Cross Country Checkup

How can cyberbullying be stopped?

Cyberbullying: Online bullies don't bloody noses, yet they deliver misery with a mouse click.A new law is before Parliament but critics worry it puts too much surveillance power in the hands of the police.Can cyberbullying be stopped? Is the law the best way to do it?With guest host Danielle Bochove. Twitter: @daniellebochove...

Cyberbullying: Online bullies don't bloody noses, yet they deliver misery with a mouse click.
A new law is before Parliament but critics worry it puts too much surveillance power in the hands of the police.

Can cyberbullying be stopped? Is the law the best way to do it?

With guest host Danielle Bochove. Twitter: @daniellebochove

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When the cases of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons hit the news in 2012 and 2013, we were all shocked. It wasn't just that a direct connection was being made between bullying and suicide -- but that the facts of these cases were so harsh, and so bleak.

That the missteps of a teenager -- any teenager -- could lead to such ferocious attacks from a circle of people far wider than the school, was unsettling. And, that most of the abuse could be carried out online, beyond the eyes and ears of the adults who could have provided protection, was eye-opening.

Today, many believe that the kind of cyberbullying these young women suffered can eventually contribute to a desperate downward spiral that can end in suicide. Experts -- and even the mother of Amanda Todd -- say the pathology of suicide is far more complex than can be explained by bullying alone. But such cases draw the attention of Canadians to a problem that has emerged so quickly, lawmakers have struggled to keep up. There is a growing belief that something has to be done ...and that, first and foremost, our laws ought to provide more protection for victims of cyberbullying.

Nova Scotia has been the first to respond with the "Cyber-safety Act" -- a law that attempts to restrict the posting of insulting comments online ...something that has already drawn a challenge in the province's Supreme Court.

The federal government response, Bill C-13 -- the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act -- is working its way now through Parliament. Among other things, it attempts to put the brakes on the lightning fast sharing of photos among young people criminalizing the sharing of images showing nudity, or young people in compromising situations, without consent. The kind of intimate information that can lead to aggressive targeting and bullying within the school community ...and beyond.

To this end Bill C-13 also enables greater police powers of surveillance. And as a result, it's drawn sharp criticism from groups with concerns about privacy and civil liberties. The key point being how much private information, about what we do online, ought to be immediately available to police without a judge-issued warrant.

The Supreme Court, just this week, rendered a decision that underlined these concerns. It affirmed that police MUST seek a warrant before obtaining any information about individual subscribers -- including their IP addresses -- from Internet service providers. Supporters of the decision applaud it, saying there have to be solutions that don't include handing police broader powers to track suspects without judicial oversight ...options like education...or greater vigilance by parents online.

Journalist Paula Todd (who is no relation to Amanda) has looked deep into that dark cyberworld of circle-and-attack -- and documented it in a new book. She's seen some of the worst abuses the internet allows -- and yet she's still not convinced that stronger laws are the sole solution. We will talk to her in a few minutes.

And, of course -- we want to know what you think about this.

What happens when the right to free speech, and individual privacy, protects those who are hurting our children? Is cyberbullying a problem that requires a different kind of legal solution? Do you worry that an overly strong legal response to extreme cases could have troubling consequences for everyone further down the line? For example the challenge to Nova Scotia's Cyber-safety Act is over a Facebook posting between two adults.

When it comes to school children, how difficult is it for parents and teachers to keep track of what kids are doing ...and doing to each other If you are a parent or a teacher who has faced this challenge ...give us a call. If you are a student who has experienced bullying online ...tell us about it. Do kids realize the consequences of what they say and do online ...and how can they be better educated? What is it about the internet that gives people licence to be aggressively mean?

Our question today to start the discussion: "How can cyberbullying be stopped?"

I'm Danielle Bochove ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius XM, satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.




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