[Daily Blog reposts] New agency to crack down on cyber-bullying is a lie / is the scariest thing you’ll see today

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 4 April 2013.

So, Judith Collins is going to crack down on cyber-bullying.

Bunji at The Standard identifies this – I think super-correctly – as another distraction tactic, from the Minister who continues to have a reputation as a hardline smacker-down of social naughtiness, despite never actually crushing a single car.  Idiot/Savant notes the unequal treatment cyber-bullying will be getting under law.

And hell, even the Sensible Sentencing Trust thinks it’s a waste of money.

Personally?  I’ve always had issues about the way bullying carried out over scary new technological platforms gets massively over-hyped as though it’s a completely different beast from vile rumours going around the schoolyard, getting smacked around in a locker room, crank-calls or being worked to breaking point by a sociopathic manager.

I get that Cyber-Bullying (TM) has the added impact of lasting on the internet forever and being accessible by literally anyone, but honestly?  I’ve always thought that was just an embarrassment cherry on top of a huge shame-and-ostracisation pie.

What seriously annoys me though is when sentences like this don’t get someone laughed out of Cabinet:

Ms Collins says the proposed new approved agency will help people get the support they need to stop cyber bullying quickly.

It’s like all those Stuff commenters who think we need to issue all beneficiaries with personally-identifiable credit cards which can only be redeemed for state-determined food and services, because they’ve been raised in hermetically-sealed bubbles and don’t understand how administration works, i.e. involves money and people and functioning IT systems (let’s not even go there).

For an agency to be “quick” to respond to cyber-bullying, it has to be staffed to the gills and overpowered to a despotic extent.  Otherwise?

  • Fill in the form.
  • Wait for it to be assessed.
  • Be asked to provide more information.
  • Hope no one emails it to another client.
  • If bullying is found to be occurring, file papers with the hosting agency or ISP.
  • If the bullying’s happening on Facebook and doesn’t involve naked breasts, don’t hold your breath.
  • Eventually, the first post might get taken down, after being seen by all the people you care about – i.e. your schoolmates – and probably retweeted and shared and mirrored Gods know where else.

It’s either completely unrealistic or completely terrifying to talk about a government agency which can “quickly” combat anything happening online, where the situation changes by the minute.  Where most of the damage – like with most bullying – is done with the first blow, the first post, the first time you realise anyone could have seen it.

For it to work, you’d have to build a secure bunker of nerds empowered to hack into literally every site and domain on the internet and delete stuff at the merest hint of complaint in an email.  Which is seriously scary, and also totally unworkable, because who heard about this and didn’t immediately assume there’d be a tsunami of vexatious complaints?

But it fits a really comfy narrative for a media who still buy into the idea that Judith Collins is a powerful decisive getting-things-done politician and who also don’t really understand social media, or – given how many I saw today annoyed bemused bolshy snarky that the State Services Commission dared to declare a press conference Twitter-free – assume that their audience don’t.

~

And a tiny note to the Labour Party:  just let Andrew Little front this issue, okay?  I don’t think we really want the risk involved in having Clare Curran talking about cyber-bullying.  Clare Curran who allegedly (wouldn’t want to post anything knowingly false, now) petitioned the Labour Party Council to demand the outing and censure of Labour Party members who criticise her The Party on blogs.

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