Group Looks to 'Cyberarmy' to Stop Violent Videos

A 16-year-old girl curls up in the fetal position, bracing herself for the vicious blows raining down upon her.

She is held down, punched, kicked, beaten and knocked unconscious. She pleads in vain with her assailants, a pack of angry girls, but doesn't fight back, instead burying her head in self-defense.

It's a horrific beating. And it's on camera, a tape reportedly shot by the attackers for broadcast on YouTube before parents intercepted it.

Eight teens face charges stemming from the alleged beatings, and prosecutors have said they'll try them as adults. But sadly, the March 30 assault on Lakeland, Fla.'s Victoria Lindsay was not an isolated incident, but rather the latest evidence of a problematic growing phenomena: online fight videos — teenagers filming their peers' attacks and then posting the clips on Web sites such as the video-sharing site YouTube and the social networking site MySpace.

"I don't think kids see it as reality. I think they see it as virtual reality. It's a computer game, it's television, it's something that's removed from them," said Parry Aftab, head of Wired Safety, an organization dedicated to combating Internet abuses such as these fight videos.

"When kids are engaged in these cyberbashings, in these sites online, they are actors in a television show," she said. Just kids "looking for their 15 megabytes of fame."

"Everyone wants to be famous, everyone wants to feel special and you can do it by posting an outrageous video on a fabulous site," she said.

'Cyberarmy'

Now Aftab is taking action, forming a "cyberarmy" that will monitor the Internet, find these videos and notify the sites to have the offensive content removed.

"If we can find these videos and the sites take them down, that'll make a big difference. But if I can get [the sites] to stop posting them in the beginning, so that it will keep kids from being famous even for the five minutes that they're up, I can make a big difference here. So I'm going to be looking to the industry to help and be responsible. I know they care about this issue very much and I expect them to help us do something about it."

Aftab also wants the sites to "put a special watch on any videos that are posted with certain tag terms in place," thereby enabling them to monitor specific search terms that kids use to identify their videos and attract viewers to them.

These fight videos are a violent, physical variation of cyberbullying, the growing trend of online harassment.

"It's a simple move from doing this in the schoolyard, the hallway and the classroom, to the medium that the students have available to them today," said Pamela Riley, executive director of Students Against Violence Everywhere. "Bullying has been taken to a new level now."

"Popular sites such as MySpace and YouTube can provide very valuable and beneficial activities for young people, but they have also been used for problems," she added. "As we can see with any increase in technology, the good comes with the bad. And unfortunately we have seen students who have transferred their bullying behaviors and aggressive behaviors to the Internet."

Aftab and Riley made similar comments in a Baltimore Sun article about a recent incident in that city when students posted video on MySpace of a classmate hitting their teacher.

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