Thursday, October 3, 2013

Becca Bressler - Assignment #2: Analysis of an Online Crime

Mean Girls

In the city of Baker, Louisiana, two teenage girls, Chantel Williams, 17, and Jasmine Montgomery, 17, were arrested and charged with cyberstalking. The juvenile victim filed a complaint with the Baker Police Department, indicating that two females had been sending her threatening messages via Twitter. The victim saved the messages, which were later shown to investigators. One of the tweets from Williams’ Twitter account was also sent to a third party, to whom she bragged about fighting the victim “Ima light that bitch up like the 4th of July…lol Ima shoot ha dumb ass.” She then dared the victim to come home, saying she (Williams) was going to put on her “fight clothes.” Another saved message shown to investigators came from Montgomery’s Twitter account (fittingly named @imBADD_yoo). Montgomery had been working with Williams to intimidate the victim into coming to the Baker area so they could fight each other. According to the victim, the abuse had been occurring for roughly two years, and influenced her decision to transfer out of the Baker School System out of fear for her safety.  Unfortunately, the physical distance wasn’t enough to stop the harassment.

            While several of the causes John Suler identifies in “Online Disinhibition Effect” seem like plausible motives, the factor of Invisibility, is what’s really at play. As Suler says, “even with everyone’s identity known, physical invisibility may create the disinhibition effect...Online text communication offers built-in opportunity to keep one’s eyes averted.” This is central to this case, because the victim knew her aggressors. They were acquaintances at one point until their relationship escalated into something toxic.  It seems far less likely that these young women would be so threatening to the victim when they passed her in the hallways of school, but twitter has provided a convenient cover for them to bully without the face-to-face interaction.

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