Your Kids Cyber-bullying? Eventually You Could be Held Responsible.

In my blog series Fighting Fair on the Internet I have been writing in general about the varying problems I see with use of the internet.  After all, given my unique position and area of law I work in, I have had the opportunity to see all kinds of situations that most people never even think about.  Seriously – the good, bad, and the ugly – I see all of it.  And why do I write about it?  Because everyday I see people making stupid mistakes that eventually end up coming back to haunt them in one way or another and because I think education on these issues, raising awareness, plays a key part in reducing the amount of problems I see.

A colleague of mine showed me an NBC Miami article where Central Florida attorney Mark O’Mara was considering writing law that would give law enforcement officials the ability hold parents accountable for the bad things their kids were doing online.  In response to an arrest back in 2013 of two girls in a Florida bullying and suicide investigation, attorney O’Mara wrote on his blog:

The question is this: is their ignorance and apathy about their daughter’s cyber-bullying criminal? Under our current laws, it looks like the answer is “no.” Should that sort of willful blindness or gross negligence be criminal? I think it should, and here’s why: if a child kills someone while operating a parent’s car, the parents can be held responsible. If a child kills someone while using a parent’s gun, the parent can be held responsible. If a child breaks the law using a computer or cellphone provided by the parent, how is that different?

If you ask me, I am already all for harsher punishment for internet defamers and harassers so his argument makes sense.  That is, of course, so long as the punishment is reasonable but yet has enough teeth to ensure that parents actually monitor and pay some level of attention to what their kids are doing online.  If you are a parent, you SHOULD be monitoring what your kids are doing – not just to keep yourself out of trouble but to protect your child from all the dangers online (physical, mental, and legal).

After my first presentation to high school students regarding internet use and the repercussions from the same, it was abundantly clear that a lot more education was needed.  I went as far as explaining to the students that after my presentation they probably knew more than their parents did – after all, most of us old enough to have teenagers really didn’t have internet growing up and we especially didn’t have social media.  I encouraged students to go home and talk with their parents about what they learned…because not all advice that kids get from their parents is the best – especially when it comes to online issues.

As some food for thought, according to the Cyberbullying Research Institute, 48 states, plus Washington, DC, have laws that include cyber-bullying or online harassment.  Out of those states, 44 of them have criminal sanctions for cyber-bullying or electronic harassment.  Some information regarding the different state laws on these issues can be found here.  Similarly, just remember that “anonymous” doesn’t really mean “anonymous.”  In most cases, your identifying information is only one or two well written subpoenas away.

Long story short, with the continuing increase of use of the internet, don’t be surprised when laws start being enacted to hold parents liable for the wrongs of their children.  Want to be proactive and learn more for yourself, your kids, or even for a group?  Contact me!  See my contact page for more information.

Have thoughts on this to share?  Share them in the comments below!

 

 

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Fighting Fair on the Internet – Part 10 | That Would be Harsher Punishment for Internet Defamers Stan…

For many reasons the movie Ms. Congeniality with Sandra Bullock has been a long time favorite of mine.   Especially when she answered the question “What is one of the most important thing our society needs?” with “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators Stan…and world peace!”  I’m pretty sure since that movie first came out in 2000 I have been remixing that one-liner to fit my varying smarty pants comeback needs.  In fact, in muddling to myself just this morning after reviewing some dyspeptic online commentary I determined that I would answer the question “That would be harsher punishment for internet defamers Stan…and world peace!”  It’s true…internet defamers and harassers really do suck.

In my line of work, and in my every day life, I see people being nasty to one another online – and sometimes people really cross the line and forget that words do hurt.  Sometimes I wonder what happened to the good old fashioned “take it out behind the barn and duke it out…looser buys the other guy a drink” form of justice.  Back in the day (and I really hate saying that because I am not THAT old) if anyone ran their mouth in person like they do today online – man, they’d get a beat down and, quite honestly, they would have probably deserved it.  To make matters worse, you get the morons that jump on the keyboard warrior band wagon without having the first clue about what is REALLY going on and they either share the crap out of the false stuff or otherwise join in on the bashing.  When is enough, enough?  What the hell happened to the human connection and manners?  So much of society needs a good metaphorical kick in the teeth.  The First Amendment doesn’t shelter you from false and defamatory statements nor should it be abused as a license to be a jerk-face.  Unfortunately, unlike the “old days,”  it no longer hurts to be stupid and run your mouth.

Indeed I am a Section 230 Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) supporter, because I don’t think that websites should be held liable for the stupid crap that other people do; after all, that mentality is akin to an over weight person blaming the spoon manufacturer for making a spoon that they can use to eat and get fat with.  “…but, but, the spoon made me fat!”  And to those who just read that and got all defensive – clearly my reference isn’t to those who have medical issues or things outside of their control.  I’m talking about the person who is heavy because of purposeful overeating, failing to do exercises, etc.  Sometimes life happens.  We get busy and fail to take care of ourselves as we should but we can’t blame the spoon manufacturer for it.  The spoon didn’t make us fat.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  This is absolutely no different and trying to hold websites liable for the stupidity of third-parties is asinine to me.  Yes, yes, I am well aware that the CDA protects websites from liability from third-party content, however, it doesn’t seem to stop people and attorneys from filing frivolous lawsuits…but I digress here.  That is another story for another day.  However, I do think that there should be some serious punishment for all these people who purposefully go out of their way to post false and defamatory information about others…the same goes for harassers.  Perhaps if these people got hit harder in the pocket book or were forced into doing community service – like helping with anti-bullying and harassment initiatives, maybe THEN it would slow down. There just needs to be more education and more deterrents.  It’s far too easy to sit behind the keyboard and be mean.  MEAN. PEOPLE. SUCK.

Until next time friends…

 

 

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet – Part 7 | Freedom of Speech – the Double Edged Sword

If you’ve been keeping up with this Fighting Fair on the Internet blog series you know I believe that: the Internet sucks (well, it can suck); we as a society have lost the human connection and mannersopinions are like poop (we need more courtesy flushes); no one really likes the person who crosses the line onlinewords DO hurt; and that my hope is that people can dig down and make America KIND again…and that really goes for the rest of the world caught up in the three-ring circus without a ring-master that is life.  This of course begs the question: what is the root cause of the problem?  I could run a poll of 1,000 different people and I suspect I could get 1,000 different answers to that question.  So let’s look at one concept:  Freedom of Speech.

I know this is a huge topic and there is no way I could touch on all aspects but recently a situation occurred that made me look at both sides of the freedom of speech coin.  Sure, I have thought about it a lot – especially given the nature of my line of work – but this was different.  You know, the funny thing about freedom of speech is that rarely does one dislike it unless and until something is said or written negatively about them or it otherwise provokes negative emotions within.  And, I suppose it goes without saying, that what one person finds offensive will often not be the same, at least to the same degree, as the next person.  I believe that each person and their perspectives are shaped by their unique set of circumstances in life – upbringing, religion, education, and personal life experiences.  For example, one who may have been brought up in a family where there was domestic violence in the home may have a much deeper and more passionate emotion on the subject than one who didn’t have such trauma in their life growing up.  Someone could joke about it to someone that hasn’t experience it and it may come across funny.  However, the same joke to the person who has experienced it may not find it so funny.  The thing is, there really is not a “bright line” rule and therefore leaves a lot of room for disagreements.

Let’s look at freedom of speech in a social context:  Typically if something is said more generally – it’s likely to be less offensive to an individual.  Someone might say “I don’t like the president!” and while some people may disagree with that opinion they are not likely to take it personally.  That’s because  it’s not about them personally.  But what happens when criticism is directed towards a specific individual?  I don’t know a single person that likes criticism of any kind.  True, some people take criticism better than others but still, even constructive criticism, can take a toll on one’s emotional well-being depending on how the information is presented.

I don’t think Newton’s Third Law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” applies only to motion.  Think about kids on the playground; one kid says something mean or does something mean to another kid, the first reaction, right or wrong, for the kid on the receiving end is to do something mean back – whether it be harsh words or physical violence.  The internet has, in many respects, become a giant sandbox full of bratty little children – except, most people interacting online aren’t “children.”  Someone expresses their negative opinion, or worse – maybe makes up some kind of total BS, about someone online and then what happens?  The person who got called out, out of hurt feelings and anger, will likely come up with something equally as mean, or worse, back.  It’s like a perpetual fight that never seems to end, and, worse yet, the playground fight is online, for all to see, FOREVER.  Then what sets in is the fools remorse that I talk about in my presentations and briefly in my article that speaks on the topic of crossing the line online…and many times there isn’t much that can be done about it.  You can’t un-ring a bell.

Final thoughts:  Be careful with your words in person, and especially online.  It’s okay for you exercises your free speech right to voice your opinion about things, but if you do it about someone specifically, right or wrong, you should be prepared and understand that there is a good chance that the person who you wrote about may exercise their freedom of speech, possible with “playground tactics,” to come back with the same, or even worse, reaction.  And remember, not all opinions are created equal.  Sometimes it’s okay to give an opinion a “courtesy flush.

Until next time friends.

 

 

You Named Your Kid What?! Brilliant!

Have you ever read a celebrity tabloid and thought “Why in the world anyone ever name their kid that?”  I know I have.  For example, in an article by Australian KidSpot.com.au, they listed off “Celebrity baby names top 20 – the crazy list.”  The top name listed?  Pilot Inspektor.  Yes, you read that right and I didn’t goof on the spelling…Pilot Inspektor.  Now, traditionally I would chuckle and think such a name was just goofy…until today.  It dawned on me that in today’s internet world, arguably – and I know how silly it sounds – you are almost doing your child a favor by giving them a very unique name and/or unique spelling of their name. Let me explain more.

A while ago I blogged about the potential pitfalls to otherwise good business names. Indeed, so many new businesses fall victim to picking out an awesome name for their new business only to find out months later – post legal documents, marketing materials, etc., that another business, perhaps located elsewhere in the country – that the similarly named business has a bad rap online.  Unfortunately, the untrained consumer may think that the two businesses are one in the same and thus, you brand new business already has a “bad reputation” and that new business hasn’t even done anything wrong.  Heck, you might not have even officially launched!

Interestingly, the concept regarding business name and reputation ALSO applies to individuals too.  I once thought I had a unique name until I ran a search on Google and realized that there were a few people in the country with my exact same name, in some cases even the same spelling, and in one instance, the lady was also in the legal field!  Did I mention she also had long dark hair like me too?  Talk about a creepy coincidence.  But let’s say for example that one of these other Anette Beebes were out in the world doing bad things, or perceived bad things, that people were writing about on public forums?  I know people looking for ME would think, or at least question, whether or not those postings were about actually about me…when obviously it wasn’t.  Wow…yeah, let that sink in for a minute?

Of course, there isn’t much that I can do about it now unless I want to legally change my name to something different…like the story of that one British guy that allegedly changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster Than SuperMan SpiderMan Batman Wolverine The Hulk And The Flash Combined.”  The way the description reads he might as well just changed his name to Usain Bolt…but I guess that was already taken.  There is also always doing what most people do, explain it away if given the opportunity.  But what can the child having population do?  Name their kids like a celebrity!  Come up with something totally out there and wacky.

I know!  It’s sounds crazy writing it too…and part of this is kind of in jest (although there is always some shred of truth to jest) but think about it.  If you  named your kid something CRAZY and spelled a name with awkward phonetics, chances of that child being mistaken for someone else is probably going to be drastically reduced.  Celebrity parents who name their kids goofy names…way to be a head of the times – even if you don’t know it.  Maybe, for the sake of  their kid’s future reputations or purely out of having a sense of humor, other non-celebrity parents will consider following suit

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If you find this comical or have unique names that you have heard please share them in the comments.  We all can use a good giggle now and then.

Fighting Fair on the Internet | Part 6 – Make America KIND Again

 

It has been a while since I have written anything on this topic…but having seen so much chaos go on online today that it sparked my desire to write.  In the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election these are my thoughts as they relate to what kinds of sentiments I have seen portrayed online:

Remember, the key to your happiness does not lie with having a female president or a male president…happiness begins with YOU; choosing to be happy and find the good in any set of given circumstances is solely within YOUR power.

My heart hurts for those who are feeling a sense of hopeless and despair in the wake of this very heated election…and to each of you I’d give you a huge hug if I could because no matter what…we are ALL in this together and we will deal with things as they come TOGETHER as a nation.

People always fear and fight against change…no matter how big or small the change is. That is human nature. It probably goes without saying but just think about the way we all went about business before technology.  I can recall what it was like trying to explain to the older attorneys that I worked with that we had to change over and adapt to new technology.  Attorneys by nature tend to be stubborn and I can tell you that the attorneys that I worked with, no matter how great of lawyers they were, the ones that were older were worse than mules!  This, conceptually, is no different but in the end, IT WILL BE OKAY. WE WILL ALL BE OKAY.

Please stop saying if you supported this candidate or that candidate you are (enter here any of the stupid words and phrases that the media has spewed at you for two years – most of which many had to look of the definitions of and or didn’t look up the definitions but would repeat).  Seriously, stop.  How does that help anything?   Really…stop and think about it. How does labeling and calling names help anything other than your own ego?   The same goes with saying “I’m moving to Canada!”  The truth is, you probably aren’t moving to Canada and, if you do, good luck on their citizenship process – by the time you become a citizen this election term, plus half of the next, will likely be half over.

People make choices and decisions based upon their personal life experiences, beliefs, upbringings, faith, education, etc.  No single one of us has had the same experiences and therefore we are all going to look at this world, including politics, a little differently. IT’S OKAY TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY! Different doesn’t mean wrong…it’s just different.

No president can make you a kind person.  No president can make you a loving person. No president can make one have a sense of self-respect or morals. No president can give you the drive and determination to want to work hard and go after your goals.  Indeed, they can encourage those things, but it’s UP TO YOU to make your life better and to make yourself happy regardless of the circumstances.  Don’t place the power of YOUR HAPPINESS into someone else’s hands…you will wind up disappointed.

It’s okay to be apprehensive. It’s okay to be a little emotional. We are all human, and if you’re reading this, you are probably a fine human with many wonderful qualities.  At the same time, none of us are perfect so I give you this thought:  Being bitter and shitty to other people, friends or strangers in person or online over your differences, only prolongs YOUR unhappiness…and really says more about YOU as a person than it does anything else.

There is a reason I have this entire blog series about “Fighting Fair on the Internet” and all of this has made an excellent case study and proves my point – we have lost the human connection and it’s time to bring it back and relearn and implement some manners. Being silent when you want to verbally throat punch someone isn’t weakness…it’s called GRACE, and grace my friends, is a strength that few today seem to possess.

I have read today some really UGLY reactions to the outcome of last night’s presidential election.  On the other hand, I have read some of the most BEAUTIFUL words by friends who, while disappointed with the election results, found hope and a willingness to move forward…recognizing that we are all in this together and we, together, can do great things. To those people…thank you for share the kind words and inspiration.

Be HUMBLE. Be KIND. Be UPLIFTING instead of degrading. INSPIRE others to fulfill their dreams and realize their full potential. EDUCATE when education is helpful but not just to be “right” or vengeful for self gratification.  Let’s make America KIND again…and KNOW that the POWER for all of these things lies within YOU.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.

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Entrepreneurship can be a lonely place.

Regardless of which side of the political fence you are on (or maybe sitting in the stream in the middle) one can’t help but notice how the general public seems to point fingers and utilize one’s personal love life, or the lack thereof, as some sort of measuring stick for their perceived abilities to be a strong leader in business and/or the political arena.  To those who do the finger pointing in this manner, I ask you the following: Have you actually ever been a successful business person?  While perhaps I am over generalizing here I am going to go out on a limb and will guess not because, the truth is, entrepreneurship/business leadership can be a very, very, lonely place.

For the purpose of this article I will refer to entrepreneurs, however, this really could apply to any higher-up type business leader.  The responsibilities and worries for a entrepreneur/business leader are very different than that of the time clock punching worker-bee.  Not that there is anything wrong with being a worker-bee but my point is, the worker-bee goes to work, turns on the lights, clocks in, does their designated duties for the set shift for the day, clocks out, and then goes home…with free time to do whatever thereafter…inclusive of spending time with family.

By contrast, the entrepreneur, typically doesn’t have that kind of luxury.  The entrepreneur is concerned about keeping the lights on, the equipment maintained, the staff paid and employed…and all of that encompasses ways in which to keep the business thriving. While you are at home spending time with family and friends, and getting sleep, the entrepreneur is up late nights educating themselves on market trends, and trying to navigate changes in industry.  The entrepreneur is up looking at their competitors to figure out how to do things “better.”  The entrepreneur is trying to come up with the next “big thing” to help them grow and become more…so that maybe the company can afford raises or better equipment for its staff.  Even if the entrepreneur has reached a point where they have people to help them with some of these tasks, there is still the challenge of managing people which can be downright exhausting!

With all that the entrepreneur has to worry about, it is no wonder that so many may have a hard time keeping personal relationships a-float.  I myself am guilty of the “just a minute baby, only one more email and then I will come to bed” and then three hours later I head upstairs…usually with the phone in hand to check on different accounts.  Meanwhile my other half has been home for six hours, asleep for three, and I have sucked at paying any attention to him because I have let myself be drawn in and distracted by my work projects.  True, it’s a personal thing I am working on, and I’ve gotten a lot better…but it does still happen on occasion.  Indeed, it takes a very strong partner to understand the demands that are placed on the entrepreneur…and an even stronger one to accept how lonely a relationship with an entrepreneur can be.  To the entrepreneur, that business or project is their baby, which often times means they sacrifice the “typical” relationships for it.  Further, it’s not uncommon for people involved in an entrepreneur to give up because they need more out of the relationship that the entrepreneur can give, and that’s okay too. This, however, does not mean that the entrepreneur is a bad person or a bad business leader…in fact, it could mean the very opposite; that the entrepreneur is willing to sacrifice their personal relationship life for the greater good of their business.  Of course I always advocate for finding balance…but some times that is easier said than done.

Bottom line, when it comes down to it, before you go pointing fingers at people based upon your perception of their failed love life and what that means for them as a business/political leader…I ask you to consider what I just wrote and remember, entrepreneurship can be a very lonely place.

Just some food for thought, friends.  I’d be interested to hear your feedback and experiences.