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Man Who Lost Son to Cyberbullying Teaches Students About Issue November 6, 2008

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Fox44, 6 Nov 2008, updated 10 Nov 2008

Teens from across Vermont were in Montpelier Thursday to learn about the effects of cyberbullying.  One of the people they heard from knows about the effects first hand. John Halligan’s son Ryan would be about the same age as some of the high school students he spoke to.

“A wonderful sweet, gentle, kind, empathetic boy…I mean he was the kind of kid that he made friends quick. People liked being with him but there was a vulnerability of Ryan, he was a bit of a sensitive kid,” Halligan said, describing his son.

Ryan Halligan, 13, was a middle school student in Essex Junction, Vt., when he commited suicide in 2003.  After his death, his father John discovered he was being bullied online, through instant messaging in the months before his death.

“I think they feel a lot more comfortable in a cyber space world to do things that are far more detrimental and far more damaging to the well being of a peer, because there is no immediate accountability or consequence,” Halligan said.

Halligan works to make children and teens more aware of cyber bullying by sharing his son’s story like he did at A World Of Difference Institute on Thursday.  Tony Sulva, a senior at Champlain Valley High School, says it’s an important issue to talk about as he worked with some of his peers at the event.

“It’s not really saying it to the actual person, but really it’s kind of the same communication, just not face to face,” Sulva said.

Sulva also said there are many forms of technology used for bullying.

“Email, cell phone texting, instant messanger, and web sites like Facebook and MySpace,” Sulva said.

A bullying prevention law was passed in Vermont in 2004, and Halligan said the laws are evolving, but aren’t the complete solution.


Steve Jobs Heart Attack Rumor Started On 4Chan By A Teenager November 5, 2008

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The Common Sense Investor, October 2008

On October 3rd, a rumor that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a heart attack sent Apple’s stock crashing down from $105.04 per share to $94.65 per share, equaling a loss of $9 billion in market value. All that in just 10 minutes. That shows how important Steve Jobs is to Apple. It also shows how fragile the market is at times.

Generally, when a fake news story has a substantial impact on the value of a company’s stock, the SEC gets involved. And that’s just what they did this time. Manipulating the value of a stock for your personal gain is a crime with some hefty penalties, so the SEC tried to trace the story and see if it’s originator had any financial reasons for starting the rumor. It turns out he didn’t.

The story made it’s way to CNN’s iReport.com, which is where it really started to hit the mainstream news, but it’s origin was a tad less respectable: an 18 year-old kid posting on 4Chan as a prank.

Here’s the complete post from CNN’s iReport “Citizen Journalist” Web site:
“Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack,” said the false report. “I have an insider who tells me that paramedics were called after Steve claimed to be suffering from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. My source has opted to remain anonymous, but he is quite reliable. I haven’t seen anything about this anywhere else yet, and as of right now, I have no further information, so I thought this would be a good place to start. If anyone else has more information, please share it.”

#@*!!! Anonymous anger rampant on Internet November 4, 2008

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CNN, 3 November 2008

There’s a whole world of people out there, and boy, are they pissed off.

On political blogs, the invective flies. Posters respond to the latest celebrity gossip with mockery or worse. Sports fans set up Web sites with names that begin with “fire,” hoping coaches, athletic directors and sportscasters lose their jobs.

And though there are any number of bloggers and commenters who attempt to keep their postings and responses on a civil level, all too often interactive Web sites descend into ad hominem attacks, insults and plain old name-calling. Indeed, there are even whole sites devoted to venting, such as justrage.com (one screed there was titled, “I don’t give a flying f***, so f*** you”) and mybiggestcomplaint.com.

This is not a world Emily Post would want to be caught in after dark.

“The Internet can be a great tool,” said Sara Black, a professor of health studies at St. Joseph’s University who takes a particular interest in online bullying. “Like any tool, it can also be misused.” (more)

New Cyberbullying Study October 25, 2008

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21st Century Sheep, October 2008

A new study out of the University of California in Los Angeles finds cyberbullying is more common than previously thought. Almost 75% of teens reported some cyberbullying during the prior 12 months. The most common type of bullying was name calling. That didn’t surprise me, but the second most common type did. The second most common tactic was password theft. If someone steals or guesses your password they can send email in your name, visit websites and make it look like it was you, or edit an online profile and post untrue and unflattering information.

Lori Drew trial may start Nov. 18 October 8, 2008

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Oct 2008

The criminal case against Lori Drew, accused of helping to cyber-bully a St. Louis area teen who then killed herself, appears to be headed for a November trial date, court documents filed Monday suggest.

(full story)

New Cyberbulllying Suit says Internet harassment put teenage girl into psychiatric care October 8, 2008

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St. Louis Post Dispatch, 8 Oct 2008

Clayton — The father of a teenage girl says in a lawsuit that a cyber bully so unnerved her with online taunts that she ended up admitted to a mental health clinic.

The 16-year-old girl is not named in the suit, in St. Louis County Circuit Court in Clayton. Her father’s lawyer, Joe Jacobson, said the identity of the defendant is not known with certainty.

The suit seeks reimbursement for medical expenses in excess of $25,000 and asks that a judge order the Internet social network Facebook and Web portal Live.com to provide information about who sent the messages.

The circumstances are reminiscent of the case of Megan Meier, 13, of Dardenne Prairie, who hanged herself in 2006 after a fictitious boyfriend turned against her in MySpace correspondence.

Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Megan’s, is expected to be tried in November in regard to that incident on federal charges of conspiracy and accessing MySpace computers without authorization.

Megan’s death prompted Missouri to create a new crime of Internet harassment, a felony for people over 21 and a misdemeanor for those younger.

The girl in the case Jacobson filed had already undergone outpatient treatment for 22 days in June and July for a psychiatric condition characterized, in part, by an obsessive relationship with a teenage boy, the suit said.

Someone using the fictitious name “Jennifer Litzinger” then created the Facebook account “for the purpose of creating a purported rival” for the boy’s affections, the suit alleges.

Asked about the identity of “Litzinger,” Jacobson said: “There are suspicions. We want good evidence that points firmly at somebody before we proceed.”

The lawsuit says “Litzinger” used a photo “of a well-endowed and attractive model or actress of the approximate age of 20 to 22 obtained over the Internet as her profile photograph so that (the victim), an ordinary attractive 16-year-old, would feel inferior to her purported rival with respect to her physical attractiveness.”

The suit also says that on the day before the teen was to finish outpatient treatment in July, she got multiple communications from “Litzinger.” Those said “Litzinger” had been talking and texting with the boyfriend every day and night, was more attractive than the teen, and that the teen “looked like a troll” and had “a worthless life.”

According to the suit, “Litzinger” knew the teen “would be severely emotionally distressed by the statements.”

The teen was taken to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center for a four-day admission to stabilize her condition, the suit says, and then she entered the Menninger Residential Clinic in Houston, where she remained until Sept. 16.

Her father, who lives in west St. Louis County, declined through his lawyer to comment to a reporter. The suit was filed Sept. 19.

The girl “is doing much better since Texas, but she is still very, very fragile,” Jacobson said.

Oregon Shield Law Protects Anonymous Commenter October 8, 2008

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Citizen Media Law Project, 8 Oct 2008

Last week, an Oregon state judge ruled that Oregon’s media shield law, found at Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 44.510 to 44.540, protected the identity of an anonymous commenter who posted allegedly defamatory statements on the Portland Mercury and Willamette Week websites.

According to the Portland Mercury, staff writer Amy Ruiz wrote a post in January 2008 about Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono. In the comments section, a site user going by “Ronald” posted negative comments about Dozono’s ties to a local businessman, Terry Beard. The same commenter allegedly posted similar statements on the Willamette Week site. Beard filed a motion to compel the two online newspapers to give up “Ronald’s” IP address before an Oregon state court. The two competitors teamed up to oppose the discovery request and won.

Interestingly, Judge James E. Redman of Clackamas County Court did not treat “Ronald” as a confidential source. Section 44.520(a) of the Oregon Revised Statutes protects from disclosure “[t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” Instead, the court relied on section 44.520(b), which protects “[a]ny unpublished information obtained or prepared by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” Section 44.510(1) defines “information” as including “any written, oral, pictorial or electronically recorded news or other data.” The court characterized “Ronald’s” IP address as data.

On the question of whether the newspapers obtained this data in the course of newsgathering, Judge Redman drew a line based on the relevance of the blog comment to the post it’s attached to:

If the comment had been totally unrelated to the blog post, then the argument could be made that the Portland Mercury did not receive it in the “course of gathering, receiving, or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” (source)

Concluding that the IP address fit within the shield law’s “broad statutory language,” the court denied Beard’s motion to compel.

Perhaps we’re seeing an emerging trend. In September, a Montana judge ruled that his state’s shield law protected the identity of an anonymous commenter to the Billings Gazette. (See my post for details.) Previously, anonymous commenters and service providers had relied almost exclusively on First Amendment protection for anonymous speech to block these kinds of discovery requests.

Megan Meier golf tournament to benefit charity October 1, 2008

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O’FALLON, Mo., Oct 01, 2008 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A charity golf tournmament honoring the memory of Megan Meier is planned this month to benefit a organization dedicated to suicide prevention.

The CHADS Coalition raises money to support research of early-onset mental illness and suicide prevention programs for adolescents and young adults.

Megan, 13, hanged herself in her Dardenne Prairie home in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages from a ficticious MySpace profile created by neighbors.

The golf match will begin at 2 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Pheasant Run Golf Course. The event includes a silent auction, dinner and prizes.

For more information, call the golf course at 636-379-0099 or call Megan’s father, Ron Meier, at 636-485-9788.

Oprah Winfrey Found Dead: Another Week, Another Hoax September 21, 2008

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The Post Chronical, 20 September 2008

Oprah Winfrey is not dead. There is yet again another rumor floating out in the gossipsphere that Oprah Winfrey has died.

“Oprah Winfrey, age 54, was found dead in her home residing in Chicago, Illinois at 8:21 AM on September 20, 2008. Local Police and the FBI are trying to keep it on the down low for now until further notice. From what has been reported thus far, she appears to have a bloody area around her eye, a bullet wound in her stomach and some cuts and bruises”

The fake article goes on to explain that Oprah was targeted because she criticized a certain website.Once again we have a rumor spreading like wildfire without one single confirmation be a credible source.

A similar death report hoax about Miley Cyrus happened on Sep, 6.

I think it’s a safe bet to file this under the category of ‘4chan shenanigans.’

Today, according to this blogger, this message appeared on 4chan.

“Many may not realize this, but we just may be the strongest, yet most unorganized group of people in the world. Impossible to track us. Our positions in the world vary person to person, but together, we are legion.

Let us take control, create “Joker-Like” chaos, this week has been a cute start, but I believe we can do more, much more. We are the new world order. The Illuminati are like children compared to our stature.

To put it simply, my point is.

Kill the Oprah.”

Without making any calls, our collective guess would be that Oprah is safe and sound. She is probably on the phone with Gail somewhere in Chicago, alive and well and still refusing to interview Sarah Palin.

We’ll keep you updated if this hoax turns out to be anything more.

Six Things Parents Need to Know About Cyberbullying September 16, 2008

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Epoch Times, 15 September 2008

The Internet has changed the playground bully into the in-my-bedroom-bully.

The Internet has changed the playground bully into the in-my-bedroom-bully. It’s true; the line between school life and home life is gone. Kids can no longer leave the social pressures, cliques, bullies, snootiness and the other highlights of adolescence at school.

Today, bullying/cyberbullying is:

Options for a bully circa 1980 were to steal some lunch money, call someone a name and maybe shove them into a locker. Today, kids can poke, message, email, text, post on their wall, send them a mean virtual present … the list goes on and on and changes by the day.  The Internet has brought thousands of ways to bully someone without ever being caught.

Before, if you got in a fight at school, or found out you were not invited to a party, you were able to come home and vent about it to your family, get a snack and cool off. Now, if you are mad at someone, you can instantly send a text message to your social networking profile to post a mean comment. Now there is no ‘off’ time and the second something happens, everyone knows about it because they all get alerts or texts from automated news feeds or plugged-in friends. Teens are checking these services constantly, so before what took a few days to spread, now can take a few minutes.

Some things, like postings on your wall, video, a text message or email, you can delete. Other things, such as photos or social network announcements can be up there forever or until the writer removes them. A black eye can disappear, posted messages may not.

It is really hard to walk up to someone and say to them: “You are a fat pig.” It is much easier to write that on someone’s Facebook wall. Technology provides a way for students to be mean even more ‘behind the back.’ Many times, you can even post pictures, videos or send messages anonymously! This has changed the face of bullying because it allows people to be mean and not face the consequences—they can’t get punched back and they can hide it from parents and teachers.

It is really important to talk about these new aspects of bullying. Make sure to discuss the ramifications of letting a friend take a sexy picture, disabling the Facebook wall or what would happen if they got in a fight with a friend.

Parents, let your kids know they can always come to you or to a teacher if they see or feel something uncomfortable online.

Vanessa Van Petten is the author of the book You’re Grounded! Her parenting tips as a family peacemaker have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fox 5 New York, and CBS. Please check out her site: http://www.OnTeensToday.com and email your questions for future columns to vvanpetten@rrules.com

Company files defamation lawsuit against anonymous Web poster August 23, 2008

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Ann Arbor News, 21 August 2008

After executives at an Ann Arbor venture capital firm discovered an anonymous, negative Internet posting about the company, they weren’t just mad: They decided to sue.

In a court filing, EDF Ventures accused “John Doe” of defamation for implying in a comment posted on the Web that the people running the firm were dishonest. The comment was made on a California-based Web site called The Funded, which was created to allow entrepreneurs to rate investors anonymously. (more)

Megan Meier: Attorney asks for medical records of dead girl August 21, 2008

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St. Louis Post – Dispatch, 20 August 2008

A lawyer for the woman accused of using the Internet to bully a Dardenne Prairie teen to the point of suicide has requested some of the girl’s medical records, claiming the girl was mentally ill and suggesting a change in her medication could have caused her death. (more of this disgusting story)

ALERT: California Cyberbullying Bill May End Up In Political Limbo August 18, 2008

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Ventura County Star, 18 August 2008

In an ironic twist, a bill to help stop cyberbullying in California schools may end up in political limbo because of the governor’s attempt to bully lawmakers into passing a state budget.

The measure by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, gives educators the authority to suspend or expel bullies who use text messages or the Internet during school, going to or from school or during off-campus school activities, to pick on fellow students.

Assembly Bill 86 is nearing passage in the Legislature. After clearing the Senate on Monday, it headed back to the Assembly — where it already passed easily — in order for lawmakers to consider amendments tacked on in the Senate.

However, a frustrated Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this month turned up the pressure on lawmakers for their budget inaction by announcing he would veto any bill sent to him. So, once AB86 clears its remaining Assembly hurdle, it will be placed in some sort of legislative netherworld. (read the rest of the article)

Research on cyber bullying, technical issues expose dangers August 17, 2008

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Manila Times, 17 August 2008

The research studies made by experts on the physical and mental health hazards of mobile phones and hi-tech equipment, including computers, have yielded important findings about “cyberbullying.” “Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils” is reported in Blackwell Publishing’s Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, Volume 49, Number 4, April 2008, pp. 376-385(10). (read article)

Government: Cyberbullying is a New Phenomenon, as is Social Networking August 14, 2008

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Law Blog, 13 August 2008

Last month, when H. Dean Steward, the lawyer for Lori Drew in the MySpace suicide case, filed his three motions to dismiss, he wrote: “If the government’s statutory construction is correct and the [Computer Fraud & Abuse Act] criminalizes violating a website [terms of service], then the statute is void for vagueness because it fails to provide warning of what is prohibited and ensures discriminatory enforcement . . .”

Yesterday, the government, represented by AUSA Mark Krause, shot back, filing three oppositions to the failure to state a claim motion, to the vagueness motion and to the unconstitutional delegation of prosecutorial power motion. (read full article)