The ugly side of social media

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

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Something happened last week that just soaked up all my energy and to be honest, I had expected something similar to this to happen within the UK for a while now. The ugly scenario I found myself in was that a friend’s adult daughter had been subjected to a vicious and malicious social abuse attack of the worst sort. Now, while you are holding that thought, there are quite a few reasons, I was expecting this to happen.

Firstly, parents tend to turn a blind eye to kids safety and either allow them to create social media accounts or just do not have any kind of web/content filtering at home and as a result their kids roam the Internet freely and blatantly disregard the minimum age limit impositions. I use MS Windows and MS have a free package called family safety that allows my kids to experience the Internet but blocks or allows websites, and decides who my kids can communicate with in Windows Live Spaces, Messenger, or Hotmail.

Secondly, as social media’s popularity went from 0-60 in approx 5 seconds (equivalent of), most governments got caught off guard. That means that most of today’s young adults found themselves in a situation where their parents and schools had not taught them how to defend against social media attacks and the information that they needed to protect against, for example, ID theft. Social media training is only just trickling through within the UK for students in the 11-13 year grouping.

Thirdly, Social Media abuse is a relatively new area for most global police forces and as proved by my friend’s case, can easily transgress borders. So, while it may be relatively easy to prosecute someone within the UK for social media abuse, it becomes a nightmare scenario for anyone who wants any justice or apprehension on foreign soil.

We found it quite alarming that inspite of facing a constant tirade of harassment, blackmail, bullying and ID theft across the Internet by this individual, the UK police force was reluctant to engage the foreign country’s police to request assistance from them. While I acknowledge that the police cannot do anything about this type of crime overseas, surely it should be easy to send a message akin to email requesting assistance to locate and arrest this individual under the relevant local laws of that country. The irony was that the country in question’s authorities took this very seriously but we could not go directly to them as we had no idea of who and how to engage, whereas if the request was made by the UK authorities, i.e. the UK Police force, the perpetrator could have been arrested (letters have been written to the original investigating officer, police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson and the home secretary, Alan Johnson requesting support to arrest this individual).

The sequence of events that have unfolded since had a profound and devastating effect on my friend’s kid and even though an exceptionally talented student, the stressful experience, resulted in failed exams as a result of these malicious activities. The family were very concerned regarding her mental state of mind as these social media attacks via Facebook and other methods had now progressed to digitally creating lewd and obscene material on the wider Internet itself.

This type of social media abuse will not go away and will continue to repeat itself, as currently, there is no legislative or global agreement, such as the Virtual Global Taskforce – Fighting global online child abuse, to tackle social media abuse and the only global policing agreement is Interpol. This will become a global problem and needs to be addressed globally by creating a global agreement to tackle cross border cases of social media abuse, before someone dies.

We have already had high profile cases, such as the woman who killed her daughter, before the police force realised the seriousness of the case – and the recent case of the teen victim who faced abuse across Facebook for four years –

A fellow group member on another social media site, Janet, posted a comment (See full comment, dated 8.10.09) that I wanted to share with everyone. In Australia they have an organisation called beyondblue (similar to the UK’s Samaritans), who have a very useful checklist to see if someone is suffering from depression, reproduced here to assess anyone who may need urgent help and assistance (Listed below courtesy of Janet).

For more than 2 weeks have you ……

1/ Felt sad, down or miserable most of the time
2/ Lost interest or pleasure in most of your usual activities

If you answered Yes to either of these questions continue with the checklist.

3/ Lost or gained a lot of weight OR had a decrease or increase in appetite?
4/ Sleep disturbance
5/ Felt slowed down, restless or excessively busy
6/ Felt tired or had no energy
7/ Felt worthless OR
Felt excessively guilty OR
Felt guilt about things you should not have been feeling guilty about
8/ Had poor concentration OR
Had difficulties thinking OR
Were very indecisive
9/ Had recurrent thoughts of death.

Add up the number of YES responses 1 – 9.

A total of 4 or less Unlikely to have depression illness
A total of 5 or less Likely to have a depressive illness

If anybody can advise me on how to stop this individual further damaging the reputation of this future aspiring professional, please drop me a direct email at:

Useful Links:

Facebook safety

Cyber Bullying on Facebook

Child exploitation and online protection centre – (CEOP) Report Abuse


About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

12 Responses to The ugly side of social media

  1. says:

    This type of harassment problem is also common in the US. Children have actually committed suicide over negative postings made against them. I am on Linedin which I think is more of a business related site as oposed to just a social media site. A relative sent me an invitation to join them on Facebook. I joined to accept the invitation but have not been back to the site since. All of a sudden I started getting all these invitations from people that I did not know and who my one link to Facebook did not know. I never even contemplated joining twitter – so much useles chatter – who cares where someone had lunch. Who wants a play by play of someones life anyway. I think that people who deliberaty use these sites for identity theft or malingning someone reputation should be punished by law and that includes jail time not just a fine or slap on the wrist. I also think that somehow the parents have to limit what their children have access to on the internet and cell phones.

    • mubbisherahmed says:

      I agree with youir thoughts, I think the secret is education across the spectrum involving adults and children at school on the best way to use social media and pitfalls to avoid and to punish people by appropriate laws who choose to resort to such malicious behaviour.

  2. jamie says:

    The other side of this is to be much more careful when using social media.

    Humans are social creatures but seem to lose all caution when using a computer, Don’t talk to strangers applies as much to a computer as it does to a person in the street and don’t release personal details to anyone unless you know them and they need to know,

    I’m surprised that the country at the other end of the problem does not have embassy staff who can help, or someone at their national police HQ. On the odd occasion I have had problems, I have managed to contact the ISP and had their internet access curtailed, this can be done without any legal judegment or investigation,

    The government is much more interested in combating the crime of stealing video and audio files, primarily because these industries have big lobby groups and can’t be bothered to update their marketing skills.

    I am loath to encourage the UK or other governments to interfere more with our right to communicate freely.

    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Diplomatic channels are being investigated and it would have been better if we had police cooperation.

      Free speech is our basic right and should be encouraged but not at the cost of human lives, as pointed out by psmart2006. The secret would be to create global legislation that addresses that by a mechanism that establishes where that line of decency and free speech is crossed into criminal behaviour that could result in suffering or in extreme cases death.

  3. mubbisherahmed says:

    Martin Holzke Senior IT Auditor, Trainer, Developer, Author, Publisher & Managing Director @ SoftQualM (Scotland) Ltd in Oban, Argyll, after reading this article commented in one of the forums, I am a member of:

    While I wouldn’t contest the need for laws on this subject, experience shows they won’t solve the problem.

    I think there is a much wider issue to address here and that is personal strength.

    Bullying etc. has always been around and will always be…of course online too.

    I would long be dead if I had myself get down over everyone wanting me bad…and I had my more than fair share…

    In the end the only way out of that is to gain personal confidence and give “a ****ing ***t” about those people.

    Unfortunately our society isn’t particular good at encouraging this. Everybody should though: parents, friends, schools etc.

    I can encourage everyone to stand up and gain strength from friends and family and not be destroyed by these idiots who probably lack that strength themselves.

    I replied:

    Strong sentiments and I agree that strength can be gained from friends and family and from personal strength. Young adults find it particularly hard to face these kind of problems, especially when someone is hell bent on destroying your well gained reputation as an aspiring young adult with the future to face.

    This is especially true, in asian households, where reputational damage can cause future marriage problems as asians in general tend to get carried away with rumour mills without investigating the truth.

    On the other hand, there is always the arguement that if you have strong personal strength, who cares what anyone thinks!!

    Martin Holzke replied:

    You are absolutely right: it’s not an easy tasks for any youngster.
    That’s why they need all the support from loved ones they can get.

    In the end, who succeeds will be well hardened for the rest of his/her life…we all know this kind of things don’t stop once out of school…that’s why I believe it’s worthwhile the fight and invest all it needs in it…I’ve witnessed a few good examples…it’s possible !!

  4. Vince Granowicz says:

    I don’t know all the circumstances related to this matter, but this is much deeper than what we see on the surface. Children, in large part due to mass media and dual income households, lack much of the necessary daily interaction with their parents and families to develop the strong psyche required to survive today’s world. Teenagers currently experience suicide or thoughts of suicide at a statistical rate of 4 in 10 (please refer to the previous comment). We as a culture need to shut off the television and shelve the IPods and begin to communicate once again. Though I do not know all the circumstances, it would seem that had open communication within the household been the common practice, the child in question would have had a better grasp of how to handle such negative experiences and been more open to talking about the impending issue prior to it becoming dangerous. Parents must prepare themselves to be parents full time prior to becoming a parent. It constantly amazes me while in the market here in Stuttgart, the number of adults with ear-buds hooked to IPods while shopping, do they behave this way at home? If so, how do they relate or communicate with their children? As another respondent to this question stated there will always be bullies, whether online or in a non-virtual realm, they will always exist, virtual life only makes this behavior easier. When we as a culture, learn to function within this new fast paced world, and shut off the media barrage, we will then be able to provide our children the tools and skills necessary to survive.

    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Absolutely, it does go much deeper as the young adult involved decided to tackle the problem directly with the abuser themselves and didn’t want to involve friends/family for fear that this issue may upset them and as is the case with similar scenarios, lead the friends/family to believe that the young adult maybe at fault, which was not the case as we know. If the problem had been highlighted much sooner, it could have been addressed quicker and with more effectiveness.

      Your comments, reflect the sentiment for better communication and as in this case, if the young adult had been educated on how to tackle social media and its pros/cons at school level, even at university, the consequences would have been different as the young adult would have had the courage to communicate it all.

      The problem here was that the parents were not aware of what social media is or can do, were not that computer literate, education had not been provided at school/university level and that all contributed and enhanced the problem.

  5. chris jackman says:

    While I agree with your conclusions in principle, I think that in principle, if you are requesting signatures, that we are entitled to know more of what we are being asked to sign up for.

  6. mubbisherahmed says:

    The petition is simply about protecting our citizens from social media/networking abuse committed by overseas citizens.

    Explanation is that if social media abuse such, for example, harrassment, bullying, blackmail, defamation of charachter etc is committed by a UK national to a UK national, ample existing legal law allows that to be dealt with.

    Unfortunately, if someone from abroad was to commit such an act to a UK national, there is no international law to protect our citizens against any such social media attack such as the one that I have just explained.

  7. mubbisherahmed says:

    Janet Langdon IT Professional, after reading this article commented in one of the forums, I am a member of:

    Bullying on the internet is only the new form of bullying amongst children. However, on Facebook the bullying becomes global knowledge and increases the stress on our children due to this.

    When bullying is one-on-one children can be able to build attitudes of resistance but it becomes overwhelming for them when they know the world may believe the “bull” posted about them.

    In the end my son deleted all accounts for his own sanity (and mine). I would encourage any parents to counsel their children on the increased stress levels these sites will inevitably cause our children.

    In Australia we have an organisation called BeyondBlue which has been generated for all Australian’s and is a cost of a local call for all, including our children, to chat with professionals in the field of depression, anxiety etc.

    Just yesterday I received in the post a checklist for us all to fill in if we wish to check for our family members or friends to see if they are suffering depression.

    I will list these checkpoints here for you all and the way to read them. Hopefully you will use these checkpoints in the same way to determine whether or not you, your friends & family may be suffering and needing professional help.

    For more than 2 weeks have you ……

    1/ Felt sad, down or miserable most of the time
    2/ Lost interest or pleasure in most of your usual activities

    If you answered Yes to either of these questions continue with the checklist.

    3/ Lost or gained a lot of weight OR had a decrease or increase in appetite?
    4/ Sleep disturbance
    5/ Felt slowed down, restless or excessively busy
    6/ Felt tired or had no energy
    7/ Felt worthless OR
    Felt excessively guilty OR
    Felt guilt about things you should not have been feeling guilty about
    8/ Had poor concentration OR
    Had difficulties thinking OR
    Were very indecisive
    9/ Had recurrent thoughts of death.

    Add up the number of YES responses 1 – 9.

    A total of 4 or less Unlikely to have depression illness
    A total of 5 or less Likely to have a depressive illness

    I suggest the use of these guidelines will help families and individuals identify in themselves and most importantly in our children if their is a need to seek help urgently.

    In Australia there has been an increased number of school aged children committing suicide and I suggest there could be a strong correlation between facebook and similar sites. News reports have identified that there were direct impacts on these children by malicous bullying on these sites, proven by the messages on their facebooks upon investigation.

    I do agree with parents gaining software to protect their children, but the reality in today’s society globally is recession. There are many parents who may not be able to gain this software, they may be too busy just getting food on the table.

    I hope the above checklist will help parents to identify high risks in their children which may not be obvious already.

    Cheers and good luck

    Martin Holzke replied:

    Thanks for sharing that check list, Janet.
    It’s the kind of thing giving some idea of measuring instead of going mad…

    Halleluja to your sons action…that’s exactly what it needs…

    Janet then replied:

    My pleasure Martin.

    Funny you should say “Halleluja”, that’s exactly what I said “internally” when my son told me he had closed all accounts 🙂

    I replied:

    This is brilliant and it will help a lot of people in the UK. It is the kind of list that should be available on the blog, so I will now update the blog article and include this list and your valuable comments.

    Janet added further:

    For further information please feel free to visit our government’s website for beyondblue.

    It is a pity all nations are not following suit as we all share this problem.

  8. David Wood says:

    I believe that I get a few twitter posts from an ex-employer which contain insults as our legal battle for compensation continues. Assuming I am right, I am the 0.01% of people who is a moron and in a recent award from the disputes tribunal (Small Claims), I received a payment for work provided in early April, although not as much as I claimed. This seems to be regarded as a victory by the other party who stated he had ‘swatted an annoying fly’. More to follow, I’m sure.

  9. mubbisherahmed says:

    David Wood Director at Merlin International Projects NZ Ltd, after reading this article commented in one of the forums, I am a member of:

    I posted an example of abusive comments by a well known person in NZ relating to an employment dispute. Not sure if they have been added since I cannot see them.

    Lindy Asimus Personal Business Coach – Owner Design Business Engineering, replied to Janet’s posting of 8.10.09:

    I’m a big fan of BeyondBlue, but that checklist is a little disturbing. More correctly the disturbing element is people self-diagnosing, and installing beliefs about something that may or may not be the case.

    In a similar way, I am concerned with the ease that the local GP can write a script for an anti-depressant with all the good intentions in the world, without the person being properly diagnosed, but with the result that they are now in many way, potentially uninsurable. The Law of Unintended Consequences is never far away with these things.

    Depression is a terrible burden, and yet we see many times, clinical depression being used interchangeably with other things – like reasonable and appropriate sadness – as though they were the same thing.

    Janet replied:

    I believe the intent of the checklist sent out was to determine IF there may be a problem and the recommendation is to seek professional help.

    As far as GP’s are concerned, yes there are irresponsible GP’s and this is the very reason no-one should just accept a “label” without following through with professionals who deal in this area.

    I don’t believe the form states anywhere that medication IS required, it is possible counselling may be enough.

    More importantly, when our children are suffering they have a 3rd party to talk to who are trained in this area. It is anonymous and less threatening for our children than speaking with parents in some cases.

    I am a bit concerned about your statement “potentially uninsurable”, what does that matter if it saves your child’s life?

    In addition, Beyondblue is attempting to make the “label” as acceptable as any other more obvious disease/disability. In my opinion this is the only way to socialise us all to understand there should be NO stigma attached to the word Depression. This is the starting point.

    If you have received the leaflet these checklist points have come from the following sources:

    References : American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed (DSM-IV). Washington, DC: APA, 1994 and International classification of deseases and related heath problems, 1th revision, Geneva, World Heath Organisation, 1992-1994

    I replied to these comments:

    This is exactly what I like about social media, the rich interaction of opinions and personalities. Lindy, you made interesting comments and in this instance I am afraid, I am with Janet, whose argument of trained people to turn to and not having a stigma associated with depression etc, makes a strong case.

    In many ways you may also be correct, Lindy, and in depressive states, the reasoning behind asking those questions posed by beyondblue is to ascertain if the person may think he/she is depressed and then to seek professional help, whether that be through discussion with beyondblue etc or medical help.

    Lastly, David, your comment on my blog is posted now and I am not sure whether you meant it to be humourous but you have presented the ex-employers abusive comments with the seriousness in which they were intended but in a kind of Dilberish, light hearted way. Certainly, one of the most humourous comments on my blog of late. Certainly, made me laugh and thanks for posting it 😎

    Lindy added:

    @ Janet. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you, I’ve been working today. I’m sure the intentions of BeyondBlue are beyond reproach and as I said, I admire their work.

    >>I am a bit concerned about your statement “potentially uninsurable”, what does that matter if it saves your child’s life?

    My comment wasn’t related to children only. I’m not sure what concerned you about my statement, nor why it would seem to be an “eithe/or” situation. Whether it is a child, or a young adult, or a middle-aged person, getting the correct help is no doubt important. So is being able to get personal insurance if you are one of the many people who aren’t sufficiently well-heeled to not need to work to support a family. I’m certainly not advocating neglecting getting professional help if needed, but I am interested that people are not inadvertently left uninsurable because something has happened and they were not aware of the ramifications. For example, being prescribed with anti-depressants because you’re grieving normally for a lost family member etc, simply because it was easy for the GP to write a prescription.

    I understand the point about labels. To a large extent I am in sympathy with your caution. And I am somewhat ambivalent on making conditions representative of what an individual “is”. There are often real hard-to-deal-with issues that revolve around different health issues, in a practical sense, as well as how that condition might be perceived by others. While I would not want people to be stigmatised, I think there is danger when conditions go beyond acceptance and as sometimes happens, become at some level an identity issue. A reason to stop expecting improvement as a possibility. A very fine and tricky line to tread at times.

    @Mubbisher. Don’t be afraid. 😉

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