A Pragmatic Comment on the Rehtaeh Parsons Tragedy

Rehtaeh Parsons’ mom calls for vigilantes to stop

A tragedy that requires legal change

I’m very sad for the Parsons family and the very preventable tragedy they have faced an from an increasingly common occurrence – cyber bullying.

The short comment I’m looking to add to the conversation is a pragmatic one. The article that you will find after clicking on the link raises questions about the approach taken by the courts and the police to the mounting pressure to pursue and charge cyber-bullies in Canada, and in a greater sense around the world.

Quoting from the CBC article,

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry says he’s considering new laws when it comes to allegations of sexual assault and distribution of child pornography.

It is clear that changes need to be made to the legal justice system to deal with the convergence of several factors – online sexuality, ubiquitous mobile broadband connectivity, and for a lack of a better term shareability.

ITC Innovation represents a pragmatic solution

However, from a combined technological and legal standpoint, I believe it is necessary to look more closely at the information channel where this bullying happens to see where changes really need to take place.

Most social media platforms that are extremely popular < 80,000 users employ database and hosting SaaS services that help manage the vast amounts of content they receive. In real terms, looking at cyber-bullying from the level of the ITC profession can help us identify trolls, haters and bullies within a more appropriate arena of thought: cyber-bullies in essence are users, and extending that idea a bit further, cyber-bullies, trolls and haters are essentially user-generated-content-creators.

An ITC approach to criminalizing cyber bullies is smart harm reduction, because thinking about trolls, hater and bullies as users and user-generated-content-creators helps identify the tools that can be used to identify, track and criminally pursue cyber-bullies.

Broken down into its substituent parts all online media – text, image, video – is code, or packets of information. Without getting very technical, the easy way to think about this is to understand that all content on the internet is semantic. The semantic nature of the internet is what has made billions for Google.

The common thread we can draw between Google, Twitter, Facebook and the myriad of online sharing platforms is the packages deployed on the servers that represent the back-end of these platforms. Hadoop is one of several packages that allow multiple servers to track, identify, share and backup content.

Can the police and the courts develop an ITC strategy to quickly identify cyber bullies? I think the answer is clearly yes. It’s not hard to imagine the criminal justice system creating a harm reduction tool to pursue cyber-bullies, not with many online reputation tracking services and a massive ITC effort to pursue Stanley cup rioters.


This story has taken a technological turn: Anonymous has threatened the Nova Scotia RCMP to charge the boys involved in the rape by threatening to ID the rapists. Warren Kinsella has written a passionate plea in an Open Letter to Anonymous here. The Anonymous press release about #OpJustice4Rehtaeh can be found here.

Recent Tweets


I’m a strategic social marketing consultant based in Victoria, British Columbia. These are my personal views.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Glad to read your thoughts! One never does know how close to home these stories are because your next door neighbour or a colleague or the person you shared a coffee meeting with a few months ago may very well have been a victim of the same sort of crime. I applaud your blogging efforts…I’d like to share on my blog as well. Thanks Avi!

    Lorraine, Silver Quill Creative Group

    1. Avi Lambert says:

      Thank you Lorraine. I agree that cyber-bullying is becoming far too common. Please feel free to re-blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s