Today, 10/03/2020, veteran security and crisis management expert Walter Soriano announced the founding of the Anti-Cyberbullying Association. The new initiative aims to combat the issue of online bullying, which is causing alarm within parents, teachers and law enforcement officials and incalculable damages to businesses and individuals.
While a lack of reporting and lower visibility make the phenomenon harder to track, many, including teachers, regard cyberbullying to be more serious than face-to-face bullying, because of new apps and technologies which enable offenders to cover their tracks as they smear a person’s reputation.
A recent study found that children aged 12-15 are just as likely to experience “real life” bullying as bullying on social media. Younger children aged eight to 11 were found to be more likely to experience traditional bullying (14%) than online bullying (8%). The phenomenon is damaging youngsters’ mental health, but social networks seem to be losing the battle over net safety.
Cyberbullying is getting worse than ever
Instagram, Facebook’s photo and video-sharing social network, is oftentimes a hub for such negative comments and posts. In late 2018, the company announced “a new set of anti-cyberbullying features”, including text filtering for bullying, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. Two years later, the problem seems to have worsened. More and more children are experiencing abuse and bullying online every day.
Walter Soriano, a London businessman and philanthropist, has co-founded the new Anti-Cyberbullying Association to aid teens and adults by pushing for enhanced legislation and regulation. “Years ago, when the social-media revolution started , I predicted around my circles of friends and family, that if this phenomenon is not properly regulated and supported by a crystal-clear legislation, it will be the beginning of humanity’s social destruction”, says Soriano, CEO of USG Security Group and WS London Management.
“I never really understood how come social media platforms, personal blogs, fake-news websites, Wikipedia and Google itself remain completely immune to any applicable law or jurisdiction , providing them with an unacceptable, dangerous feeling of impunity to blast at their mercy the most basic human right.”
“The time is coming now to step up to this apparently unstoppable monster and create urgently a regulation that will put an end to what seems, at the moment, a ‘free-zone’ for any perversity or atrocious anti-social behaviour.”
The road from cyberbullying to legislation
Soriano is currently fighting his attackers in court, but not everyone is able to do that. In October 2019, Manchester teen Channing Smith took his own life after a classmate shared sexual text messages between Smith and another boy on Snapchat, essentially outing him as bisexual. In the 5 months which have passed since his suicide, no one accepted responsibility for the tragedy and no charges were made by the police.
“Immediately after Channing had died, I had to do a lot of self-reflection on a lot of levels because for a living I teach people how to stand up and fight,” said Smith’s brother, a third-degree black belt and two-time heavyweight karate champion of the world.
Cyberbullying doesn’t only affect youth, as Soriano discovered himself. UK TV presenter Caroline Flack took her own life just this February after being crucified by tabloids and receiving harsh comments and messages on social media following domestic issues she was facing. “In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” tweeted Flack before her death. These words ring especially true in the aftermath of her tragic end.
Caroline Flack – UK Television presenter at the Start of Mascarathon Benefit Cosmetics Edinburgh Event
“The new association will be just the kickoff to a kind of positive domino effect, that will induce not only victims but others to create the relevant forums to wake up the apparent sleeping guardian dogs of the society”, says Walter Soriano. “At this moment, I can see clearer than ever that social media are entities secluded from the law that applies to all the rest”.
As such, the Anti Cyberbullying Association will seek to address and inform lawmakers and elected representatives in an effort to enforce basic human rights, such as privacy, good reputation and protection from cyberbullies and predators. “If our governments and international courts will not put hands immediately in this web-space undefined jurisdiction, the result will be apocalyptical for the society in the near future”, adds Soriano.
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