Why would someone create a website that encourages cyberbullying?

May 21, 2009 9:07am

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

In many cases, we discuss websites and technology that can be used for many positive purposes but sometimes, without user education, get used to facilitate negative online behaviors as an unintended consequence. Some common examples include providing excess amounts of personal information on a social networking site and putting yourself at risk of identity theft, or the use of email, IM, or texting to forward private information about another person.

However, we do occasionally run into a website with no redeeming value in helping us achieve a digital culture where citizens use technology productively and responsibly.

Just such a site, peoplesdirt (no link intentionally) was the highlight of an excellent article recently in the Washington Post. This site’s sole purpose for existing (besides making money) is to allow people to post whatever they want about whoever they want without verification or recourse. A quick scan of the site is quite distressing. Entries include personal attacks on individuals, and profanity laden posts.  Sadly, the highest number of users at this point seems to be high school aged students. Why would someone create a Website that encourages cyber bullying?

So blatant is this site that one of the few administrative posts is titled: How to post and stay anonymous, and states, “to post on the website you must become a member. If you like to stay anonymous just make up an email address and user name.”  That pretty much sums up the sense of social responsibility the founders have and their desire to model good online citizenship. 

Thankfully, the site doesn’t appear to have much traction, and in other good news, there seems to be a user that has taken the advice above and has been posting (anonymously) to take down the site. The site promotes itself as a protector of free speech. Clearly the founders know nothing of the responsibility that comes with the right to free speech or their own responsibility to educate users about the harms that can be caused by posting lies, misleading, and damaging information about others, or the need to be respectful to people online and off.

SSO (stay safe online),