Monday, December 8, 2014

Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Announcement

By David Simms, Senior Content Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Announcement regarding Anna Kavanaugh's syndicated column, "Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime." Please note that Ms. Kavanaugh is on holiday for the remainder of December and will be so until after the turn of the new year. We will resume publication of Anna's excellent column upon her return from the festive period. 

Happy Holidays. - David Simms

Monday, December 1, 2014

(Series Piece 8) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

“Just get over it,” they say.

“Grow some thicker skin, you big baby” they taunt.

“Enough with your drama,” they sneer.

These are just a few of the dismissive remarks used by cyber-abusers to further degrade their victims. They use childish statements such as these as tools of manipulation in their mental warfare, to make a victim feel trivialized and ultimately silenced. Victims who try to resist or speak out against the abuse inflicted upon them can commonly expect to hear these juvenile barbs in response. This is only a predictable posturing measure dually deployed for both deflection and minimization. However, in the mind of a cyber-abuser, there is a pathological justification trigger that gives creed to the words they say. They cannot comprehend the severe ramifications of their brutal abuse or the repugnance of the defamation campaigns and false realities they create to deliberately destroy their target prey. Nor do they understand the calamitous aftermath their victims are left debilitated by in the physical realm. Only if a cyber-abuser were to experience the trauma, injustice, damage, and personal violation of a public assassination campaign, would they understand that “letting it go,” does not apply. A victim cannot simply “move on,” from a cyber-abuse campaign. This is because, in the public domain, a smear campaign can propagate indefinitely, making the resulting damages to a victim’s life a perpetual crisis from which they feel there is no escape and no recovery. And that is precisely why we see so many of them turn to suicide seeking desperate relief from the ongoing trauma they sustain.

Cyber-abusers are essentially a virus, or perhaps an even more accurate way to describe them would be to compare them to weeds. A weed is an aggressive, invasive, and valueless presence in the garden that bullies itself into position, steals vital nutrients from other selected plants they aim to weaken, and oppresses them through gradual suffocation in the grasp of its proliferative tentacles. This is not unlike the pathology and patterns of behavior we see exhibited in cyber-abusers time and time again. Much like a weed, they assert their inflated sense of supremacy over others though they are no more entitled, endowed, or enlightened to do so. They are not special. They are not omnipotent. They do not possess higher wisdom, nor are they somehow ordained with a stamp of righteousness and superior judgment. They are just another plant. One that desires to be acclaimed for being better than others. One that wants to be more than they know they are and can ever be. And one that is willing to slaughter another without remorse to secure the self-image and approval they have defined for themselves. Put simply, and it is really nothing new, the more they devalue another the more value they see in themselves. That is not only a pathetic existence those prone to commit cyber-abuse must live with inside themselves, it is also very sad. The more they dehumanize and destroy others, the more unattainable what they hope to achieve becomes. Unfortunately, this fact does little to help a victim caught in the wicked snare of a cyber-abuse campaign. There are no pesticides to eradicate a cyber-abuser or prevent the deliberate demolition of their victim’s life. As of now, there is no caring and concerned cyber-gardener whose mission is to protect their tender crop, though that certainly is the role social networks and site operators should recognize as being a responsibility that in large part falls to them.

If you are a victim of cyber-abuse, there are no easy answers… no easy avenues for finding relief. This I know all too well. I have been where you are, and in some ways I still am. I want to impress upon you how important it is to accept and trust the loving support of your friends and family, even if it feels they cannot fully understand what you are going through or the profound depth of your pain. I urge you to arm yourself with information, to understand the pathology of who your abuser is, and to reach out to others who are enduring or have endured and survived the soul-destroying agony of a cyber-abuse campaign. You are not alone... though I know it feels like it.

No one has the right to abuse the internet to abuse you. No one has the right to rewrite who you are. I want you to remember that you matter... although they want you to believe you do not. Know that you are not what they say or try to make others believe you are, and that your life belongs to you, not to them. If you find yourself at the end of that dark alleyway looking suicide square in the face, stop and contemplate the reality of what you feel driven to do. If you fulfill suicide, they defeat you. You surrender your God-given life and your right to live it, to them. They do not deserve to be rewarded for the barbaric abuse they have so relentlessly and criminally assaulted you with. Your death will not be a punishment to them, only a win in the sick and twisted game they devised to harm you. It will not be a grand statement that they will feel guilt-stricken over for the rest of their lives. They do not possess the capability or basic human decency to feel that kind of empathy, and they will only deflect any responsibility for the permanent decision you make.

As victims of cyber-abuse, we can learn from the silent wisdom of the plants in the garden. We must stand our ground, dig the roots of who we are firmly into the soil, go about our own business, and recognize the weeds for the petty thugs they are. And we must always reach for the sun. There will be a gardener who will accept the challenge and take on the responsibility they should. It may be Twitter. It may be Facebook. It may be due to legislative regulation imposed upon them. But one day, help will come and the weeds will be plucked at the root from the gardens they invade and tossed aside where they belong. It is only a matter of time. We just have to hold on until then. And as long as we do… then there is always tomorrow. There is always hope. Even when it feels like there isn't.

And next time, when your cyber-abuser mocks your suffering or demeans your pain and trauma with trivializing statements such as, “Move on,” or “Let it go,” just remember that is exactly what they want you to do. They want you to quietly accept the false reality they have created and sink into its despair. Never let go of who you are. Never let go of your life. Stand for the life that is yours, and do not ever allow them to rob you of it.

How do I know the builders and architects of our virtual world will eventually step up and take responsibility for the damage they are allowing their users to inflict on others? How do I know the social media networks will take effective measures to prevent cyber-abusers from continuing to exploit these platforms by using them as weapons to kill? How do I know that effective legislation will come to pass, enabling law enforcement to provide more immediate relief and recourse to online victims?

Because they have to: because too many men, women, and children have died in the fulfilling of victim suicide as a result of the virtual violent crime of cyber-abuse. Because too many will continue to die until we arrive at change.

And because what good is a garden if it only grows weeds?

Monday, November 24, 2014

(Series Piece 7) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Most of us do not want to see it. Who would? Most of us do not want to call it out for what it really is. Why would we? Once we do, we then become socially accountable and can no longer enjoy the luxury of turning a blind eye to the suffering of others without betraying our conscience and disregarding our moral compass. That can be an overwhelming and helpless feeling, and a heavy cross to bear. It is much easier to pretend it’s not really there or that we are none the wiser to it. Still, once seen, it cannot be unseen. It is there, waiting conspicuously in the middle of the room to see if and when we will do something about it. Will we?

Cyber-slaughter. And yes, it is just as bloody a business as it sounds. Victims of all ages and both genders continue to die at an alarming and increasing rate. When we contemplate the number of attempted and fulfilled suicides that can be confirmed as consequential tragedies resulting from the virtual violent crime of cyber-abuse, and then add to that number even a reserved projection of all those we cannot confirm but can reasonably conclude are happening, the reality is staggering. That’s a lot of blood on the hands. But, whose hands?

If we are to manifest change in legislation, law enforcement, legal precedent, and operating standards of online accountability and social decency in the virtual realm, we must first define the conversation that will lead us there. There is much confusion in understanding how to distinguish one set of victim circumstances from another. Every cyber-abuse case can be measured on a continuum. They all begin somewhere, meander into the middle, and then ultimately reach an inevitable finality. Each instance differs in degree and has its own anatomy of factors that will determine how far to either end of the spectrum it will go, and whether it may result in suicide or recovery. The constant is the distinct and predictable pattern seen in abuser initiation and escalation, in contrast to the unpredictable responses and level of psychological trauma seen in either victim resistance or submission.

When we talk about virtual violent crime, it is important to understand how it is distinguished as such, and how it varies from other forms of online cruelty. Among the most commonly used terms to describe various virtual offenses are cyber-bullying and trolling. Both of these can result in extreme damage to both the life and psychological well-being of a victim. Cyber-bullying is often still thought of as an issue affecting children and adolescents whereby “bullies” bombard their victim with a cruel but reckless infliction of public humiliation and severe emotional distress. Trolling, on the other hand, is a non-specific and non-personal form of abuse that is more about the interaction between the trolls themselves than it is about their victims. It is an odious version of competitive gaming and an almost ritualistic popularity contest in which those who behave the most offensively are awarded the highest honors in status and earn virtual “street cred” among their peers. Most trolls have no particular interest in, or real hostility toward, the victims they use.

The virtual violent crime of cyber-abuse or “kill campaign” is something different altogether. Cyber-abuse is an umbrella term describing the pathology of abusers and the calculated methods and manipulations they use to carry out a malicious campaign aimed at a specifically targeted individual. A campaign is devised to hurt, harm, humiliate, and destroy that individual in every way possible. The intention is to kill a victim, leading to either a figurative or literal result. To do this, abusers will arm their assault with every tactic they can contrive. Their arsenal often includes illegality and their most commonly deployed weapons are privacy invasion, data theft, harassment, cyber-stalking, threats, intimidation, psychological terrorism, public humiliation, social engineering, mobbing, the planting of false realities and blatant lies on various websites, social networks and in search engine results, and going to extreme lengths to pry into the personal life of an individual in search of anything they can manipulate, warp out of context, or interpret as a possible blemish to then cause further harm, humiliation or damage to their victim by exploiting it. A cyber-abuse campaign is a twisted, delusional and illegal process of deliberate demolition wherein an online abuser makes nefarious use of the public reach and exposure of the internet to dismantle another human being. Abusers derive gleeful pleasure and experience a drug-like high as they feed their demented need to inflict the maximum amount of pain and suffering on their target prey.

Once you look past the barbaric cruelty, dirty tricks and predictable cloak and daggers an abuser will use to serve their motivations, cyber-slaughter is not particularly complex and is easy to detect. For the most part, it all looks fairly similar to what you might expect to see in a brutal assault carried out in the physical realm. First, a cyber-abuser will stalk their prey to size them up and plan their attack. When they are ready, they will hit their victim with a cowardly sucker punch out of left field. This is how they strike first, and they do so with such intentional force their victim sustains immediate and debilitating wounds. The victim is then hemorrhaging in a state of shock where they are unable to react or defend themselves as they are rendered defenselessly incapacitated. The assault continues as the cyber-abuser pummels their victim with relentless poundings. They do this so the victim cannot catch their breath, get their bearings, stand, or even pull themselves to their knees.

But as it is human nature, a victim will likely at some stage begin to rise after a certain amount of time has passed and the shock has subsided. Life does have to go on, even when under attack. This is when the abuser will batter their victim with shattering emotional blows in desperation to knock them face down and flat once again. Should the victim continue to rise, the abuser becomes angry and their frustration evident. They then up the ante and escalate from general assault and ridicule by posturing a position of intimidation, threat, and omnipotent control by publicizing a victim’s personal information, stolen data, or exploiting what they perceive to be potential insecurities about them. This process plays out until the victim has somehow managed to either overcome the trauma and emotional debilitation to reclaim their life, or they succumb to the excruciating and soul-destroying damage inflicted upon them to the point they seek desperate relief from the unbearable pain in the fulfillment of suicide.

Yes, cyber-slaughter is a bloody business and with a staggering number of victim suicides, that’s a lot of blood on the hands. But again, whose hands?

Is it on the cyber-abusers who devise vicious campaigns of deliberate demolition and aim to kill? Yes.

Is it on the law enforcement agencies and legislators who fail to protect victims? Yes.

Is it on the architects and builders of the virtual online world and its websites, forums and social media networks, who pass the buck by blaming third party content while enabling abusers to hide behind claims of free speech as they administer the most vitriolic abuse? And who allow their platforms to be exploited and used as weapons to kill? Yes.

Is it on the bystanders whose silence empowers cyber-abusers by conveying approval that condones their behavior? Yes.

Is it on the search engines, like Google and Bing, who allow the names of victims to appear in auto-suggest menus with unsubstantiated defamatory terms that propagate as abusers continue to type them in or click on them to maintain their presence? Yes. Imagine if you no longer existed in the public domain for who you really are and what you really do, and were replaced with a false reality of someone you are not and things you did not do. Imagine typing your name into a search engine and nothing indicating your business, hard work, organizations, clubs, accomplishments, etc., appears in the auto-suggestions. Instead, your name appears only with reputation tarnishing and life destroying terms such as “pedophile,” “rapist,” “child molester,” “schizophrenic,” “impostor,” “scammer,” “fraud,” “prison,” “criminal,” “kidnapper,” and so forth.

Any of these things are enough to make a victim want to die, and too often, they do.

So to all those responsible, whoever they may be, hear this. When they lower the latest victim of cyber-slaughter into the cold, dark ground, the rest of us will know it was you who put them there. And no matter how deep you bury your hands in your cold, dark pockets, we will still see the blood that stains them. If you cannot face the families and friends of the victims left destroyed, then wash your hands by taking personal, legal, or corporate accountability, and from this moment forward keep them clean. Do what you can, whoever you are and whatever your position, to bring this virtual violent crime to an end. Help ensure that nobody else is ever hurt or humiliated so badly in the public domain they are driven to die. And if you still don’t know what to do, let me simply ask you this…

What if it were you? What if it were someone you love?

No one has the right to abuse the internet to abuse you. No one has the right to rewrite who you are. Cyber-abuse kills. Doing the right thing is not a choice. It is a responsibility.

Heal, do not harm. And be kind online.

Monday, November 17, 2014

(Series Piece 6) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

"It’s you. Not me.”

This is just one of the psychological manipulations that cyber-abusers use to posture control over their victims. But, they’re wrong.

A study of the mentality and inner mechanisms that lie beneath the manifestations of the deviant and criminally minded behaviors executed by a cyber-abuser can be an intimidating and downright frightening experience. That is, until we begin to recognize the pathological commonality seen in all cyber-abusers that really makes these individuals seem rather ordinary. There is nothing unique about any of them and their predictability can be easily measured. They employ the same tactics and display the same triggered responses seen in their tell-tale escalation of abuse, and their deflective reaction to being exposed for that abuse. Once this is understood they become much less scary, which often allows victims to maintain a higher level of emotional strength for a longer period of time. But tragically, for many victims of cyber-abuse, this understanding does not come before they have fulfilled suicide as a means to escape the trauma they have endured. The relentless abuse and resulting damages sustained by a victim will eventually begin to erode their sense of spirit and scar them with profound wounds to their soul. By the time a victim seeks the desperate relief of physical death, they have already died. The act of suicide becomes only a means to an end of their ongoing pain and suffering.

Cyber-abuse is a cruel act of dehumanization. This is a commonly seen trait among online abusers but is not a conscious process, rather an instinctual one. It is an inherent part of abuser pathology. The dehumanization of a victim allows an abuser to cast aside all human decency, morals, and compassion, and entitles them to simply ignore all governing laws. They strip a victim of individuality and identity; thereby justifying what is heinous and illegal behavior. By denying a victim to hold any level of human quality, abusers can then effectively manipulate a set of conditions in which to steal and bring a figurative end to the life of their target prey. It is the pinnacle we see among cyber-abusers of both cowardice and insecurity, ironically masked by an arrogantly self-inflated sense of power and influence. Cyberspace becomes their own personal domain where in their warped perception they can rule omnipotent and go unchallenged in whatever behavior they display. In their minds, they truly believe they deserve to abuse, humiliate, violate, defame, and assault the human dignity of their victims.

Cyber-abuse is selfish at its motivated core. Once abusers excuse themselves from behaving within the socially accepted norm, they are then enabled to equivalently commit virtual theft, assault, rape and murder without contemplation or remorse. In this vigilante or blood sport world they create, they derive an incredible amount of addictive pleasure from the pain and damage they inflict on their victim. The more they hurt, the more they want to hurt. The more they damage, the more they need to damage. This is what makes them so very dangerous and willing to go to any lengths to fulfill their purpose or feed their motivations. A dehumanized victim of cyber-abuse is in grave danger psychologically and physically because, to an abuser, their victim is an expendable life.  It is only a game piece with which to play and to feed the frenzy of their pathological need to destroy by causing as much pain as possible.

Similar to dehumanizing their victim, cyber-abusers separate themselves from their own identity through a process known as deindividuation. This is another tool used to deflect from personal responsibility and accountability for their inhuman online behavior. It is an anti-social and anti-normative function. In psychological terms, it is theorized that in the process of deindividuation, abusers experience a detachment from the inner compass that guides and dictates what is and is not acceptable behavior in society. Once detached, an abuser is then uninhibited and free in their vitriolic abuse without restraint. To justify this internally, abusers merely detach from the responsibility of their actions by subconsciously convincing themselves they are not responsible for them. As if they are having an out of body experience. This is also prevalent in mobbing mentality where we see abusers become part of a virtual vigilante or assault group. Deindividuation allows them to better fit in with the group and participate in collective behaviors. This contributes to their false sense of anonymity and a diffused responsibility in which they believe they cannot be singled out or blamed for their actions.

In daily life, we all hold our own sense of identity. That identity is confirmed and reinforced by those around us, such as family, friends, employers or colleagues. We are acutely aware of how we are relating to other people because the potential consequences to us if we behave badly keep us operating within the boundaries of the accepted set of standards enforced by the non-vocalized rules of social communication and interaction. This explains how cyber-abusers can be so barbaric and brutal online, even to the point of goading someone into fulfilling suicide, yet can be law abiding and seemingly decent people to interact with in the physical realm.

The effects of cyber-abuse are violent and they are real. They bridge the gap between the virtual world and the physical realm. Cyber-abusers exploit various social network services by using these online platforms as a virtual game board or battleground. Here, they lose their sense of reality. They dehumanize and deindividuize their victim. They do this to justify using the lives of others as game pieces in what is a twisted virtual video game of sorts, where the aim is to kill and points are collected in the deliberate demolition of their prey.

So you see…. it’s not you. It really is them.

But sadly, the ramifications to the victim of this virtual game manifest themselves in the real world. And it doesn't get more real than being so emotionally hurt and psychologically traumatized that fulfilling suicide becomes the only way to end the game.

Cyber-abuse kills. Game over.

Monday, November 10, 2014

(Series Piece 5) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

I still remember that first day. It was the mid-90's and the afternoon had come for the installation of my own personal home computer. I laugh as I recall my excitement, wonder, awe, and undeniable intimidation of this heavy cream-colored block of technology that was the most awkward monstrosity in comparison to computers today. At the time, it was a cutting edge, top of the line PC, and as one of the first in my circle of young friends to own one, I sure felt like some kind of newly appointed royalty, or at least the cat’s pajamas. It was such an innocent time and I feel a bit sad knowing the naivete of it all is now lost to nostalgia. I will always have my memories; when Alta Vista was the King of Search Engines, when type-chatting in real-time with someone in Australia felt like harnessing the great powers of the universe, when the buzzing and beeping of a dial-up connection was an anticipatory delight, and the words, “You've Got Mail,” sent shock-waves of joy straight through me.

Yes, this internet thing was marvelous and I owned it! Nobody taught me how to use it. Nobody warned me about what could happen to me if I did. In between the chat rooms, email, online- games played live with others, and the wealth of information available to me at my fingertips, I had no idea the internet could destroy lives. None of us did. All of us old enough to witness the virtual birth of what would become a new and simultaneous civilization to the physical one we knew were tossed into the growing pains of something we could not fully comprehend, had no set of rules or guidebook for using, and could not have been expected to possess the foresight to predict what would come. That was then. This is now.

Thank goodness for our elders. Tragic accidents do happen, but it is fair to say that most of us never set ourselves on fire to find out flames would burn or drank poisonous cleaning chemicals to discover we would die from ingestion. We have an ingrained knowledge that certain sounds are soothing and ring of love, while others are harsh and uncomfortable even if we do not understand why. It is part of the same internal program that directs us to keep our mouths closed and our elbows off the dining room table when eating, clothe ourselves in the morning rather than running around naked, brush our teeth to prevent them falling out, and to know that committing acts of unruly behavior, theft and violence is wrong. We do not question these things nor do we require evidence of them. We were not born with this knowledge. It is a subconscious part of who we are because our parents began teaching us these things, and so much more, from the moment we entered this world.

In the mid-90's, a new virtual world was born; one destined to intermingle and interact with our daily physical lives. A world we, and all those who come after us, must navigate responsibly to ensure our safety, and the safety of others. We all possess a degree of common sense and have been rudimentarily warned through the years that to best protect ourselves we should never give online strangers our name, address, or other identifying details. But that is about where the advice, primarily geared toward keeping our children safe from pedophiles and young women safe from potential rapists, ends. Who is advising us about cyber-abuse; the kind of abuse that takes place every relentless day across the vast expanse of cyberspace and over any number of online networks? Who is teaching us how to keep our lives from being destroyed by online criminals who steal from us, release our private information, or plant blatant lies and false realities about us in the permanency of the public domain all in a malicious assault to tarnish our reputations so badly our personal and professional lives may never recover? Who is protecting and healing us from the extreme brutality and severe trauma inflicted on us by vicious and dangerous cyber-abusers running free throughout the halls of cyberspace every day, armed and aimed to kill? Who is teaching us how to save our lives, and the lives of others, from the fulfillment of suicide; like the online victims desperate to find relief from the emotional and mental pain, but cannot find recourse or means to escape those who relentlessly torment them? Who is teaching us not to be so cutting and heinously cruel to others online that it drives them to want to die? Who is explaining to us why cyber-abusers are allowed to commit virtual violent crimes under the mask of anonymity and the lack of accountability that comes with it? Nobody.

Like all pioneers, there is no one ahead of us to show the way. Nobody was there at the dawn of this new technological era to pass down their wisdom from hard lessons learned or to warn us of the turbulent waters we would sail through while learning what the internet was really all about, and how many of us would not survive the trip. We’re it. And because we’re it we have a great responsibility to those who are born today with a pacifier in one hand and an iPod in the other. We have learned enough and cannot deny it any longer. It is time to make our wisdom an intrinsic part of our children. Any parent hopes to make the world a better place so our children and their children will be better for it. We can all still learn, even now, and we must. We can create a safer online environment. We can learn to be more aware of our behavior and the damage it can cause others, we can learn to understand how little difference there really is between the physical and virtual worlds we live in today, and we can see to it that our lawmakers pass better legislation to enable law enforcement to provide faster and more effective recourse to online victims. But for all the things we can still learn, it will never come with the benefit of intrinsic wisdom, like that we can give our children. Without intrinsic wisdom, our knowledge is much more likely to be jaded, manipulated by own motivations, and questioned.

It is too late to begin imparting intrinsic wisdom into the programming of our pre-teens and teenagers about online safety and the fundamental basis for decency and kindness when traversing the virtual world. They are an unfortunate casualty rolled into the rapid growth of this medium and often, poor parental guidance and/or example. Can we expect young people to behave any differently than the adult behavior they so often witness on the internet? If you are a parent it is crucial to show your children that you are decisively opposed to, and categorically revolted by, cyber-aggression and cyber-assault of any kind. If you are a parent engaging in cyber-abuse and allowing your children, who are also your online peers, to witness your participation in the public maligning, humiliation, violation of basic rights, rape of dignity, and the vicious propagation of gossip and blatant lies about others, what are they learning? Cruelty. Who are they learning it from? You. Is that the future you want for them? Teach them to be better than you and better yourself in the process. And remember this: your children may not grow up to be like you. Instead of a cyber-abuser, they may one day find themselves the cyber-abused and contemplating suicide as their only means to escape their deep emotional wounds and profound trauma. It can happen to anyone, at any time, and for any reason. Your children will not be immune and the example you set for them now will determine how well they may deal with it in the future should they, or those they will love, ever become a target.

We must begin to instill intrinsic wisdom in our children. We must realize that even infants are beginning to interact with the online world in some way and that many toddlers are utilizing mobile devices on their own today. The internet and its technology are, and will continue to be, an inseparable element to the world for children born today. If we do not program and equip our children with the behavioral code of conduct they will need to avoid online hazards for themselves and others, we are remiss in our duty as both internet pioneers and as parents. Imagine if our parents had never taught us that fire would burn, chemicals could kill, and chewing with our mouths open is just plain rude.

As we teach our very small children to play with their siblings, share their toys, to look both ways before crossing the street, not to hit or hurt their playmates, and to obey the authority of their elders, we must teach them that people are indeed “real” inside cyberspace – and that they can be hurt. They must grow up to understand that virtual violent actions are crimes and have consequences that can sometimes kill. We tell our children that if they cannot say anything nice, they should say nothing at all. It is imperative we extend these teachings to the internet where for some people it is so easy to say whatever they want, regardless of the pain or damage it may cause others.

Teach your children well. Help ensure for them a safer, kinder, and more responsible future in the online world. A world they will spend even more time participating in than we already do.

Monday, November 3, 2014

(Series Piece 4) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

“If you build it, they will come.” And so they have.

In all online interactions, more time is spent on social media sites than any other. Statistics reveal an extreme acceleration of growth in usage that is demonstrated by the 88 billion minutes logged in 2011 to an even more astonishing 121 billion just one year later. This has translated into the pursuit and achievement of enormous profits for sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among several others, who make their money supplying interactive platforms for their online users. The architecture of cyberspace is a digital masterpiece. The networked systems intertwined in this virtual civilization comprise an information super-highway that is nothing less than a true marvel of technology. Sadly, in the complex blueprints and building of this vast and profitable online world, something fundamental has gone overlooked. And as a result, the creation of this marvel has come at a high price for a staggering number of users who have been left stranded in the darkest corners of the public domain.

To build comes with great responsibility. In the physical realm, we have learned this truth throughout history and, often, at painful consequence. These lessons learned provided us with invaluable hindsight that gave birth to the concept of “safety first” and led to the establishment of an enforceable set of standards governing all we aspire to build. Without this collection of laws, regulations, and ordinances put in place for the protection of people, the world we live in today would be fraught with danger and our lives impaired by hazardous conditions at every turn. Routinely, we would all witness tragedy. Homes would burn, buildings would collapse, airplanes would crash, bridges would fail, and restaurant patrons and hotel guests would become ill or injured. And so on. Fortunately, health and safety codes, while sometimes violated, keep those tragedies at a minimum. These requirements strictly mandate those who either engineer or functionally operate our society to keep us safe, as reasonably possible, by adhering to specific standards of precaution and protection. Why then is the same not true for the builders of our simultaneous virtual world? Considering the staggering number of suicides, and other tangible and traumatic damages that online victims are sustaining as a result of cyber-abuse, how can our lawmakers neglect to impose a similarly suitable set of safety regulations on our digital engineers? And how can so many of the builders of these online environments, playing host to such destructive abuse, deny any responsibility and disassociate themselves from all accountability?

Social media is the most interactive medium existing in the world today; having exploded in both usage and popularity from when first introduced in the virtual realm. The internet has given us ease of access to information but the social network system has redefined the means and manner in which we interact with one another. In these various networks and communities, we can now express ourselves creatively, share ideas, develop or maintain relationships, find emotional, educational, medical, or technical support, and even play virtual versions of our favorite board games with others – and we can do so anonymously. Unfortunately, as it stands now, embedded within the fiber of social media itself, are the ideal conditions to create an open channel for pathological deviancies to weaponize. And this is how, at the fingertips of cyber-abusers, these deviances become devices of mass destruction aimed at the victims they choose to target. This is not news to the companies at the helm of these profitable platforms. They cannot deny their awareness of what is going on and how their networks are so often being used. By allowing the abuse and exploitation of the social networks they have built, companies are, in effect, allowing the abuse and exploitation of their users. They are placing a higher value on the ability of cyber-abusers to freely harm others than on the protection of the victims whose lives are devastated as a result. Human decency, moral and ethical code, and basic common sense should be core values built into the operational policies, procedures, and practices of all domains on the internet, but most certainly all social networks providing interactivity with other users or the ability to leave public comments. Neglecting to provide victims an immediate form of intervention and relief by promptly addressing and removing all defamatory, abusive, harassing, and clearly malicious content posted by third-party visitors, these companies are condoning, and even encouraging, the continuance of what is indeed a virtual violent crime. A crime that destroys lives, and in a growing number of instances, ends them.

Common sense alone should dictate the appropriate addressing of cyber-abuse. If exercised, such an extreme double standard would not exist between the physical and virtual realms we simultaneously navigate in our daily experience. If a man were to stand up in a movie theater and begin screaming insults and obscenities at someone he takes issue with for some reason, the theater staff would demand he stop immediately, not to mention many other upset movie-goers witnessing his behavior while having their evenings interrupted. If the man did not cease his behavior, the staff would remove him from the premises or call the authorities who would do so, regardless of how justified the man felt in inflicting his abuse.  If a woman in a grocery store began harassing another shopper and pressed the intercom to broadcast unsubstantiated and defamatory claims about that person to the rest of store, she would be asked to leave her cart full of groceries and exit the premises immediately. If she refused to leave, the authorities would be called to escort her out of the building. These are two exaggerated examples that may, on some level, seem ridiculous. They would seem that way only because the social norms and accepted standards of our physical society generally prevent these situations from becoming commonplace realities. However, in very sharp contrast, we see these realities playing out daily in the public domain of the internet.

If our legal system, and accepted social standards, do not permit violence, assault, abuse, harassment, slander and/or the defamation of others designed to maliciously destroy a person’s reputation, career, relationships, dignity, and life as a whole, how then can the architects and operators of the internet allow these crimes to proliferate so rampantly over their websites, search engines, and social media networks? Shouldn't the builders of the internet, and various hosts of its social media sites, have a fundamental obligation to protect visitors from third-party abusers? Shouldn't they refuse to allow visitors to arbitrarily and anonymously post vicious and destructive comments or private data about others online? Shouldn't they be accountable for providing an open channel for cyber-abusers to intentionally plant false realities, blatant lies, harass, threaten and relentlessly humiliate their victims, often driving them to consider or fulfill suicide? Shouldn't they prevent these individuals from deliberately exploiting their platforms to propagate vitriolic virtual violent crimes to a potential audience of millions? Those are the questions. Ones we need to be asking. And more importantly, answering.

Cyber-abusers are solely responsible and accountable for the cruel and heinous devastation they purposely inflict on the lives of their targets. The architects and operators of cyberspace, and the social network systems within it, certainly cannot be blamed for the specific actions of these online criminals. However, just because they cannot be blamed for the abuse itself, does not remove them from the responsibility of hosting the poorly regulated services it plays out on. And it does not excuse them from neglecting to exercise basic common sense or moral decency in devising their practices, policies and procedures for dealing with the heinous and pandemic crime of cyber-abuse. If it would not be accepted in the physical world, they have an obligation to ensure it is not accepted in the virtual one. Crime is crime. Cruel is cruel. That is true whether it be online or off. So how could either of these go ignored; or worse yet, accepted?

It is time for the architects and operators of cyberspace, and hosts of all the social network platforms it is largely comprised of, to sit down in their boardrooms and ask the toughest questions of all. How many lives have already been destroyed by what we have built? And what are we going to do about it? As online victim suicide rates continue to rise, doing nothing can no longer be an option.

Monday, October 27, 2014

(Series Piece 3) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Religion, righteousness, and freedom of speech are unquestionably three of the most misconstrued and misused principles throughout history. But until recently, there has never been a time when this reality rang more true. The advent of the internet has provided the perfect breeding ground for behavioral hypocrisy, the justification of heresy, and the undermining of basic human decency by virtue of self-proclaimed morality.

Cyberspace offers its users the unrestrained and anonymous opportunity to express opinions, create and disseminate false statements or damaging innuendos about others, and vent vitriolic abuse aimed at a specific individual or the world at large. Unlike any other time in history, information planted in the vast public domain of the internet can travel around the world in a matter of minutes, reaching an audience of multi-millions. And it does not end there. Information posted to various websites, or preserved on social media venues, self-propagates as new users happen upon or are directed to it by various search engines indiscriminately presenting suggested search results and links to this material indexed from their web crawls. Yes, the internet is the water cooler of the modern era; the rumor mill of the age.

It is true the internet provides amazing potential for the building of relationships, sharing of knowledge and communications, and the immediate interplay of ideas between people around the world that would otherwise be impossible. It gives a platform for voices to be heard in expressions of free speech. Unfortunately, it is also a place where the legal foundations of free speech, the moral and ethical standards of righteousness, and the most fundamental concepts of most religious doctrines, have been redefined.

While it may be at the core of our democracy, contrary to what many believe, freedom of speech is not an absolute. It is often used as a manipulative tool of justification for vulgar, abusive, and utterly inhuman behavior. Freedom of speech does not grant anyone the freedom to abuse another person. Unsubstantiated and unproven statements, misleading innuendos, and false claims disseminated with the intention to assassinate the character and injure the reputation of another person are not protected under freedom of speech. This is true for the individuals who publish such statements and also those who regurgitate them.

Religion is another common veil of justification used by cyber-abusers. Some of the most vicious and profoundly cruel online abuse is perpetrated by those using their own spiritual beliefs as weapons of destruction. Nothing like religious idealism can conjure so much sadistic maltreatment of others. Some of the worst mob-like abuse derives from such groups as they band together to commence and partake in the virtual public stoning of those they victimize. The great hypocrisy is that the religious teachings these individuals hide behind do not endorse cruelty, malice, violence, humiliation, and hatred toward others. Cyber-abusers who fall in this category convince themselves, beyond all reason, evidence, and rationale, that their target – most often someone they have never met or spoken to – is wicked and deserves the punishment of God and the condemnation of His faithful followers; quite a different picture than a benevolent worshiper attending a Sunday service.

The sense of righteousness seen in cyber-abusers is similar to a religious veil of justification and is often displayed in their conduct, revealing an over-inflated sense of importance and global influence. This leads them to believe in an illusion of possessing special insight, intelligence, power, and privilege. These individuals play judge and jury in the online world while operating under the misguided notion they can somehow shape reality, rewrite history, and alter the life experience of others as they see fit. Both obnoxious and immature behaviors are very often noted as classic traits of this self-righteousness syndrome. By portraying themselves as morally superior, they often mask their own severe insecurities and fear of inferiority. We've all seen it before; those who run others down to try and raise themselves up. This type of behavior is rampant in the public domain and these individuals are extremely effective and dangerous in the damages they inflict on others without remorse of conscience.

Cruelty is never righteous, nor does it uphold or honor any religious doctrine. Cruelty is ugly. And it is wrong. Online abuse is not freedom of speech, nor is it noble or noteworthy. Online abuse is weak. And it is cowardly.

More study is needed to fully understand and categorize the pathology of cyber-abusive individuals; those who abuse the internet to abuse others using multiple cruel methods and terroristic tactics to do so. How do these individuals become convinced they hold the legal, moral, and spiritual license to publicly persecute others, most often those they have never even met? Why do cyber-abusers believe they have the authority to publicly shame, harass, accuse, and so badly emotionally wound and traumatize others that suicide becomes the perceived best option for victims to find relief? And who has stamped the approval allowing these online criminals to violate basic rights of privacy, to publish and exploit private data, to disseminate defamatory content and to invent false realities about others to suit their own motivations with deliberately malicious intent to destroy their targets? The answers are far simpler than the questions themselves. Cyber-abusers hold no license, possess no authority, and have been given no approval to justify their actions. They have appointed themselves to these self-serving omnipotent positions of power. But that does not mean we have escaped all responsibility for the nefariousness of their actions. We have condoned this pernicious culture by allowing it to develop in cyberspace. Until we decide this is not the society we will accept for our evolving virtual world, now fused so seamlessly with our physical realm, the pandemic of cyber-abuse we now face will continue to expand. More people will die as they are driven to suicide in their desperation for relief and eventually we will begin to see the degeneration of our society as the lines between what is acceptable behavior online and offline become all the more blurred. If we are apathetic and disregard the sounding alarms urging us to effectively address this crisis, who really can we blame?

The internet is a chaotic world that is inadequately regulated. By its very nature, it does not discourage reprehensible behaviors and the resulting damage inflicted so recklessly on others, but instead works to promote and encourage it. And that is what makes this still relatively new technological wonder a wild wilderness full of danger, fear, pain and death.

We can make this wilderness a much safer place to be. We just have to want to more than we need to.

Monday, October 20, 2014

(Series Piece 2) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

The internet has become ground zero to some of the most vicious and profoundly cruel abuse afflicting our society today. It is a gateway for what we are only beginning to understand as virtual violent crime. As victim suicides continue to rise at staggering rates, it is imperative for us to change the dialogue regarding cyber-abuse. Contrary to the comforting advice passed down to children for generations, the online world has dramatically changed its meaning. The more accurate reality of today is this: sticks and stones may break bones, but words can really kill. And they are killing every day.

Bullying. It has been an unfortunate but commonly understood word in the history of our vocabulary. In many ways its meaning has now outgrown the word and today it is a misunderstood and inaccurate descriptor that has created a dangerous climate for victims struggling to survive without falling through the cracks. The term bullying is still widely viewed, interpreted, and responded to as a child’s issue. An issue that on one hand receives broad sympathy and concern while on the other is seen as a natural and unavoidable part of growing up. It is still commonly believed that being the victim of bullying builds character and strength and that those victims should simply ignore, toughen up to, and endure its traumatic effects. This generalized response to victims, particularly those who are late adolescents and adults, presents a serious set of ramifications that leaves them feeling isolated, embarrassed, minimized, invisible, ashamed, and often contemplating suicide as their only escape from the pain. The term bullying is not a one-size-fits-all word and bullying itself has changed. With the expanse of the internet, bullying has evolved into something much more menacing, sophisticated and perilous than our society has ever seen before. And the increasing number of victim suicides around the world is sounding alarms that we are indeed dealing with a new form of violent crime. One we cannot begin to effectively address until we begin to talk about it for what it really is.

The World Wide Web: A vast digital and invisible network wrapping the globe 24 hours a day. With billions of users accessing and viewing its contents, cyberspace has become the platform of our existence. It is a virtual civilization on which we have become dependent. We work, bank, shop, have relationships, educate and entertain ourselves all within this network, yet the online world operates without policing or any kind of meaningful protection. The virtual reach of the internet can turn hostile and invade our personal space to damage our physical lives outside of the computer. And danger does lurk in cyberspace, very often from people we would never suspect capable of the destructive behaviors they display online. These individuals disconnect from reality, all sense of right and wrong, good and evil, legal or illegal, and reveal their criminally minded nature in their actions. From behind their computer screens they will disseminate false information with deliberate intent to tarnish the reputation and damage the livelihood of their target, with no remorse for doing so. They feel safe in the perceived anonymity of the internet as they dehumanize, terrorize, and mercilessly assault others to feed their own motivations.

There is a pandemic disease rampant in cyberspace, one where those infected with deep-seated hatred, inner unresolved rage and a propensity for profound cruelty, feel entitled and empowered to perform heinous human crimes. Online, the crimes these perpetrators cannot act out in the physical realm are unleashed behind the cloak of their screens and keystrokes.

Cyber-abusers can be found in all walks of life, backgrounds and age groups, with late adolescents and adults being among the most savage and inhumane due to their level of sophistication in understanding how to cause catastrophic harm in the lives of others. We may know these individuals in our day to day lives, never suspecting their capability of carrying out unthinkable brutality in their actions towards others online. Cyber-abusers are highly skilled at manipulating reality, public perception and employing various tactical terroristic schemes. They exploit social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, and use them as a public stage to maximize victim humiliation and carry out their hate crimes. These online networks enable abusers to propagate false realities and engage in psychological terror tactics, threats and intimidation to execute the damage they inflict on their victims. With a wide variety of mobile devices and app programs available to online users, it is easier than ever for these individuals to have constant access to the controls of abuse. There is little difference seen between adult cyber-abusers and adolescents. The primary difference is that adults revert to adolescent behavior in which the full impact or consequences are not recognized. Adults are also more devious and cunning in plotting how to do the most harm to their victim’s life as a whole. What is the responsibility of the companies behind the social networks that built the platforms which are now exploited to host these crimes? That is a serious question we need to ask, and one we desperately need to answer.

Cyber-Abuse can happen to anyone. Children, teenagers and adults can all be ensnared by the nefarious actions of online individuals aiming to destroy their targeted prey. These individuals view the lives of others as mere game pieces with which to play and do so with great delight. Both adults and children suffer catastrophic and often permanent emotional damage that can drive them to suicide. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common diagnosis among victims of this type of crime. Emotional pain knows no age limit, and cyber-abusers are masters at extinguishing their victim’s sense of self-worth, love, hope, optimism, future outlook, identity, and joy of living life. For victims of cyber-abuse, no matter how strong their network of support there is often no stopping the erosion of their human spirit and self-esteem as they are relentlessly battered in the public domain before what is perceived as a worldwide and perpetual audience of millions. For too many victims, suicide is the only way to find relief from the constant public onslaught they are forced to endure. Society misunderstands the reach of cyber-abuse. Turning off the computer or blocking offending individuals is not a remedy. What is posted online propagates throughout a 24-hour virtual civilization and causes continual damage to a victim’s reputation, livelihood, relationships, and more. Unlike physical abuse, there is no relief from the virtual abuser. Victims are unable to retreat into a safe place to find the relief they need. The severe harm caused to a victim’s life takes on a life of its own in the perpetuity of cyberspace that feels inescapable. The damages a victim suffers are extreme and can also extend to their family and friends.

The effects of cyber-abuse are violent and real. If the severe, debilitating trauma and emotional wounds inflicted on victims of cyber-abuse would bleed like gunshot or stabbing wounds, we would all understand that cyber-abuse is a violent crime, and cyber-abusers are criminally intent on murder. Those who are victimized experience the same emotional trauma as if they were physically assaulted, whether it is by a mugging, battering, rape, or attempted murder. Cyber-abusers aim to kill. This may not be a conscious thought but it is what drives them. They are incapable of discerning real life from virtual life and the consequence of a potential victim suicide is stimulating to an abuser, it is not a deterrent. It feeds their inflated sense of omnipotence and power. To them, life and death is only a game in which they cannot stop until they have obliterated their target for the “win.” In the physical world, a violating crime committed against us generally comes and goes in a single traumatic event, leaving us with the emotional brokenness to then recover from. Cyber-abuse is the perpetual rape of our most basic human rights, spirit and soul. Victims are violated indefinitely on every level. There is no potential for healing and recovery from the severe trauma and damages a victim will sustain, as it is an ongoing and repetitive assault against their emotional and psychological selves. Again, it is crucial we understand that cyber-abusers aim to kill whether it is a conscious or unconscious thought, or a figurative or literal result. Cyber-abuse is a virtual violent crime. And until we begin to understand this, we cannot effectively save lives.

We must change our dialogue to ensure we are having the right conversation; the only conversation that will bring us to a safer, kinder, and more responsible online environment where people never suffer so much pain, trauma, and humiliation that they are driven to die as a means to escape it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

(Series Piece 1) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Launch of Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Recently, I enjoyed another of my routine marathon movie weekends, but this time with a twist. I found time to reflect on the profundity of the films I was revisiting, rather than skimming along the surface of the stories now naturally diluted in my familiarity with the scripts, actors and cinematic spectacles that films such as, “Braveheart,” “Troy,” “Gladiator,” and “The Passion of the Christ,” have given us. While these films may have been an unlikely catalyst, I suddenly found myself considering the pandemic of cyber-abuse through a lens I had not looked through before. The questions that have arisen for me are not ones I really want to ask, mostly because I fear the answers, but I more fear the consequences of failing to search for them. And so ask the questions, I will.

The Dark Ages, a period of time spanning some of the most extreme brutality in human history. What a barbaric bunch we were. What red stained soil we rose from. Times that, to declare ourselves righteous, saw savage crusades casting darkness over the lands in the name of God. Times that, for sport and entertainment, saw man pit against beast or fellow man until the prize of death determined the victor. And the crowds went wild. The more brutal the fight, the more we salivated. The more blood that spilled, the more we cheered. That was life. That was who we were. Thank goodness times have changed. Or have they?

We live in a culture of fear. Perhaps it is fear that keeps us in check, for the most part. In our daily lives we interact with one another in the physical world with a common understanding of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, legal and illegal. Our lives are governed by a social norm and code of behavior monitored by the power of law enforcement we instinctively dread dealing with. We understand that when someone angers us at work, in a restaurant, or in a grocery store, it will not be socially or legally approved to launch a physical attack against that individual. If someone cuts us off in traffic, steps in front of us in line, or calls us names, we are not entitled to physically act against them. Our emotions may rage when we feel wronged but fear of being ostracized by our peers, or socially rejected and punished by law, prevents the majority of us from acting on those emotions. We simply find another way to deal with them. Our physical world demands that. Unfortunately, there is another world we must navigate simultaneously.

The internet. What began seemingly harmless enough has evolved into a fully functioning civilization, separate and yet co-existent with our offline civilization. It is still our own society comprising the virtual pulse of this new cyberworld, yet so many netizens become unrecognizable to their physical world norms in their capability to administer extreme cruelty from behind their computer screens. How quickly so many of us abandon our civility and embrace barbarism. Is this an inevitable human regression that occurs when we are thrust into an anonymous environment with no police presence or mechanism in place to hold us accountable for our actions, or is slipping back into brutality merely the human equivalent of a comfortable old shoe?

As our civilization has evolved, there has been a gradual shift in the paradigms of social behavior, human interaction, and the laws that govern them. This has allowed for a consideration of basic human rights and a higher value to be placed on human life and the preservation of it. We now live in a modern society that rejects those who commit acts of violence and will punish the heinous crime of murder most harshly. Yes, we have come a long way and pat ourselves on the back for our moral and ethical advancements. We boast our humane enlightenment and take pride, and even credit for, the undeniable traits that make us a remarkable species. Traits of benevolence and compassion we can now express as part of an evolved society sharing the human experience. Still, I find myself searching for a way to reconcile this image of the great humanity we have defined for ourselves with the daily evidence of its actions. Are we really enlightened or are we still living in the dark? Have we truly evolved or have we only restrained the most ghastly elements of our nature? How do we explain away the undeniable human capacity to maliciously hurt others with deliberate intent to destroy their lives and livelihood? To humiliate and demoralize others as publicly as possible: to perpetrate, condone, celebrate, and derive great pleasure from the crushing cruelty so many of us gleefully inflict on our fellow human beings?

Imposed civility and the function of fear seem to keep our physical society in order. Online, that is not the case. We are all only a click away from being marked as a target and finding ourselves thrown into a merciless abyss of personal vigilantism, misguided vengeance, self-righteous witch hunts and the need to feed on the hurt and public humiliation of others. In our virtual civilization there are no consistent laws or immediate recourse alternatives to provide victims relief from the deplorable conduct of those who abuse the internet to abuse others. This allows the worst of human nature to then manifest in frightening, dangerous and deadly ways. Online abusers relish their perceived anonymity and use it as a cloak to mask their cruel and illegal behavior. This is emboldened by an omnipotent sense of power and false sense of security in believing they are entirely immune to detection, scrutiny, judgment or ramifications. From behind the veil of their computer screens and insidious fingertips, these individuals reveal a shocking capability to inflict ruthless abuse on others and operate in the cyberworld with free reign. This alone makes the internet the most dangerous environment we have ever created, and with that should come great responsibility in how we allow it to evolve. Because the internet is an ideal conduit for these aberrant behaviors, they are rampant. A cyber-abuse campaign can lead to very real consequences that reach into the physical reality of a victim, resulting in devastating destruction.

The internet has given rise to a dangerous set of conditions that stimulate the primitive nature in certain individuals prone to violent tendencies and inner aggression. Cyber-abuse is a game to the abuser. The goal of a game is to win. For a cyber-abuser, the win is the ultimate destruction of their target, even if that results in driving their victim to death by suicide. This is a consequence an online abuser cannot comprehend because they lose the ability in their game-play to distinguish between right and wrong, humane and inhumane. They are masters of dehumanization and disconnect from any form of moral compass. No one has the right to abuse the internet to abuse you. No one has the right to rewrite who you are. And no one has the right to cause someone so much pain and public humiliation that they are driven to die just to escape the trauma. Cyber-abuse kills. And it will keep killing until we no longer allow it to.

Will 2014 be the year our lawmakers pass consistent and effective legislation to address this pandemic? Probably not. Will 2014 be the year we all stand up as an online community and say, “enough”? Probably not. The sad truth is that many more will die before we finally understand that far too many people are dying because the internet is being used to kill. So maybe for now, the best we can hope for is that we will begin to ask these questions of ourselves and others as we enter a new year.

Maybe we could all remind ourselves when online that none of us are immune from becoming the target of a cyber-abuse campaign. And that when one of us falls, so do we all.

Whatever the answers, this much I know: humanity has many redeeming qualities, but none more important than our ability to make the choice to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. Barbaric tendencies may be at the root of our human nature, but because we can choose, we do not have to give them life in our actions.

Be kind online.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Introducing Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

It is an honour to welcome Anna Kavanaugh to The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards as an esteemed partner in our organisation. Anna is seated as a voting member on our Board of Advisors and a lead team member on our Coalition Committee. She will serve as a Senior Mentor and Co-Executive Director of Development in our education programme. Her positions will also be in tandem with her role as a syndicated columnist to be published by the Institute. We will be syndicating worldwide her cyber-abuse column aptly named Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime.

Anna is recognised around the world as a renowned expert on cyber-abuse and online victims advocate. An active champion for change, she has a powerful and unique understanding as the target of an unspeakably grievous online cyber-abuse, hate, cruelty, and defamation campaign launched against her in 2011. Anna's is a distinctive and ardent voice in defining and describing what she rightly deems a global pandemic of virtual confusion whereby a societal breakdown of empathy and compassion confuse and pose serious threat to legal boundaries and civilised conduct.

Anna Kavanaugh is a writer, editor, speaker, radio show host, and is also an advocate for several humanitarian and environmental causes. She is the Founder and Director of The Anna Kavanaugh Charitable Foundation, and its cyber-abuse division, The Bully Battleground. The mission, core values and focus areas of the foundation’s work stems from Anna’s own life and are the driving force behind her passionate determination to help bring about social, political and legislative change. A primary goal of the foundation is suicide prevention for other victims desperately seeking relief. Empowerment and emotional repair, together with a wide array of other strategies, are used in her work to help victims reclaim their lives. Her personal journey has provided an intuitive sense for the support and services she believes are needed and has led Anna to an initiative of improving the lives of others while advocating change through the work of her foundation.

We will be publishing and syndicating worldwide Anna's column, Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime, in the near future.