Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bullies, Trolls and Robocallers

This is a lengthy rant about the abuse of technology and what seems to be a prevalence of middle school mentality.

Imagine being a teenaged girl and confronted by an older brother who blames YOU for something he saw written on a men's room wall.  

Imagine the shock, the hurt and feeling of helplessness at hearing his criticisms of your supposed character based on some anonymous coward's scrawls.  Aside from comments by jealous girls on school washroom stalls, that was the first time I remember feeling attacked by the written word. 

Ah, yes… Remember the days of middle school?  It's a good study of the pubescent brain and lack of judgement.  

Did you ever hang around with a crowd of popular kids but reconsidered after you witnessed cruel behaviour or actions?  I recall a group of friends with an assertive ring leader.  One day, while we were hanging out at a group member's home, this troll helped herself to the telephone and started making prank phone calls around town.  There was a pretty, quiet girl in school that she didn't like.  She made a call to this girl's home, disguising her voice and threatening her. 

My memory is foggy if other girls in the group objected to this behaviour.  I knew then and there that I didn't want anything else to do with this bully.  Although afraid of rejection, my teenaged brain started to wonder if she would use the same tactics on people who defected from her shaky circle of "friends".  I too had been the recipient of hang-up calls.  Geez, I wondered... what if some had been from her? 

Decades later, technology improved with the availability of call display (at a cost to the consumer).  Still, unethical businesses could find a way around the system to disguise or spoof their numbers.  If you wanted to avoid telemarketers, you had to register with a questionable "do not call" list or pay extra for a service from your provider.

It's not fair.  I feel the telephone should not be abused or used as an advertising medium.  It should be reserved for communication between families, friends and known business entities.  You should have the choice to say "yes, I agree to receive solicitations". The lines should remain open for emergency calls. Yes, there are cases when calling numbers should be hidden, i.e. when coming from psychiatrists' or family counsellors' offices.

We still receive systematically dialed telemarketer calls that solicit our charitable donations or try to instill fear into us with recorded messages with "concerns about the current economic situation…" and "…Press 1 to continue or 2 to be removed from our list." Not f*cking likely!

Are we familiar with the cowardly actions of groups and individuals who recently used illegal or covert methods to skirt around loosely defined social media rules? Remember the abuse by someone accessing and broadcasting personal or false information about politicians, besmirching them publicly and anonymously.  What a despicable behaviour.  What also bothered me was witnessing the additions and comments by my online acquaintances.  Again, it reminds me of the middle school mentality. 

It's bad enough that we still receive all kinds of unsolicited email messages (spam) and unethical advertisers, spammers and scammers are still getting away with it!  Now our teens and tweens have to contend with cyber bullying on Facebook, YouTube and other Internet forums.  

Middle school and high school are hard enough to navigate emotionally and socially without these hurdles.  It has gotten so bad that some victims have even committed suicide. This makes me sad and angry.  

Most of my friends and readers know that I am a reasonable, fair person.  They also may know that I avoid discussing politics or don't wish to remove all doubts about my intelligence by opening my mouth on the subject.  I just can't believe what has come to light as relates to the recent federal election scandal due to misleading "robocalls".  

Watch Rick Mercer's rant about the potential election fraud as a result of these calls.  Something has to be done.  As Rick states, this wasn't likely one staffer working alone.  There had to be some "unspoken" approval, wink or nod from higher up.  There had to be influence from a leader, a financier or a political bully intent on preventing citizens from voting for a certain candidate - or party.  That's a crime, folks.  

The providers of these "services" should also be accountable for allowing questionable subscribers and not confirming the validity of their contact information.
Readers of my novel, The Year of the Rabbit will recall antagonist Daryl MacDonald.  Not only was he an abuser, he was an unchallenged bully due to his family's ownership of most of the real estate in the fictitious town of Seguin Sound.  He was also what a couple of my young female characters referred to as a "troll".  His towering reign of abuse and influence was soon felled by an innocent child - with a little help from nature.

Even as we attempt to educate our youth early on about ethics, our justice system should punish adults who abuse their positions of power or use technology to harass or exploit others.  If that means law enforcement will be legally watching MY online activities in the mix, I don't care. 

I would like to hear your thoughts and welcome your feedback.  Sorry, anonymous comments are not allowed. 


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