Our rapidly evolving digital technology is a new frontier and as such our inherent nature to push its boundaries, and our own, can lead some astray. Like unattended children we sometimes blindly ignore the consequences to further our own goals and desires, and to generally test those boundaries. Most people also have the inherent ability to know when to stop, others not so much. When these actions decidedly turn to involving the life and privacy of another innocent and unknowing human being then it becomes a problem that society is responsible for dealing with.
A young college student took his own life on Wednesday, the night of September 22nd, all because two people decided to ignore the most important of boundaries… that of human civility. Dharun Ravi and accomplice Molly Wei were both students at Rutger’s University with the victim Tyler Clementi. Dharun and Tyler shared a dorm room together. Mr. Ravi used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet, according to the New York Times, and then made an announcement on Twitter of the encounter. This happened twice, the second instance being announced on Twitter prior to its occurrence.
Tyler Clementi’s decision to leap off of the George Washington Bridge is a call to action. Not only in light of this tragic event having the apparent qualities of a hate crime, but because the boundaries of human civility must be clearly drawn; especially in relation to this sort of abuse of new technology. Tyler lost his life to the incident. The New York Times reports that Dharun’s most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of five years. Does the punishment fit the crime, or the outcome of the crime? I’m not sure Tyler’s distraught family members are nodding in approval.
There was the case of the young girl committing suicide after being persistently harassed by another peer’s mother. Another more recent occurrence involved a mouthy pre-adolescent girl whose Internet savvy cost herself and her family their privacy and safety. The cases are mounting for some sort of regulations clearly defining defamation, invasion of privacy, harassment and hate crimes regarding the Internet and social networks. The severity of the punishment needs to match the severity of the impact on the victim’s lives. The Internet, like an automobile, can be dangerous in the wrong hands. And we’ve already accepted that you can’t just go forcing someone off the side of a bridge with your car without paying a severe price.
Lisa W. Foderaro, “Private Moment Made Public, Then a Fatal Jump”. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/nyregion/30suicide.html?src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB