Putting A Stop To Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is defined as “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.” While cyberbullying can occur against anyone, it typically is focused against protected classes and youth.

The United States government operates a public service website, stopbullying.gov, detailing laws by each State and programs designed to assist in the prevention of cyberbullying. I spent some time reading up the laws in Oregon, in which Canvas Host is legally registered and operates.

Oregon’s Regulatory Statute (ORS 339.351) widens the scope of cyberbullying, emphasizing protected classes (groups of people defined or perceived to be set apart by race, religion, and sexual orientation, to name a few) as well as youth and students, and spells out disciplinary and legal actions that may be taken wherever cyberbullying occurs against these groups.

The reason I’m talking about cyberbullying, is that as a parent, community member, business owner, and private citizen, I’ve had it. I’m fed up with the plethora of abusive behavior I see on social media, as attack articles pushed through “fake news”, or blatantly oppressive actions people think they can get away with in emails. Cyberbullying is very real, and it has the ability to bring harm to a victim. In some cases, it can be lethal.

Cyberbullying: 30 Years In The Making

In 1998, when I first started dreaming about an online business, “cyberbullying” didn’t exist as a word, but abuse was already plentiful on BBS (bulletin board systems) and in email. I was targeted a few times by people that just wanted to get a rise out of me. It seemed these people didn’t understand that their words could inflict harm.

Around the Millennium, a group of individuals got together and wrote a book foretelling the advent of social media. It was called, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and it predicted an “Internet 2.0”, in which businesses would find themselves no longer the masters of the Internet, presented with new apps and communication platforms that would give rise to an online population of consumers and private citizens that would want to connect. A poorly-worded exchange would have the potential to destroy a brand’s reputation, just as an act of good will could launch admiration and support for a company to new heights.

Was business, as a whole, prepared for the Internet to become a two-way conversation? Seeing how vicious complete strangers could be towards one another, I had my doubts. Even so, I realized that to remain relevant, a business must develop a personal voice with which customers could learn to love. When I founded this business in 2002, I wanted to create a service to help customers and businesses connect and prosperous online.

I didn’t realize what a future with social media would mean. Since that time, I have seen an additional evolution of social commentary: No longer would it be a two-way conversation for businesses and people to exchange ideas; Rather, it would become like any other middle school gossip ring: Cutting one party entirely out of the conversation, with private exchanges behind its back and bringing rise to entirely new, uncontrollable, and viral attacks. In the twenty-teens, this is what cyberbullying has become.

Cyberbullying Spreads Like A Virus

An ill-stated comment by a brand, an unfortunate photo taken of a friend without their knowledge, a compromising “revenge” video posted publicly, all of it carrying the potential to spread faster than a biological pandemic with global reach… You know what I’m talking about: The kind of stuff that damages reputations, spans further and deeper and worse than schoolyard note-passing and that can even lead someone to commit suicide.

It’s led me many times to unfollow “friends”, “unfriend” contacts, outright block some user accounts, and trim down the digital noise — something that in 2019 is becoming known as “digital minimalism” (I will save that for a future post). It works for me — but what about you, your friends and loved ones? What can you do to counter cyberbullying on your own terms and turf?

Fighting Back Against Cyberbullying

One of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying, is awareness: To learn how to identify it, who within your circles of influence are participating in it, and who is being victimized by it. Education and behavioral shifts are possible, but may require involvement of educational administration, or potentially law enforcement if necessary. Thankfully, in the few situations I have been involved in, simply talking about what happened, and how it made the other party feel, has provided enough feedback so as to prevent it from happening again. I recognize this is not always the case, but I feel that a de-escalatory approach, whenever possible, is the best first approach.

On the business side, we take cyberbullying extremely seriously. We have revised our Acceptable Use Policy to directly forbid our network from being used for the purpose of cyberbullying, with a zero-tolerance response that will see a customer’s account terminated without exception, and possible referral to law enforcement if it is determined the action was done willfully.

As a B Corporation, we actively take a stand on issues that impact us, our customers, and our community. Cyberbullying is something that we can do something about. In 2019, I am proud to announce that we have evolved our mission statement to reflect this:

At Canvas Host, our mission is to create a safe, just, and socially equitable Internet, one website at a time.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Founder and Co-Owner

Sources / To learn more:

Canvas Host’s Acceptable Use Policy

Oregon Regulatory Statute 339.351 (Cyberbullying Law)

U.S. Government Stop Bullying Campaign

IC3 Internet Crime Complaint Center

Cluetrain Manifesto

David Anderson

This blog is published by David Anderson, Principal and owner of Canvas Host.