There is growing pressure on social networking sites to do something about something tonight, as politicians and newspapers alike blame them for every single problem in the world today.
The prime minister David Cameron led the way, urging everyone to boycott ask.fm until it stopped working as any sort of service. Speaking to Sky News, Cameron said: "These people have got to step up to the chicken basket and show some responsibility. Simply allowing users of the site to block anonymous messages isn't good enough. If someone makes nuisance phone calls, we obviously don't hold the caller responsible; we blame BT for allowing the call through in the first place, even if they have so-called call blocking available. The same goes for the postal service. If a mail bomb slips through the net and it kills someone, then obviously the postman who delivered it should be held accountable. It's just common sense."
Expanding on his theme, Cameron continued: "Now while it's true that I hadn't heard of this ask.fm website until yesterday, that shouldn't stop me from talking about something I know absolutely nothing about. I really do encourage a boycott, as I've also been told that the one organised by the delightful Caitlin Moran on Twitter was such a huge success last Sunday, at least until the new Doctor Who was announced. If we stop using these sites, there's absolutely no chance whatsoever that people will simply move elsewhere, or that bullies will strike offline rather than online. We must drain this eco-system of hate."
The tabloids meanwhile have called for more meaningful action. Both the Sun and Daily Mail have demanded that ask.fm be banned, once again demonstrating their profound understanding of how the internet works. Neither paper has any truck with bullies, as the comments section on the Mail website regularly demonstrates, regarded universally as a haven of informed, reasonable debate. Likewise, columnists Richard Littlejohn and Jan Moir would never dream of writing about minorities in a prejudiced or inflammatory style. As for the Sun, only those with extremely long memories can recall that during its campaign for Baby Peter the social workers involved with his case were urged to kill themselves by those commenting online, something that might cause a few regrets considering that two of the paper's journalists charged in connection with Operation Elveden have since had their own mental health problems.
We asked a random nerd slamming away at a keyboard for his take on these events. "It's all a bit knee jerk, isn't it? For a start, we don't know exactly why these four young people took their own lives. Were they just being bullied on ask.fm, or were they being bullied offline as well? Did they have other relationship problems, or had any relatives or friends recently been ill or died? I've had depression myself, and I find it difficult to believe that it was just bullying online that led them to take such a drastic step. It could have been the trigger, or the last straw certainly, but we can't just blame a website without knowing the full facts, and you would have thought anti-bullying and children's campaigners would know that."
"Besides, why is it that parental responsibility seems such a foreign concept when it comes to the internet? Yes, it's difficult if you don't understand the technology and the slang, and when you can't have complete control due to almost every device now having net access, but clearly you have to talk with your kids about the sites they use and let them know they can always come to you if they don't feel safe. It's no use blaming a service if you don't use the privacy settings it has available. Those truly responsible here are the pathetic little shits who think it's hilarious to tell 14-year-old girls they're fat and ugly and should die. How about we go after the messengers rather than the message provider?"
"As for the tabloids, could you possibly tell it's the silly season? Any passing frenzy will do, even if it's likely that the internet as a whole helps those who feel excluded in real life far more than it harms those already vulnerable (just look at the It Gets Better campaign). They're also looking for anything to distract from their own far from honourable record when it comes to treating those who come to their attention with respect, especially as argument continues over the royal charter to establish the new press regulator."
A reward (a wine gum and a can of cream soda) is being offered for any information that leads to the tracking down of a Labour shadow minister.
Labels: ask.fm, bullying, Daily Mail-watch, David Cameron, mockery, politics, social networking websites, Sun-watch, trolling, Twitter