Identity Online Bullying and Anonymity

Bullying is defined as to act the bully (towards). persecute, intimidate, oppress (physically or morally) by threats or superior force (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2003). However, this dictionary does not contain a definition of cyber-bullying, implying that the word was not in common usage at the time and the issue has evolved as a phenomenon since 2003. This would tie in with increased usage of the internet for such things as socializing using Twitter and Facebook, as well as more educational establishments using e-resources and virtual learning environments as part of their teaching.Recently, attention has focussed on the phenomenon of cyber-bullying following the deaths of two students who were apparently bullied online – Tyler Clementi committed suicide following the posting of videos online (Guardian 2010), and Phoebe Prince killed herself following months of cyber-bullying at school (McGreal 2010). Last year, the first person ever to be convicted of cyber-bullying was Keeley Houghton in August (Carter 2009). People are bullied for a variety of reasons, some relating to aspects of discrimination and others relating to simple disagreements over opinions. Various reports have stated that cyber-bullying is a major problem, linked to continuing inequality in the UK and requiring resolution (see, for example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report ‘How fair is Britain’ available for download at And it is not just children and students who are targeted. Teachers are frequently targeted by students (when it is referred to as ‘cyber-stalking’ or ‘cyber-harassment’ to distinguish the age of the target [Meredith, 2010]). Cyber-bullying is even a political issue for the USA, with policies such as Don’t ask, don’t tell being challenged through the courts and the Senate (Guardian 2010).

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