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UK Riots and the Internet: How They Destroyed Lives

Friday, 26 August 2011 13:15 in Blogs, Features by Faye Shippam

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Recently in the UK, close to my home, there have been riots. Hearing stories of children, adults and, of course, 'youths', murdering, mugging and looting has been a scary experience. Some people blame the parenting of the generation, perhaps the news uncovers a different story as the riots involved not just youths, but a thirty-one year old teacher, eleven year olds, men, women, children and people of all races. One common factor was the technology that provided the means to communicate and without doubt helped the riots to gather momentum.

Nearly half of all UK teenagers now have a smartphone according to Ofcom. In March 2011, Ofcom found BlackBerry to be the most popular choice (37%) for young adults and teens. This also represents the largest age group of the rioters and many reports have linked the use of BlackBerrys to the spreading of messages about the riots.

Young people like the BlackBerry Messaging services (BBM) because it is free to use, can be used as often as liked and messages can be sent to as many people as wanted in a short space of time. Before the riots, BlackBerry BBM was untraceable – this made it easy to communicate information about the location and timing of planned riots.

Seeing this as a violation of its service, BlackBerry may now have to change some of its terms so that messages can be traced by the authorities. Although technology isn't to blame for these acts, it has been used as a tool to help criminals organise their crimes.

Somewhat controversially, two men have received four years imprisonment each for inciting looting and rioting by the use of social networking sites. They invited friends and family to meet "behind maccies" to go looting and rioting. Meanwhile, rioters are not the only ones using the Internet as a means to an end. The Police have been using Twitter to name and shame rioters and looters, spreading photos on Facebook and other social networking sites in the belief that everyone is connected to everyone else through six steps, a sort of six degrees of separation technique. Some people think this is morally wrong, but perhaps naming and shaming is the best thing for the current situation. If the people involved in the situation are made an example of they are less likely to repeat the same behaviour and they are less likely to be copied.

Technology has also been used to try to save some of the communities that were in danger of being destroyed by the riots. Local people to the riots, came out and cleared up the mess in the true spirit of community action. There are countless Facebook pages and events with thousands of people taking part in "Operation Cup of Tea", an attempt to rescue what they see as lost communities. This shows the internet can be used also to support and help all of those who have lost something, whether its faith in the human race or their home.

These types of actions are signs that the Internet can be used for good. Other similar examples can be found around the world for instance WikiCrimes, a website for the anonymous reporting of crimes that maps hotspots and raises awareness about pockets of crime. WikiCrimes is big in Brazil with other South American countries following this lead.

The Internet is a powerful tool and I hope the actions of a few will not lead to the disadvantage of the majority.

If you find yourself under any form of peer pressure on the internet, to take part in any type of activity, you can find help and advice on a number of websites. Here are a few suggestions:

The UK Police has a helpful site with information about reporting local crime and links to helpful advice on a number of subjects.

Welcome to our feature: "A Teen Talks Cyber Security".

Faye Shippam

We are pleased to welcome a new guest blogger, Faye Shippam. As a victim of cyberbullying Faye has turned her attention to helping others in a similar position and will be posting her views as well as providing help and advice on the subject of cyber security.

Faye is a student, edits her college magazine and wants to spread the message about staying safe online further afield. She is also into marine biology, likes running and is a self-confessed 'utter' animal lover. So enjoy Faye's blogs here...


The Naivety of a Young Girl on the Internet

Sunday, 27 February 2011 17:30 in Blogs, Features by Faye Shippam

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Last July the story of Jessi ‘Slaughter’ became one of the hottest subjects on social networking and video sharing websites, but for many of the wrong reasons. With Safer Internet Day just recently, this event serves as an excellent example to children (and others!) of how not to behave online. I decided to take a closer look at the Jessi Slaughter incident.

It’s not that easy to get to grips with all the facts around the story which is surrounded by confusion and rumors. For me, that is lesson number one. Things can so easily become distorted on the ‘net’ especially when many people get involved giving their own views and comments. What is clear though is that letting a child loose on the Internet can lead to all sorts of dangers as this 11-year-old girl found out. The Internet can make you famous but it can also make you a victim. It can ruin not only your life but of those around you, your family and your friends.


2011: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Thursday, 30 December 2010 08:18 in Blogs, Features by Jart Armin

Gazing into the crystal ball for some predictions for 2011, I found to my horror that the year ahead could be filled with some pretty scary stuff. Not wishing to dampen anyone's holiday spirit, especially my own, I gazed for a little while longer, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

Sure enough, before too long the mist parted, just long enough for a few good tidings to appear on the horizon. So for a slightly different twist, and to prove it's not all doom and gloom, here are my predictions for the good, the bad, and the ugly for the Internet in the coming year:

2011: The Good

HTTPS for all. Unsecured networks are a gift we shouldn't be pleased to hand out to opportunistic hackers this Christmas or anytime. So HTTPS will become ubiquitous. In this vein, the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been developing a tool, HTTPS Everywhere, a Firefox extension that encrypts communication with a number of major Websites.

Opt outs for all. In 2011, Web advertisers will provide workable opt-outs for the entire gamut of behavioral advertising. I've described how to do this from the user standpoint, and Stanford Law Center has its do not track us own project underway. Now the Federal Trade Commission has taken up the cause, endorsing "Do Not Track" measures.

FTC, SEC, EU Commission tackle operator shenanigans. These groups will make more inroads into Black Hat SEO (search engine optimization) operations. Facebook, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and other search engine operators will be taken to task in the US, EU, and other countries to clean up what is presented to the average surfer.

ICANN gets serious. ICANN will finally deal with the estimated 8.5+ million active domains with false "who is" information. If they don't, after allocating $150,000 to an analysis of the problem, then something really is amiss with the ICANN board and its decisions.

Russia gets tough. Stricter laws and jail time for spammers and cyber-criminals will be essential for Russia's advancement in tech. Happily, signs of change are underway.

Copyright trolling tanks. The year 2010 saw the rise of a nasty piece of opportunism, where loopholes in legislation are exploited. The EFF recently logged victory in the fight against copyright trolls when a judge in West Virginia blocked an attempt to unmask accused file sharers who had been coerced by the fear of embarrassment into making settlements.


The Day the Music Died

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 15:01 in Blogs, Features by Cati Grant

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Music can touch us in a way that becomes immortal in our hearts forever. It can evoke memories and creates a void when it leaves us forever. The anniversary date of the death of celebrated musicians is remembered long afterwards. Sadly, one young talented musician will now stay forever silent after taking his own life, allegedly as a victim of cyber bullying.

The up and coming violinist Tyler Clementi was a freshman at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. He apparently became the victim of a cyber bullying scheme so grand it left most speechless, according to news reports of the events leading up to his death.

We may never know the full extent of what really happened but what we do know is alarming. Take two college roommates and a webcam, add in a social networking site and an absence of sensitivity and the result is such a severe case of invasion of privacy that a young man felt compelled to take his own life. After posting a Facebook message on September 22 that said “Jumping off gw bridge sorry” Tyler plunged to his death off the George Washington Bridge.


Teens, Parents, and the Wild Wild Web

Monday, 01 November 2010 10:27 in Blogs, Features by Cati Grant

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Are there modern day outlaws and bandits after you? Yes, it’s true the Wild West has been replaced with the Wild Web! There are Pros as well as Cons to the “Wild Web” but how do we figure out what they are and how they weigh in?

We seem to hear and read almost every day about dangers on the Internet. Hardly a week seems to go by without some horrific headline story. Sadly, most of it is true, so some advice on Internet safety is needed but the question is how, and where do we start?

For me, figuring out the Pros and Cons is a good place to start and this should be a joint responsibility between teens and parents. As a teen I know I sometimes think my mother can be a little over-protective, but I do know that she does what she does because she loves me and, most of all, wants me to be safe. Keep that in mind especially when trying to figure out your Pros and Cons.


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