Sunday, 11 August 2013

Knee-jerk reactions

Fourteen year old Hannah Smith killed herself the other week over alleged online bullying. That's tragic but I was disappointed in the response from the father, the media, and politicians in calling for clamp-downs, bans, and restrictions on social media. I can understand the father's reaction to some extent; he's trying to make sense of what is probably the worst thing that could happen to a parent but this is not the right way to go about things, especially when not of all the facts are out there. This sorry tale has now taken a rather odd, and perhaps sinister twist:
Bosses at, the social network on which hateful comments were posted to Hannah Smith, have controversially claimed that the vast majority of the messages were sent by the teenager herself. 
An internal investigation at the Latvian-based website is understood to have analysed the user profiles from which the messages were sent.

They reportedly now believe the teenager set up a string of anonymous profiles and posted hate messages to herself.

They claim 98 per cent of messages had been sent from a computer with the same IP address as Hannah's with only four posts coming from elsewhere.
Leicestershire police are also said to be investigating a theory that Hannah's profile could have been hacked.
I'm not sure why this is controversial if true. If it is then the girl was deeply disturbed with being the vehicle for her troubled thoughts rather than the catalyst or the cause. However, just because the messages were posted from the same IP address, it doesn't necessarily mean that Hannah posted them, it would just narrow it down to someone from the same household; a family member perhaps? The hacked profile theory is not plausible at all unless someone has not only gained access to it but also known and spoofed the IP address.

But who really posted the "hateful" comments to Hannah's profile won't be known until and the police have completed their investigations. What this case demonstrates well is that judgement should be reserved until all facts can be reviewed in the cold light of day; to have a better idea of the truth and to take away the emotion. This is particularly pertinent to politicians who frequently come up with crass and unworkable laws as a knee-jerk reaction to such tragic cases.


  1. More possibilities than just accusing family members. It's equally possible that Hannah and her tormentors used computers at, for example, the same library, branch of McDonalds or Starbucks:

    1. Thanks for the link, you raise a valid point. Just to be clear though, I raised the possibility of family members being involved rather than accusing them. We'll only really know what happened when the investigations are completed.