Work begins at home

Almost eight months ago to the day we wrote about a bullying suicide in Toronto. Now on the west coast we hear of another equally sad tale.

Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old student, took her own life after repeated bullying online. As happens on the World Wide Web, she had been tricked into posting photos of herself and those photos were then used in a dirty game of extortion, prompting further activity on her part.

The pressure finally conquered her after these online activities were made public. Despite changing schools, the bullying followed her. The embarrassment and shame was too much, causing her to post a video about her sadness.

Life is about choices and poor choices often lead people to paths of sadness and despair. Social media is such a great tool in constructive hands, but like most tools, if used inappropriately it can be quite damaging.

Since her death, MPs have debated legislation to put an end to bullying. While the sentiment is heartfelt, we hold little hope that government-sanctioned decency will work out. If anything it will exacerbate the cluelessness that seems to have gripped the public when it comes to common sense and getting along. It’s up to individuals to root out this malignant activity.

A troubling aspect since her death is that online tribute sites have been infiltrated with further bullying making light of her life. This kind of shameful activity, often done anonymously, speaks to the cowardly nature of bullies. The internet is a fertile breeding ground for predators of mind, body and spirit. We suggest again, as we did months ago, that people start stepping up and put an end to senseless harm inflicted on others.

As strange as it sounds coming from a Newspaper guy, where the principles of free speech are the foundation of our business, it’s time to take the mask off of internet activity.

We can think of dozens of situations where material has been posted online denigrating people, libeling a business, making horrendous interpretations of fact against politicians and  other general claptrap. Unlike the Newspaper business, where we make efforts to be fair and responsible with the material we publish, the internet has little in the way of boundaries. Certainly there is little legal remedy for the bullied or maligned. If anything, the government should incorporate rules to make online posters live up to the standards recognized by publishers of the printed word.

The real work for stopping bullying, however, begins at home, which includes our local communities. If more of us say no to cheap talk and rotten postings online about others, the audience for bullies will shrink. They need to be held to account.