Online Dangers

Imagine this: seeing a picture of yourself on the Internet, with mean and hateful comments about you so that everyone can see. It’s a website that’s popularly visited, and you don’t think that there’s any way these pictures will go away. 

A few students at Leesville didn’t have to imagine what this felt like. They already know. Recently, a page popped up on Facebook named “Leesville BurnPage.” The creators of the page found pictures of certain people who go to Leesville, posted them on Facebook, and “burned” them with a caption underneath. They would then tag the person in the photo so that they could see what was written about them.

The page got many mixed reactions. Most were horrified, but others were amused by this anonymous act of bullying. One student who wished to remain anonymous said it was “very entertaining, and will get them through the rest of the year.” Another thought it was “really immature and they needed to stop burning people.”

The creators of the page refused to reveal themselves. They would end each caption under the picture of a person with the repetitive phrase “you’ve just been burned.” There was also constant discussion on their statuses and wallposts about who the ‘next victim’ would be.

A few days after the page was created, administrators here at Leesville caught wind of what was going on. They sent an e-mail out to teachers warning them about this page and asking for any information

“I heard complaints from parents and some students about the page,” said Officer John Manson, school resource officer. “As soon as I did, I picked up the phone and called Facebook’s law enforcement line. I explained the situation, and they agreed that it violated the terms of use.” The page was down within five hours of this call.

How are pages with malicious intent removed from Facebook and other social networking sites? Different sites have different ways to ‘police’ their websites.

On Facebook, they have a specific place in their help center entitled “teen cyber bullying safety.”It provides good information about cyber bullying and Q/A such as: “How should I respond if being harassed or bullied? What can I do to prevent cyber bullying? How can I report someone?”

What most likely happened with the “Leesville BurnPage” is that it was reported on the Facebook site. After a page is reported, Facebook goes through a process to determine if it should be removed. All reports to the site are 100% confidential. After the report was submitted, the Facebook staff would review it to determine if it violated the site’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. If it did, then the page would be immediately removed.

If Facebook’s rules are repeatedly violated by a certain user, then they can be banned from the site altogether. For more information on how to prevent cyberbullying on Facebook, this link is available: http://www.facebook.com/help/?safety#!/help/?safety=teens.

Twitter is a bit different from Facebook. Users write short, less-than-140-character statuses (deemed ‘tweets’). People can ‘tweet’ as much as they want to, and each one is posted on their profile. Each user has less privacy, and anyone can follow and write to them. Despite this fact, Twitter still does their best to make everyone on the site feel safe.

Twitter gives its users the option to set their tweets to protect. This allows only certain people to see what they tweet and what’s on their page. If someone wants access to their profile, they have to request it.

“Twitter definitely isn’t as safe as Facebook because anyone can see what you write. I just make sure not to write really personal information, like where I live or anything,” said Mayowa Deborah, an avid twitter-user.

If being harassed on the site in any way, people can use help page on blocking to stop contact with the user. The “bully” will most likely lose interest after communication is cut off. Twitter sees bullying as something very serious and does their best to keep their users safe.

Other cyber dangers have been found on craigslist, a site used for merchandizing and advertising. Anything can be advertised, from “adult services” to other jobs. On this site, it is extremely hard to keep users safe, especially if they give a lot of information about themselves.

On craigslist, prostitution has been a large problem. Under the “adult services” category, people can basically advertise themselves. Not only is this illegal, but it is very dangerous, and the site tries as hard as it can to keep this from happening.

With craigslist, the bullying can be taken to an extreme. For example, Philip Markoff was named “the Craigslist Killer.” He responded to an ad from a masseuse, went to her hotel room, and killed her.

The problem with this site is that they don’t have a way to stop things like this from happening. Police can run “sting operations,” where they respond to ads on craigslist that they may believe are from prostitutes. Certain ads can also be flagged for removal if they seem illegal or violate the terms of use.

For this reason, many state legislatures have been requested to take down craigslist altogether. The site has not yet given in to their request and doesn’t plan to.

There are a lot of ways that people can be harmed on the Internet. Whether it’s online bullying, prostitution, or even physical violence, these websites do their best to “police” and keep malicious content off of their sites.

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