October 1, 2010

USA Today Features EIE President Donna Rice Hughes in Cyberbullying Tragedy


EIE President Donna Rice Hughes featured in USA Today Article: Suicide Shows Need for Civility, Privacy Online

Article by Rick Hampson, Donna Leinwand and Mary Brophy marcus, USA TODAY

The article, excerpted below, can be viewed in full on USA TODAY'S site HERE.
He was learning to master something as old and true as the violin, only to be undone by something as new and treacherous as a webcam in his own college dorm room, allegedly controlled surreptitiously and remotely by his own roommate.  For 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the social network apparently became a web from which there was no escape, not after images of his sexual encounter with another man were broadcast live online.

It seems to have driven him from Rutgers University - which he had entered as a freshman less than a month before with hopes of playing in an elite campus orchestra - back home toward northern New Jersey. Last Wednesday night, he apparently walked onto the George Washington Bridge, the massive span that links New Jersey and New York City, and jumped more than 200 feet into the Hudson River, to his death.

Shortly before then, he posted a goodbye on his Facebook page: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

"This is 'cyberbullying' on steroids. It's the worst case I've seen," said Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough®, an Internet safety group.

"Part of what's out there on the Internet is the Wild West. An entire generation is growing up on the Web," said Richard Ludescher, a Rutgers dean who said his 16-year-old son can, at the same time, play a video game, listen to music, watch television and send instant messages to his friends.
In death, Clementi - shy, quiet and known by only a few of his dorm hall mates - has become a multipurpose symbol, claimed by various groups decrying various forms of bad behavior: at college, in the treatment of gay men and lesbians and, above all, on the Internet.

He killed himself three days after his roommate allegedly spied on him from another dorm room via a laptop video camera.

Was what happened to Clementi a hate crime, bullying, a prank or all three? Or was it just the way things are now, when technology - tiny cameras, vast networks - allow a person's most embarrassing moments to be spread around the world, in a permanent record for all to see?

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Hughes said.

To Internet safety advocates, Clementi was the latest casualty of the Web's ability to abet defamation and shame:

Jessica Logan, an 18-year-old Cincinnati woman, killed herself in 2008 after an ex-boyfriend forwarded her nude cellphone photos to high school classmates.

Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri girl, hanged herself in 2006 after learning that an Internet romance on MySpace was a hoax.

Anthony Scala, an Oregon State University student, was convicted of invasion of privacy in 2001 for using his laptop webcam to broadcast on the Internet scenes of his roommate and his girlfriend having sex in a dorm room.

'The genie is out of the bottle'

Hughes said that unlike many victims of Internet privacy invasion who inadvertently are undone by previous indiscretions such as compromising photos, Clementi had no previous knowledge of his own exposure. "He never had a clue what was happening," she said.

Hughes said the public doesn't take the problem seriously enough.

Her organization this year rolled out a curriculum for adults - parents, educators and law enforcers - about the problem, she said, "and they're not flocking to it.  "No one thinks it can happen to them or their family."

Contributing: Jon Swartz, USA TODAY; Ken Serrano, Maria Prato, Rick Malwitz and Mike Davis of The Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, N.J.; The Associated Press
About Enough Is Enough®

Donna Rice Hughes is President of Enough Is Enough® (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has continued to pioneer efforts including the widely acclaimed Internet Safety 101® program, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to effectively protect children from pornography, sexual predators, and cyberbullies as well as how to keep kids safe on social networking sites, gaming and mobile devices.Contact Us for more information.  Media contact here.

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