Oppland Arbeiderblad - 21 September 2011
People will never be able to totally protect themselves from online bullying. Published 21.09.2011 06:01 Updated 21.09.2011 06:01
The Editor writes: “For many years the new Chief of Police for Vestoppland, Johan Martin Welhaven, has been exposed to an online smear campaign and harassment by an Englishman. He is accused of being an Islamophobe and held partly responsible for the terror attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya on 22 July. It goes without saying that the claims are completely unfounded, but are linked to a client relationship the outgoing Deputy Director of the Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs had with the Englishman a number of years ago.
Nevertheless, protecting himself against such statements is extremely challenging for Welhaven. When someone who is a lawyer and employed by the police chooses NOT to go down the legal route to have a website like this taken down, it says a lot about just how difficult it is to fight the dark side of the web.
Anyone can procure any domain at all – it’s a free for all: first come, first served. In Welhaven’s case, the person concerned has bought up his entire name as a domain. This means that searches for the name “Johan Martin Welhaven” on Google, the world’s largest search engine, will always show this page at the top of the list of hits. It is not difficult to imagine how this technique could be abused by people wanting to use the web to harass, spread false information about, or harm another person.
Digital bullying is a key topic in Norwegian schools this year. Since the campaign was launched in the autumn, a number of local schools have organised targeted activities to increase knowledge of and change attitudes to unwanted activity online. At Raufoss, the whole school took part in an anti-bullying procession to show that bullying will not be tolerated. However, pupils and teachers are making no secret of the fact that this is a problem that will never go away. In recent years, online bullying in particular has become increasingly prominent.
Ever younger children and young people have access to the web. Many also have their own computers that they use on a more or less daily basis without any adult supervision whatsoever. This makes it very easy to take a wrong step. Neither are young people making any secret of the fact that it is easy to publish opinions of other people in anger that absolutely do not belong in the public domain. They also believe that many young people do not understand the scope of a statement or an image published online.
Although netiquette and data safety have come to the fore in the last few years, there is no reason not to have full focus on this going forward. People will never be able to totally protect themselves from online bullying.
Preventive work with children and young people is therefore absolutely vital. To an even greater degree than the adults of today, they will need to understand both the benefits and drawbacks of the opportunities the web offers.