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Brazilian gang rape goes viral on Twitter, etc. What can be done? (2)

Nigel Morris-Co...

Part 2 of the article about the use of the internet for the broadcast of a gang rape of a Brazilian teenager and suggestions to reduce the incidence of such behaviour by Nigel Morris-Cotterill, author, Cleaning up the 'Net

If Periscope has an unusual feature, it is that it records the stream and converts it to video which is then available to watch after the event.

The video did not "go viral" because someone managed to get a message to twitter who blocked it soon after its release. While the total number of viewers is not clear, it is known that some 500 people clicked a "like" button.

As if that is not bad enough, the victim of the Brazilian gang rape has found herself the subject of hostile comment. The circumstances were that the sixteen year old went out to meet her 19 year old boyfriend. She went to his house. She remembers nothing until she woke up somewhere else with a crowd of men around her. Many have criticised her clothes, saying that she invited rape. She told O Globo ""It’s the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying ‘it’s her fault. She was using scanty clothes.’ I want people to know that it is not the woman’s fault."

But to be fair, she says, that on balance, she has had more support. Brazilian media report that she posted to her Facebook page, in Portuguese "I really thought I would be judged badly. But I was not."

It is important to recognise that it is not "the internet" that is to blame. It's users. To control the development of such offences, technology companies must be required to put in place measures to control the use of the technology they use and release. Their users must be identifiable and held responsible for their actions.

The core of the problem lies with the American illusion of "free speech." Anyone, anywhere in the world, can post anything they like to an American-based network and expect that no-one is monitoring it for legality, much less morality.

The louts who committed this crime must be identified and punished for the rape and for the distribution of pornography. While this case involves Twitter, the whole social media industry must be treated as publishers, not mere channels. Will this increase their costs exponentially? Yes. Will that mean some will cease to be viable? Yes. Will this mean and end to "free" services in social media? Yes.

These changes will require a business model that includes charging and, through that, identification of account holders. Account holders must be responsible for everything they push via their channel as joint publishers.

It's not difficult to do, but it does mean that the free-wheeling days of the internet should be over.

And the internet world should be sorry that it had not taken these actions before last week. After all, we knew in the mid 1990s that pornographic videos of the abuse of children were available for download over the 'net. How is it that 20 years later the industry claims innocence when its own developments have provided a logical and easy course for escalation?


Read: Cleaning up the 'Net by Nigel Morris-Cotterill. Paperback.