Why the privacy watchdog wants to shame ‘scumbag’ cyberbullies

Watch video above: Why the privacy watchdog wants to shame ‘scumbag’ cyberbullies. Minna Rhee reports. 

TORONTO – Ontario’s privacy commissioner thinks students and schools should fight back against the “scumbags” cyberbullies including the person who anonymously created an Instagram account urging a group of teens in Oshawa to kill themselves.

“Those who engage in horrid cyberbullying behaviour are cowards. We do not applaud them. They’re not silent heroes. They are scumbags and that’s how they have to be viewed,” Ann Cavoukian said in an interview Friday. “When something like this happens you can’t stay silent.”

Cavoukian’s comments come in light of an Instagram account created recently that urged some Oshawa teenagers to kill themselves.

Titled “IF_U_ON_THIS_KILL_URSELF,” the instagram account simply uploaded pictures of teenagers. One teenager in particular was Emily McKissock, a 12-year-old girl from Oshawa.

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“It was like really heartbreaking,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I didn’t know what to do. And a lot of my friends are on it and I didn’t know, why would someone do that?”

Watch: (April 24) An anonymous Instagram account is urging teens to kill themselves. 

There was two other accounts as well, titled “Ugly_Oshawa_B****es” and “Ugly_Oshawa_Sluts” but the photos on those have been deleted.

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Cavoukian recommends following the lead of some northern European countries like Norway and the Netherlands that have publicly shamed those who’ve tried to bully others.

“They have indicated that the best way to deal with this isn’t through the laws but through not staying silent about the activity,” she said. “You have to get voices speaking out in favour of the victims so you can show the bullies that this isn’t acceptable behaviour.”

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Governments and Canadian law enforcement have been paying close attention to cyberbullying recently after the suicides of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd.

The Canadian government recently introduced Bill C-13 to curb online bullying. But if it passes, it would be unable to stop this particular case because no “intimate images” were shared.

“In this case, the portraits are just of the individual’s face but the harassment is just as strong because of the you-should-go-kill-yourself-or-commit-suicide but it’s not an intimate portrayal,” Cavoukian said.

Lawyer Lorne Honickman admits that whoever is behind the Instagram account may not be charged. However, he thinks the families affected should still speak to a lawyer.

“There’s certainly a potential civil lawsuit for example, for intimidation, for harassment, for intentional infliction of mental distress,” Honickman said.

In online bullying cases, oftentimes the perpetrators wrongly believe they are behind a “cloak of anonymity” on the internet.  But there are ways to sniff out the identity or at least stop the bullying.

“Sometimes what we have to do is make a demand to the ISP to reveal who this person is and certainly you ask the ISP to take it down,” he said. “Sometimes we’ve got to go to court to try to get an order to force the ISP to release the name of this person hiding behind their cloak of anonymity and then we bring the appropriate action.”


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