She Outed Online Trolls Now She Wants Them Charged

Clementine Ford is a freelance writer and blogger. She is Australian, so if you happen to live anywhere else in the world, you’ve probably never heard of her. Never mind. You are about to. Ford writes very entertainingly, in my view, about feminism, pop culture and social issues. She is controversial. Can be divisive. You might not always agree with everything she says but she is entitled to express her opinion and it is always well expressed. Whenever I think of people like Clementine Ford I think of French philosopher Voltaire. I think of the immortal words written about him to the effect I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Clementine Ford wrote about something the other day that created a furore. Now there’s a good word. This is how it all came about. There is a breakfast television program in Australia called Sunrise, which I never watch. The reason I never watch it, is because it appeals to people whose IQ roughly relates to their shoe size. In typical Sunrise fashion they had a segment about photos women had taken of themselves in either nude or compromised positions, that were later used in revenge porn attacks on social media. Of course Sunrise blamed these women saying they had brought the shame upon themselves because they were responsible for the photographs and were aware or should have been aware of the risk of the photos being misused by an ex partner. Sunrise conveniently forgot that many or even most of these photos used in this way were stolen. Ok.

Cue Clementine Ford who took exception to this Sunrise segment and decided to stage a protest of her own. Ford posted a photo of herself on Facebook with the words “Hey #Sunrise, Get F—ed” scrawled across her chest. She also posted a long, passionate and impossible to argue against, in my view, rebuttal of “victim blaming.”

In fact, it is worth repeating some of the words she used in her post that accompanied the photograph: “ I have taken nude photos of myself and sent them to lovers. I’ve taken nude photos of myself when I’m bored. I’ve taken nude photos just because I have a smart phone and it’s fun. None of that means I have asked for my privacy to be violated, my photos stolen and my very self made available for public humiliation and judgment. Consent is everything.

“When Channel 7’s Sunrise asks ‘when will women learn’ instead of ‘why do men continue to view women as objects they can defile and violate while the world watches and tut-tuts’, they are victim blaming. They are saying it’s the responsibility of victims of crime and assault to prevent it and not the responsibility of society to make such crimes intolerable and unacceptable.

“When will women learn? Learn what? That our bodies do not belong to us? That we have no right to determine who sees those bodies, touches those bodies, fucks those bodies, and shares in those bodies? Honey, we don’t need to learn that. We already know the answer. We don’t have those rights. We are not allowed to be the masters of ourselves, only the gatekeepers.

“Fuck your bullshit, Sunrise. You’re an antiquated, pedestrian piece of rubbish and you truck in misogyny and everyday sexism. Consent is what happens when you give permission. Theft and assault is what happens when people take it from you despite you saying no.”

As you might expect Ford’s post, stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest. She received more than 20,000 comments including several graphic and violent messages. They were not pleasant. They were very threatening and completely inappropriate. One in particular from someone called Ryan Hawkins who directly threatened her with sexual violence. But Ford, instead of deleting the messages – “as I have done so many times in the past” – shared the online responses on her Facebook page. In her typically erudite way Ford justified her actions this way: “I chose to share it publicly because abusers hide behind the veil of privacy and anonymity. “When women complain about abuse, we’re often told we’re overreacting or making it up. “It’s important that abusers know they won’t be shielded and also that people see the reality of online harassment.”

Now you might think Facebook would take a dim view of people who threaten violence, particularly of a sexual nature, simply because they don’t like a point of view expressed by a woman, who is not afraid to say what she thinks. If you did, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. What happened next had me scratching my head. Facebook initially banned Ford for 30 days for posting the violent responses. Yep. Because she posted abusive comments made about her including Ryan Hawkins’ threat to commit sexual violence, Ford was deemed to have violated Facebook’s community standards.

Now at this point, like me, you might be thinking Facebook needs to get a grip. Well, someone in Facebook actually did. The 30-day ban has now been lifted and Ford’s Facebook account reinstated.

Understandably, Clementine Ford was ‘thrilled’ that common sense had prevailed while pointing out the ban should never have been imposed in the first place. But that is not the end of this story. Ford decided enough is enough. She reported one of her abusers, South Australian man Ryan Hawkins to police. Ironically, Hawkins found himself the target of intense online criticism and has since apologised for his abuse of Ford, saying he had he jumped on the bandwagon without thinking.

“I was being a smart arse, just trying to have some sick fun with her, but it didn’t really work,” he said. “I said sorry afterwards.”

Ford is not having a bar of the Hawkins apology. She confirmed that she made a formal complaint to police. “This was a real threat and I will be making that case to the police,” Ford said. “He threatened sexual violence against me and that is serious.”

Ford, who was later interviewed by a major daily newspaper, said she had experienced online threats “many, many times before but never “anything like this”.

“The reaction to my initial post, then the reaction to the threats, the incredibly viral nature of the entire thing – it is has been beyond anything I ever expected or experienced,” she said.

And, of course Ford saved some of her harshest words for Facebook.

“How can a post saying, ‘shut up and die you stupid feminist c***’ not automatically violate Facebook policy, but my reposting of those words can?” she said.

“Facebook is woefully behind the times when it comes to gender hate speech, and I am so sick and tired of it.”

Ford also said there had been “moments of optimism” during the week.

“I have had countless emails from so many women this week saying they feel stronger, they feel braver since reading the stories and the post.”

Like I said when it comes to Clementine Ford I can’t help thinking Voltaire, Voltaire, Voltaire.

Naming And Shaming On Social Media Can Cost You Plenty

Social media. What a revolution. Not a day goes past, without just about every one of us being on it, in one form or another. It helps us keep in touch, find love, get work, be empathetic to one another. No end to the possibilities. But like every rose it has its thorns. And people are just starting to understand the implications of what it means when things go horribly wrong on social media, especially in terms of issues like privacy and public shaming. But a recent case in an Australian court has provided some sort of clarity on one issue relating to personal privacy. A West Australian woman was awarded almost $50,000 in compensation from an ex-boyfriend who posted sexually explicit videos and photos of her on Facebook. It was a significant legal ruling on the law of personal privacy. The case involved a woman called Caroline Wilson, a fly-in, fly-out worker at Fortescue Metals Cloudbreak mine in the Pilbara in outback Western Australia. Fly-in workers originate from other parts of Australia but they are attracted by the high wages and superior working conditions offered by mining companies desperate for skilled labor.

Wilson took her ex-boyfriend and former colleague Neil Ferguson to court after he posted 16 photos and two videos of her on his Facebook page. The court was told that Ferguson posted the sexually explicit material after Wilson ended their relationship via a text message, which judging by his subsequent behaviour, was the least that Ferguson deserved. In a series of expletive-laden text messages to Wilson, Ferguson said the photos were “out for everyone to see … Can’twait to watch you fold as a human being.”

What a charmer.

Wilson, became aware of the posts after being told by friends around 5.20pm on August 5, 2013. And they were subsequently deleted around 7pm after she begged Ferguson to remove them. Wilson’s lawyer, argued his client was entitled to an injunction under the law of breach of confidence to restrain Ferguson from re-posting the material, along with compensation for loss of wages, embarrassment and distress.

According to legal experts, there are very few Australian cases where a plaintiff, in a breach of confidence case, is entitled to compensation for emotional distress, as opposed to economic loss. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a report in June setting out elements of a potential civil action for serious invasions of privacy that would allow damages to be awarded for emotional distress. However, the Australian Government does not support the new law. The ALRC also said it was “desirable” for Parliament to “clarify the courts’ powers to award compensation for emotional distress” in breach of confidence cases.

What was really interesting about the case was what the judge said: “By posting the photographs and videos on his Facebook page, the defendant made them available to his approximately 300 ‘Facebook friends’, many of whom worked at Cloudbreak.”

The judge referred to a 2008 Victorian Court of Appeal decision, Giller v Procopets, in which a woman won compensation for emotional distress after her former partner distributed copies of sexually explicit videotapes of the couple. The judge said this was the only case he could find in which a superior court in Australia had grappled with the same issues. He also made the important observation that the events in the Giller v Procopets case took place in 1996, but technological advancements had “dramatically increased the ease and speed” of disseminating images and other material.

And that is an extremely important distinction. If anything, it makes the transgression far worse, than it might have been in the past, in terms of dissemination.

The judge ruled that Wilson was entitled to an injunction and $48,404 in compensation, including $35,000 for emotional distress and $13,404 for loss of wages while on leave. Ferguson was sacked from his job as a result of the incident. Quite frankly, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him.

As you might expect, this case has the legal fraternity in a tizz. Associate Professor ,David Rolph, a media law expert at the University of Sydney Law School, said the case “indicates that breach of confidence might provide a remedy for addressing a lot of personal privacy concerns”. But he noted that applying existing causes of action to new situations that do not “ fit neatly” may distort the law and have unintended consequences. “My own view is that if privacy is a value that’s worth protecting it’s worth protecting directly and we should think about that in a broader, more comprehensive way,” he said.

A legal precedent has been established. The law has dealt fairly severely in a social media case of naming and shaming. Hopefully it will make potential future perpetrators think twice about indulging in similar behaviour. We can but hope.

Karma For Humiliated Pizza Guy- Ends Up With Lots of Cash

The other day I wrote about how  extraordinarily serendipitous Karma can be. I made the point that it doesn’t happen as often as it should but when it does the results can be exquisite.

Social media had a big role to play in the Karma that was ultimately delivered on behalf, of all people. a pizza delivery man.

Here’s the background to the story. A group of car dealership workers at F & R auto sales, in Westport, in the American State of Massachusetts, decided to order pizza. The delivery guy brought them their order.  Most people, in the United States, understand the concept of paying a tip for good service because is also a fact of life that people in service industries, like waiting tables and delivering pizza ,don’t get paid a hell of a lot for the job they do. So a few bucks, here and there goes a long way in making ends meet. But someone forget to relay that important information to the employees at F & R auto sales.

Ok. The trouble began when F&R paid for a $42 pizza order with two $20 bills and two $5 bills. The denomination of the bills is important, and you’ll understand why very shortly. The delivery guy thought the payment was out of character enough to go to the trouble of actually asking if the change was intended to be change and not a tip. I mean why else would you pay $50, if no tip was intended? All they needed to do was give the delivery guy $45 and the intention would be crystal clear. But, after the delivery guy made his delivery, and was on his way back to the pizza shop, F&R called his manager to complain that he’d “stolen” their change. Nice people. The pizza shop of course then told the delivery guy to turn around, drive back, and return their change, which is what he did and that is when the ‘fun’ started.

F & R decided to video the conversation when the Pizza delivery guy returned. They were going to have some fun at his expense and post the video results on social media. I am sure, in their delusional and misguided state of mind, they thought everyone else would see the ‘joke.’ This, was a big, big mistake. In fact, describing it as a big mistake really doesn’t do it justice. In the true spirit of Karma it came back to bite them on the bum, a mouthful the size of a small country.

It’s important to note that, as the driver says on the video, there was no logical reason to give him that extra $5 bill unless it was intended to be a tip; they owed him $42, gave him $45 in bills to reach that amount, then left an extra $5. But if you are dealing with people whose sole motivation is to bully and humiliate, it makes perfect sense. The extra $5 was a type of honey trap which they could then use as a justification for saying it was never intended to be a gratuity and quite frankly how could  the pizza delivery guy have the temerity to think otherwise?

On the video we see the delivery driver make this point to which one of the F & R employees replies in a typically passive aggressive threat so common among bullies :”So listen: The manager apologised once for you. Do you want him to apologise again for you?”

Finally, the Pizza delivery guy who remains incredibly polite throughout this ordeal says, “It’s OK, you got your $7, so the world is right now,” and heads out the door. But of course, in the world of vindictive, small mindedness, it is never right. You can never have enough ritual humiliation. The F & R employees were not done. One of them, a female says : “Out the door before I put my foot in your ass.” Charming and so respectful. Then, another F&R employee proclaims, “Get the f….ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that motherf…er’s job. I want him fired. To make matters worse, the F&R employee then proceeds to make good on his suggestion, calling the Pizza shop and complaining about the delivery driver. Fortunately, this is where the story starts to take a U turn in a positive way. The Pizza shop manager asked the delivery guy what had happened and ultimately took his side. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Pizza shop had issues with F&R auto sales. Why am I not surprised?

Then, F & R did  a thing that was incredibly stupid  and, I am sure they would admit, they now bitterly regret. Karma, karma, karma. They posted the video online for the world to see. Instead of getting the reaction they were expecting, it morphed into something else entirely. The social media posts, a trickle at first, turned into a tidal wave, with sentiments along these lines: “The employees at F&R Auto Sales in Westport all deserve to get fired. Such scum I can’t even believe it.”

“How could you treat a Pizza guy like that? Congrats on ruining your business.”

And this: “ You think you have PR problems? Check out F and R Auto in Westport MA.”

The review pages for F & R auto sales on Yelp and Google were flooded with negative ratings. In fact such was the tirade of abuse, that F&R ultimately stopped answering their phones or responding to any contact requests on social media. Revenge truly is a dish best eaten cold. The owner of F&R (it’s unclear whether he was in the video, although I’m going to guess not) went to the Pizza shop and personally apologised. Like he had a choice. It was either that or kiss goodbye to his business.

But the good news gets even better. Karma was not done. Not by a long shot. It turns out that a GoFundme, crowd funding account, was set up to benefit the  humiliated pizza delivery guy in Westport. The total amount raised has reached….wait for it…….$US30,000. In fact such has been the effect of this incident, that there’s been an outpouring  of community generosity towards all pizza delivery people. For example, a real estate agency in Ann Arbor, gave a pizza delivery guy a $2000 tip and a letter of encouragement.

Absolutely the best news I’ve heard all day. Yippee ki-yay.

You Might Be Surprised To Know Facebook Doesn’t Like Talking about D-I-V-O-R-C-E

I happened upon an interesting published observation the other day, about the social media landscape in general and Facebook in particular.

Just as an aside, I really do believe the jury is out on whether Facebook is a good thing. I, for one, am decidedly uncomfortable with how much intelligence gathering Facebook does on each and every one of its users. It garners a lot of information particularly about what we like and don’t like and uses it to bombard us with ads and marketing pitches. Nothing wrong with that you might say. What I object to is the sneaky way they go about it. But in any case, that is a topic for another day.

Most of the time I am intrigued and at times horrified by what is posted on Facebook. It is fairly pathetic that a number of Facebook users seem to think that there is no such thing as privacy. Every time they burp or fart, it’s worth sharing with the world. Call me old-fashioned but some things are just better left unsaid.

Getting back to the interesting observation, (well, I think it is) if the experience of others is anything to go by, then Facebook is somewhat adverse to the harsher realities of life, like divorce.

For example, a well-known author, blogger and public speaker, called Michael Ellsberg, posted what was described as something truly subversive on his Facebook page. Ellsberg has 25 thousand Facebook followers so pretty much anything he was going to say could be described as a big deal to those that follow him. Ellsberg announced that he and his equally famous wife, a woman with the remarkable name of Jena La Flamme, were splitting up. Her claim to fame is being a weight loss expert and the author of a book called Pleasurable Weight Loss. Apparently such a thing exists.

The observation was that Ellsberg had peeled off the social face that many Facebook users maintain when it comes to their relationships. A social face illustrated by a smorgasbord of photographs that make marriage look like a constant holiday or make people look like they are auditioning for a dating website. Just to reiterate. I am saying this is a published observation and something, I thought, worth reporting on. The thrust of what is being said is that marital discord is an untouchable topic on Facebook. In fact, if you were to go looking, you will struggle to find any documentation of strife, anxiety, discord or discontent, of the marital kind, among the one billion Facebook users. I guess it all boils down to what is socially acceptable and what is not. There is far more social acceptability to whining about your job or even seeking advice about missteps in people’s careers or complaining about the sleep deprivation that goes with rearing children than there is in talking about the rupture of a marriage.

In breaking the news about his bust up, Ellsberg said it was a significant departure from the ‘smiling photos and professions of love’ he had previously published about his relationship with La Flamme. Believe it or not the couple spent months carefully crafting their Facebook announcement, which they say has been met with a largely positive response. What I find extraordinary is their need to announce it on Facebook in the first place. Anyone would think that theirs wasn’t a marriage but a marital brand, which after its dissolution needed the message to be spun much like a corporate media release.

But if you are going to place that much importance in a Facebook announcement it can also go pear shaped just as easily. Take the case of Penney Berryman who looked at her Facebook newsfeed to discover that her husband, at the time, had changed his status from married to single. It was an announcement of their separation that came as a complete shock to Penney Berryman. “I was still married to someone who made a public statement about our relationship that I wasn’t ready for,” Berryman said. She responded by revising her own marital status, leaving it blank and opting not to have the change show up on her public newsfeed. In the transition to divorce, Berryman also altered other aspects of her public digital life, starting by deleting timeline photos of her wedding and other marital milestones. “It was tough to figure out how I represent this part of my life that doesn’t exist anymore but used to be such a big part,” she said.

So what? I hear you saying and you are right. Who cares? Well we don’t and we do. We care ( I think we do) that life has changed to such a degree that Facebook has become so important to people because it clearly has.

As you might expect, a lot of ‘experts’ have pontificated on this sociological shift, like Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. She wrote a book called: Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other. “If you complain about your pet, your job, even your children, there is a sense in which these are external to you – the complaint is about what life has dealt you,” Turkle said “When you complain about your marriage, the boundary between marriage and self is much less firm.” By that I think she means fragile.

According to Turkle, we see our partners as a reflection of ourselves. Any hint of weakness, insecurity, or conflict isn’t good for our personal brand, which is essentially what social media has reduced us to.  Turkle says it might also be understandable that people have been reluctant to post their marital woes on Facebook and attack their spouse in a public forum, because, of course, it can’t be achieved without creating further problems.

Which gets us back to the Ellsberg divorce announcement. He genuinely thinks that Facebook could be helpful to couples breaking up (as only Facebook can) if the parties posted in a way that didn’t blame or finger point. It would be along the lines of a question: Does anyone have any advice about how I can deal with anger in a way that isn’t destructive to our marriage?

Turkle, the psychologist, doesn’t agree with Ellsberg. She thinks Facebook is not the forum for those types of announcements. Facebook she says is a place for good news and certainly not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self.

Well, here’s my definition of good news. How about NO news at all about the really personal stuff, especially when it comes to Facebook? It works for me. It might even work for you. And in any case isn’t that what they really say about good news?

You Can’t Negotiate With Religious Extremists

Terrorism left its calling card in Sydney today. I think we all kind of knew it was coming. We just didn’t know the where?, or the when? Both of those questions were answered when a middle-aged fanatical Jihadist, walked into a busy café, in the heart of the city, around 9 in the morning. He was armed with a sawn off shotgun and proceeded to take more than 20 people hostage. What followed was a siege lasting 17 hours. It ended around 2 am, when heavily armed police stormed the café, after hearing the sound of gunshots coming from inside. Minutes later, three people were dead. The fanatical jihadist hostage taker, and two of his hostages, a man aged 34 and a woman aged 38. Australia is fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. We knew there would be consequences. The Islamic State publicly vowed revenge against innocent people to be chosen at random. But you can’t stop living your life, just because a group of religious crazies threaten you, or want to attack you for the way you choose to live. Nor should we.

Authorities know quite a bit about the Jihadist hostage taker but I don’t want to waste oxygen talking about him to any significant degree. He was Iranian and a Muslim convert. A self styled cleric who was convicted of sending poison pen letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed during the war in Afghanistan. He was also on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his wife, who was stabbed and set on fire. He persuaded his girlfriend to kill her.   The self-styled Jihadist also faced 40 sexual assault charges after complaints from seven women who attended one of his ‘spiritual healing sessions.’ The Jihadist likened himself, on his own webpage, to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claiming the police charges against him were laid for “political reasons.” His website also carries a quote, posted earlier this month, stating: “I used to be a Rafidi, but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.” ( Praise be to Allah)

During the siege, this religious fanatic forced his hostages to hold up a black flag, with Arabic writing, against the window of the cafe and record video messages on their mobile phones, listing his demands. The videos were initially posted on YouTube but were immediately removed on the advice of police. Deep down we all knew, right from the very start of this, it was going to end badly. Of course, there will be the inevitable questions: Should this man have been released on bail? Had he been identified as a religious extremist and placed on a watch list? If not? why not? His lawyer described him as a ‘damaged goods individual.’ There will also be scrutiny of how the police handled the siege. We received many public assurances from the New South Wales Police Commissioner, the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister that the police were professionally trained to deal with this type of crisis and we should all have faith that they can bring about a peaceful resolution.

Bring about a peaceful resolution? Are you kidding me? When they said that I began to get very worried. For a start this was not a normal siege by any stretch. Most sieges are an attempt by the hostage taker to achieve some personal advantage. The Jihadist who walked into that café only had two purposes, to die killing innocent people and secondly to create maximum publicity so that when he did, everyone would remember who was responsible and, hopefully, from that time on, live in fear of it happening again. He didn’t care that he would be killed. In fact he was counting on it. You can’t negotiate with people like that. You are wasting your time to even try. But the New South Wales police did try. They didn’t comply with his demands but they tried to negotiate with him. And they waited.

Now I don’t want to sound like some armchair quarterback replaying the calls that were made with the benefit of hindsight. I understand the police had a nightmare on their hands. But I will be honest and say I think it was a serious mistake to wait for the shooting to start before they did any shooting themselves. It might sound harsh but being reactive is too late. The horse has bolted. The hostage taker is already doing what he came to do from the moment he walked into that café. We live in a different world. There are people in it who have no regard for their own life as long as they can take the lives of innocent people. The hostage taker in Sydney made it pretty clear who he represented, and what this was about, right from the start. You don’t negotiate. You wait for an opportunity or, you create an opportunity, to use lethal force against him. You certainly don’t wait until he starts killing people. It’s a harsh lesson that maybe the New South Wales police are about to learn.

Are Smart Phones Turning Us Into Dummies?

Sometimes I like to observe human behavior. I find it kind of fun watching what other people do and how they behave. But I am also a bit weird.

One thing I’ve noticed quite recently is that it doesn’t seem to matter what people are doing, travelling on public transport, going to the pub, sitting having a meal or enjoying time with friends, everybody is totally preoccupied with their smartphones.

They’re looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, emails, listening to music or just surfing the net. Clearly all of these smartphones, provide endless distraction and entertainment.

But what are these devices doing for human interaction? Because it means people are not talking to each other.

They are not verbally sharing opinions, discussing ideas or having a debate.

They have stopped communicating with human beings and replaced them with a machine.

Here is a question that is too obvious, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is this a good thing? Could it be affecting how we think?

A British neuroscientist called Baroness Susan Greenfield doesn’t think this is a good thing at all. She also says it’s affecting our brains.

Now I am going to add a disclaimer.

I am not endorsing Susan Greenfield or her neuroscience. In fact a number of her peers think she espouses a load of old rubbish. The London Guardian newspaper described a book she wrote as a “poorly researched diatribe.”

But what I do think is that what she is saying is worth a discussion. So let’s have one.

Susan Greenfield says modern technology is changing the wiring in our brains. For example she says a lot of people equate Facebook friends in the same way that they might regard a close friend they have known all of their life.

She says social media gives us opportunities to share, connect and present points of view. But it takes away real human empathy. In fact she says the 21st Century human mindset seems to be characterised by short attention span, sensationalism, and making the mistake of equating information given to us by search engines with real knowledge and wisdom.

Greenfield says the human brain is perfectly designed to adapt to its environment. And because technology creates a vastly changed social environment, it must follow that our brains may also be changing in an unprecedented way.

Here is something that she says that is definitely out there but interesting.

Greenfield argues that young people are developing in a world where relationships are being made and lost online. That means they never get the chance to rehearse important social skills. For example, when people normally meet someone they have in interest in getting to know, they want to talk about themselves, and nature has given us body language cues so that our interactions keep us reasonably safe and secure and we don’t make fools of ourselves, generally speaking.

But words, the primary source of communication in social media networks comprise only ten percent of the impact we have on people when we meet them. As a result, young people are more likely to behave inappropriately and insult each other on line because they don’t have those visual clues as a point of reference. If they tell someone they hate them to their face they are unlikely to repeat it because they can see the offence and the hurt it can cause. But people interacting on social media don’t have that handbrake. I am not saying I agree with this but it’s interesting.

Before we had the internet, a young person who might have been bullied at school had an escape when they went home. But with social media and smartphones the bullying follows you everywhere and can be unrelenting 24/7.

Greenfield claims there is scientific data to show that when young people were deprived of access to smartphones even for just five days their interpersonal skills improved.

Our connectedness to social media means we spend less time thinking and reflecting and more time reacting. She says if young people switched off their devices they would have a stronger sense of personal identity instead of one that is constantly defined by the approval of others.

It doesn’t mean being anti-technology but it does mean acknowledging there is more to life than looking at a smartphone, a tablet or a computer screen.

On that point I agree with her.

Is There A Right To Privacy?

This is an important topic because it affects everyone. I’m talking about the right to privacy. The way life as we know it is heading (maybe it’s already there and I haven’t noticed) you can’t call privacy a right anymore. It is a right that doesn’t exist in much the same way that the notion of privacy doesn’t exist. Neither ‘right’ nor’ privacy’ exist in the same sentence especially if you happen to be famous or well known. And that is very troubling.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A woman and her new partner, celebrities for want of a better word as a result of a television reality show, left a café hand in hand. It was Sunday morning and breakfast time.

Their behaviour was nothing out of the ordinary apart from the fact that up until recently both of them were in previous relationships that each of them ended, so the two of them could be together.

But no need for anyone to be judgmental. This kind of thing happens all the time so no big deal. But what happened next was a big deal.

Ten meters from where they were walking was a paparazzi, a photographer who makes his money from taking pictures of celebrities in unguarded moments like this. He was armed with a digital SLR camera and a zoom lens the size of a stretched limo and he was firing a succession of shots aimed at them.

Clearly this couple, a man and a woman, as far as the photographer was concerned, could not be said to be entitled to walk down the street, in quiet enjoyment on a Sunday morning. And that is the point.

Really, I suppose the question that should be asked is what did they expect?

If your face is on TV, on airport bookshelves, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and the backs of buses then you must accept that you are fair game. You can’t assume or presume you have anywhere to hide.

Nor should you think you have a right to expect that you can or should.

But is that right? Of course it isn’t. But let’s face it. You don’t need to be a celebrity to end up having issues over privacy.

We live in a share-happy world. Many of us choose to play out our lives online, on smart phones, tablets and in social media. In order to get anywhere either socially or professionally we are told we must have multiple social media accounts that need to be maintained regularly. If search engines look hard enough they can uncover practically every detail about personal histories real or imagined. So is it any wonder that under those circumstances, the notion of privacy is completely redundant?

A more important question might be, do people really want privacy anymore? Because if they do they certainly have a funny way of showing it.

Look at the 21st century phenomena. Mirrored selfies uploaded to Instagram, badly considered tweets that come back to haunt us, smartphone applications that can access our information such as name, age, gender, user ID, shopping preferences, list of friends. We give companies vital information to target us with very specific advertisements. Even photographs of where we live can be found online, there for all the world to see.

It’s certainly there for criminals to see as well. How much easier have we made it for them to plot entry and exit points so they can break in to our homes and steal our property? Think Google Maps streetview.

All of us are exposed. It’s happening every day of our lives. What used to be done in private is now public. Voluntary or involuntary. It doesn’t seem to matter.

But that development also comes with some disturbing consequences.

The recent hacking of very private photos of a number of Hollywood actors is a salient reminder of how much privacy we can no longer take for granted. We have handed over powerful tools to those who might want to do us harm.

The sad death of a twenty-one-year-old Queensland woman is a classic example of what I am talking about. She was bombarded with a barrage of abusive text messages from an estranged boyfriend in the weeks before she took her own life. The magistrate who sentenced her boyfriend to two months jail said the hundreds of text messages amounted to a campaign of “gratuitous harassment” that constituted domestic violence.

Experts say smartphones give abusive partners sophisticated new ways to track, harass and control. And that presents a major challenge to domestic violence campaigners.

According to a Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Victoria a survey they did from last year, showed that more than 80 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that smartphones and social media were being used to stalk victims.

Meanwhile, Women’s Legal Services NSW report that smartphones were a factor in about 80 per cent of  cases involving family law, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Libby Davies, the chief executive officer of antiviolence campaign White Ribbon, said harassment via text was “absolutely” on the rise in Australia and there was a growing prevalence of men using tracking apps and spyware on their partners’ phones to “infringe their freedoms.”

She said controlling partners loaded these apps on to their partners’ phones without their knowledge so they could track their movements and know immediately where they were at any point in the day.

Other apps were being used to remotely monitor their partners’ texts, phone calls, emails and web browsing history.

Women’s Services Network chairwoman Julie Oberin told a Senate inquiry earlier this month that she noticed technology was making the response to domestic violence more difficult.

She said women who were placed in safe houses in regional Victoria were later discovered by their former partners through a smartphone global positioning system (GPS).

The Women’s Services Network also relayed an example of how a woman was sent videos of herself in her lounge room by a former partner who had hacked into her smart TV.

Online youth mental health service provider ReachOut.com reports that one in five young people have been the victim of bullying and harassment from text messages.

A spokesperson said  If you ” look at this statistic alongside partner violence statistics, it paints a very concerning picture, especially for people under 25.”

There is no way that  these developments could be said to be positive or desirable.

In fact the opposite is the case.

We are making it easier for people to do us harm. Nothing smartphone about that.

It’s All Merde To Me

What I am going to talk about is a load of crap. But that’s understandable because it involves exactly that…done every day….. in the smallest room in the house.

Australians have a love affair with a certain brand of toilet tissue. But just recently there’s been a relationship breakdown. In short there is a danger of Australians washing their hands completely of the brand. So much so they are threatening to abandon it completely. To put it bluntly they have a case of the you-know-whats.

About a month ago, the company, which manufactures the toilet paper, decided to make what it called minor changes to the product.

In a statement which was headed: We wanted to let you know what has changed and why? The company said that manufacturing pressures had forced the label to look for opportunities to increase efficiencies in their operations. Translated it meant the company wanted to cut costs. And part of that cost cutting involved a lighter, smaller toilet roll. The company says it’s all about more efficient packaging, more efficient shipping and storage and less space on supermarket shelves.

But the toilet paper buying public sees it differently. Even though the company says there was no change to sheet size or the number of sheets, consumers believe the exact opposite. Angry consumers have taken to the company’s Facebook page criticizing it for misleading the public. Some have claimed that the quality of the toilet paper has been reduced and that accounts for a drop in weight and a thinner, inferior product. People are obviously upset but the company says it has done nothing wrong.

It says there are still 180 sheets per roll and nothing has changed for the past two years. Any reduction in paper density is due to the way the toilet roll has been wound. The company says it’s about efficiency and nothing more. It means they are using fewer resources to make the product.

The company says its not surprised that some consumers are complaining about the changes. This almost always happens when consumers suddenly discover what they are used to buying looks a bit different.

I guess the company is hoping all of this criticism will be flushed away in much the same way as its product after its been used.

But consumers are a funny lot. Messing with their favorite toilet roll is just the kind of merde they don’t want to deal with.