Cyberbullying - Are Bloggers Guilty of This?

I remember a friend of mine talking about how “convenient” it is that I had a blog. “You can blog about everything that pisses you off,” she said. She’s partly correct; bloggers can rant using their personal blogs. But the line that separates bad reviews and cyberbullying can be a very thin one.It’s so thin, in fact, that I don’t think I can ever set hard rules outside that already defined by the law. Even the law can be vague (like in the Philippines, where cybercrime is still poorly defined despite efforts to improve laws related to it).

Blogging and Bullying: What’s Your Definition?

According to the definition of the National Crime Prevention Council in the U.S., cyberbullying occurs when online or mobile technology is used to bring shame or pain to someone. Although that definition does capture the essence of online bullying, there seems to be a problem.

That definition seems a little too vague. For instance, pretend that you are a travel blogger and you go to a resort to write a review.

You found cockroaches in the closets. You saw a mouse scurrying past you in their restaurant. And when you called the front desk to complain about everything you’ve seen so far, the reply you get is, “Do you have proof of these allegations?”

Yes, I know, it’s as if they’re asking for a bad review. And I won’t blame you if you give it zero out of five stars.

The thing is, that hotel could say you “brought shame and pain” to them using online technology (your blog). And based on how the National Crime Prevention Council defined online bullying, then it looks like you’re being a cyberbully, even if you wrote an objective, factual, honest, albeit bad review.

Online Protection against Bullying while Blogging

Freedom of speech gives us a lot of leeway. But with great power (because, yes, bloggers like us have the power to make or break people) comes great responsibility. I think Spiderman’s uncle was on to something when he said that!

The laws surrounding online crimes are different for each country. I can’t write specific suggestions about cyberbullying for bloggers that really applies to everyone.

Whether or not you practice restraint with your blogs is ultimately your call. And even as we try not to be cyberbullies, we can also flip the coin and protect our own families from cyberbullying.

After all, viruses and worms aren’t the only online threats we have to think of. With our lives plastered all over the web, our families are prone to personal attacks, too.

(Tangential note – pardon me, I have attention deficit: If anything, dealing with viruses and worms are the least of my worries right now. I have three computers, one cellphone, and two tablets – and among them, I use Trend Micro Internet Security, Norton, and Avira. So far, I’m happy.)

How Not to Become an Online Bully

I always say this: We can be bullies and we might not even realize it. When we laugh at a meme involving a famous person, we are being bullies. When we “chide” or “joke around” with our friends on Facebook, we might be bullying them but they’re too nice to say so.

That’s why there are so many bullies. Most of the bullying that goes on is so discrete that there’s nobody to call it out.

There are more specific scenarios where you might be going overboard; here are some of the signs that you are a cyberbully. Read it without being defensive. Read it without being offended.

Do your friends sometimes say hurtful things about you on Facebook and shrug it off as “just a joke”? Does it happen too often? You might be a victim of bullying on Facebook – read that and I hope it helps.

Even as we continue to share the truth even when it hurts, I hope we try our best to fight cyberbullying – or any kind of bullying, for that matter.

Conversely, don’t let cyberbullies get to you. As I once wrote in a comment, cyberbullies are emboldened because they're in front of their computers. They won't fare as well in person – they can't hurt you face to face and they know it.

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