It is going to prove increasingly difficult for schools to manage these types of sites – I suspect the only reason they were able to tackle this one so easily is because it was all public and therefore it was all out in the open…
Taking this down however isn’t going to solve the problem that the internet allows anyone to say almost anything in an anonymous way (if they really want to!). In the end like most technological problems in schools this isn’t a technical issue but one of education. Students must be taught to understand the responsibilities that come with the freedom provided by the internet…
LittleGossip – “Facebook’s bitchy little sister”
Written by Melanie Strickland
Schools will be aware of this website – as it caused a storm last month within days of coming online. LittleGossip described itself as a ‘social networking site’ – even though networking was impossible as the posts were made anonymously. Following a flurry of complaints about cyberbullying, the site owner suspended the site on 12 November, but kept the domain name and left a worrying message stating that ‘Version 2’ of LittleGossip was on its way.
LittleGossip did come back online almost exactly a month later. The site has been labelled by various online discussion groups as “Facebook’s bitchy little sister”. Indeed, Facebook seems ‘establishment’ next to LittleGossip. So, why all the fuss and what has ISC been doing about it?
The fuss is over the pernicious user generated content. Many of the comments are crude, with a sexual slant, and people are identified by their full name and school. A typical post reads ‘X is such a sket’ (young people do have an ingenious ability to invent strange new words). Your teenage years are hard enough anyway, what with all the hormones and usual social awkwardness, but now with this site pupils can be bombarded with vicious comments at any time, and the victims have no possibility of redress because the posts are anonymous.
As of 15.30 today, the site has been taken offline. Since the 11 November when ISC became aware of the site, we have worked with the relevant agencies, including CEOP, to get the site taken down or to get the site owner to put in place proper safeguards to prevent cyberbullying. We also gave our schools some practical guidance for tackling the issues raised by the site. Schools can access this when logged into ISC Member Zone > Legal Information > Hot topics > Cyber Issues/e-Safety.
What can schools do in future? Good question. Technology is evolving far more quickly than the ability of our democratic institutions to regulate, and censorship of the internet is a highly contentious issue in itself. Schools must be prepared to respond to these sorts of sites which are likely to become more common in future. As a start, make sure your AUP and anti bullying policies are up to date, and include provisions relating to e-safety. Make sure everyone in the school is aware of those policies, and the consequences of breach.
View our press release regarding this issue here.