantasies, using what is called ‘pedeo-bait’ to get sent cameras and other ‘gifts’ from these predators.

Because they don’t know what they are getting into, then I think all minors and only those young people under 15 should be allowed to have to have a ‘Solo’ debit card. Those who are 15 to 17 should have another dedicated card, such as Switch, which I had at that age. Then only people aged 18 or over should be allowed a Visa, Electron, or Mastercard.
The Video Recording Act is the piece of legislation that requires any audio-visual media containing sexual context should be given an age rating. I think it should be used so that any content in any electronic media which is sexually explicit or any electronic product or any service used primarily by children should be required to request a rating from the film classification board. This happened with video games were required to after the James Bulger case, something I thought extreme in an essay I wrote for my GCSE English project in 1993.

Internet services containing adult content (such as Second Life, and Ann Summers) should in my opinion only be allowed to accessed with a credit or debit card that only adults over 18 can use. Sites rated U to 12A should require both an adult credit card and child Switch or Solo debit card. Those rated 15 should require only either a Switch card, or an adult card for someone 18 or over.

I recently took part in an EU consultation on electronic signatures and online identity, in which I suggested both them that both these issues I have talked about of protecting minors and vulnerable adults, should have legislation from the EU.

I would like the cyber-bullying miscreants like those who attacked Natasha MacBryde and myself should be unmasked by requiring everyone to use their real names online. It wouldn’t be a panacea, but it may help make the online world safer and encourage people to look out for each other. This is what happened in the age of Davy lamp, where an active community spirit helped the industrialised Rhondda communities in which my grandfather grew up function and a self-sustaining civic society.

If anyone wants to take part in this consultation and tell the EU that enough is enough, and the disregulation of identities online has gone so far, then they can visit:


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