NJ has indicted Dharun Ravi with a hate crime in a situation that resulted in the suicide of a Rutgers student. Ravi is charged with using his computer and cam to spy on Tyler Clementi in their room and then announcing the stream via social media.
What a shame of a case. First the failure to understand the right to privacy of his roommate, regardless of how Ravi may or may not have felt about Clementi’s sexual orientation is foremost in my mind. I won’t comment on the hate crimes charge itself because I prefer to avoid the politics. But I will note the technology aspects that are relevant to my work and research and the risks inherent in giving young people access to powerful technology.
Ravi allegedly chose to do a cruel thing, who knows why, and is charged with using his webcam in an abusive way. Why is irrelevant to the end result, the loss of Clementi and the likely ruin of Ravi’s life. I am simply painfully grieved by the bullying that we see in our society. Bullying is not new, but the ability to spread the result far and wide is, and the pain and humiliation is increased in this modern age.
I note that Ravi tried to destroy evidence. The efforts to destroy evidence make the situation worse for Ravi, but also point out the difficulties in destroying social media electronic evidence. In this case Ravi apparently tried to delete Twitter posts and then cause misdirection with new posts. This sort of evidence is all but impossible to destroy, as Ravi found out. Given the time and location stamps, misdirection will virtually never work.
Completing the circle of social media involvement in this awful case, Clementi wrote a brief suicide note on Facebook and ended his life.
Modern technology is so powerful and capable of wonderful things. But in the hands of people who don’t think before they act it can cause horrible results, as it did in this case.
Young people need to understand, just because we have the means to spy doesn’t mean we should use them. Parents need to remind their children of the golden rule. I rather doubt Ravi would have appreciated it if someone had filmed him during a private encounter. This is a basic thing, but young people often don’t think before they act.
Pardon my preaching, but please teach your children the power of social media, web cams and all of the other tools they are using, sometimes without thought. And remind them this kind of bullying will never have a good ending. For anyone.
For more see http://tinyurl.com/3edge68
The indictment may be viewed here.