Ethical Debates in Connected Culture 2019/Sensitive Topics 1: Violence


In today's web 2.0 era, people use Internet constantly in all spheres of their life. The rapid transmission of information also shortens the distance between people, so that various industries have fast development. Because of the Internet, work efficiency is improved, communication is facilitated, as well as many other aspects of everyday life are facilitated (Castells et al., 2009). At the same time, Internet information networks have brought about many challenges that have multi-angle and multi-level impact (Graham and Dutton, 2019). While Internet brings convenience, it is impossible to ignore its two sides with such negative phenomenon as cyber violence being worth thinking about. It is a common phenomenon and a new problem in today's society. The network violence can be targeted at all people, hence nobody may fee secure and protected. The power of Internet violence is very strong. This kind of violence has always existed in the Internet, and even has been promoted in recent years. After the widespread generation and development of social software and mass media, the problem of Internet violence has become more serious, having evolved into a behavioral patter in online communities. Because the netizens know they would hardly bear any responsibility for inappropriate behavior, such irresponsible behavior catalyzed the spread of Internet violence. It also has a profound impact on people's psychology, cognition, and behavior (Flüchter and Schöttli, 2014). At the same time this kind of network phenomenon also reflected the development of societies and overall cultural codes and norms. At the same time, the reasons for this phenomenon are also related to the regulatory system of online media. Within the context outlined, the main aim of the present paper is to critically review and analyse the nature of cyber violence as phenomenon, its types, reasons, and consequences to highlight the importance of dealing with it in modern online and offline arenas.

Main DiscussionEdit

Definition and Nature of Cyber Violence

Violence online is commonly associated with bullying which is a pattern of physical behavior transferred into relationships between people online (McGuire and Holt, 2017). As it is explained by McGuire and Holt (2017), bullying in the physical world refers to aggressive behavior against others, which is intentional and could stem from the power imbalance between individuals. This means that the victim of bullying generally should be weaker in terms of social status or physically, or in any other terms. While bullying in cyberspaces is similar to the violence in the physical environment, it has several differences and specific manifestations that should be noted. First of all, it should be mentioned that violence is a broader term as such. Internet violence is defined as physical, psychological, emotional or verbal acts that constitute aggression in web communication and may take the form of posting of defamatory, reputational or inflammatory remarks online that cause significant harm to the victim, intentionally or unintentionally (Reyes et al., 2011). The difference between cyber violence and traditional violence is that cyber violence comes from the Internet and brings online violence into real life, which is actually a kind of offline violence. Although cyber violence is not the real violence on the victim's body, its psychological and emotional damage to them is immeasurable. This is often accompanied by tort and criminal acts, people can use education, moral restraint, law, and other means to regulate (Reyes et al., 2011). So network violence is also an extension of social violence. Internet users should treat Internet violence objectively and rationally.

Classification of Cyber Violence

At the same time, Cassidy, Faucher, and Jackson (2018) differentiate between cyber violence and cyberbullying at large as these are two different types of actions. This leads to the need to outline the main types of cyber violence, as it was already mentioned that it is a broad term covering different types of aggressive intentional or unintentional behavior online. Graham and Smith (2019) outline four types of online violence that include cyberbullying, cyberstalking, flaming, and trolling.

Cyberbullying refers to repeated and intentional behavior online when hostile and aggressive messages about a victim are communicated to such victim and others with the aim to cause harm, discomfort, and negative emotions. As in the case of violence in the real-life, cyberbullying is the most harmful when it is committed by a person or a group of people who have larger power than their victims (Graham and Smith, 2019). There were many cases when famous people committed suicide as a direct or indirect result of cyberbullying because they faced aggression online from millions of people. For instance, among the most recent cases, the two cases of suicides of the K-pop stars within the last month in Korea which are considered to be the consequence of cyberbullying and cyber violence raised the question of the impact cyberbullying might have (Yi and Cha, 2019). Such media attention and overall awareness and discussion of the cyberbullying problem make it one of the most widespread and the most easily identifying forms of online violence.

Cyberstalking refers to the intentional and repeated following of a person by using electronic means of communication and all related devices (Reyns, Henson, and Fisher, 2011). While this form of violence is not that evidently aggressive as it consists in liking or commenting on posts, sending messages and communicating online which might be perceived by others as common practice, it is the fear that the victim of stalker feels and associates with such actions by a specific person (Bocij, 2004). Hence, it is not the act of stalking itself, but its emotions impact the victim whose level of stress and anxiety increases and could cause significant harm to health and life.

Flaming is one of the most unintentional forms of cyber violence as it refers to the expressed hostility and insults a person addresses to others in online interaction when controversial issues are discussed, and such reaction is caused by emotions and inclination to deviated behaviors in general (Gordon, 2018). Some people even do not consider flamming as crime, but just as emotional fights on the web where people cross the boundaries of accepted behaviors (Graham and Smith, 2019).

Trolling might be defined as intentional and deliberation actions aimed at initiating conflict on the web which generally consists of humiliating and mocking on someone, following such person in comments and posts, and other types of intrusive aggressive interaction (Bishop, 2013). Similarly to flamming, trolling is a type of deviated cyber behavior that might not always be a crime or a manifestation of cyber violence, but still cause harm to the victim. As it is explained by Graham and Smith (2019), the difference between flamming and trolling is that the first type of actions are generally spontaneous and result from the emotional reactions of people to certain comments events, or behaviors fo others, while trolling is more conscious and intentional actions aimed to generate the long-term impact (Graham and Smith, 2019).

Manifestations of Cyber Violence

The main methods and manifestations of cyber violence include postings of threats or other hurtful messages online via numerous channels, including social media, instant messengers, or other public platforms (McGuire and Holt, 2017). Evidently, the manifestations of cyber violence differ depending on the type of violence discussed above. However, the most frequent manifestations might be outlined. Cassidy, Faucher, and Jackson (2018) refer to the survey conducted among French university students to identify the main forms of cyber violence they have faced. According to the results, the most frequent forms of online aggression people become the victims of referring to the various types of intimidating and nasty messages, statistically followed y sharing personal information without any consent, intimidating emails, and sexting what means sending information or offers of unpleasant sexual nature. As it is noted by Navarro, Yubero, and Larrañaga (2015), in some countries different types of cyberbullying are called differently and though the terms might be used interchangeably, this allows outlining the main manifestations of online violence more precisely. For instance, in South Korea, such behaviors that all fall into the category of cyberbullying are distinguished as school cyber violence, group isolation in online networks, group harassment or group abuse. In this regard, it is interesting to mention that the prevailing types of internet violence and specifically cyberbullying as its main form differ across the countries. This might be attributed to the fact that abusers try to cause the most harm to their victims and the perception of what is the most harmful differs due to the cultural background of people and social norms. For instance, as it is reported by Navarro, Yubero, and Larrañaga (2015), the most popular form of cyberbullying in Hong Kong is excluding someone from the group online activity, ignoring and isolating such person. This might be explained by the fact, that China is a collectivist society according to Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory, where affiliation to the group is an important aspect of a comfortable life (Khairullah and Khairullah, 2013). Hence, being excluded from the group leads to negative emotions and overall consequences for people in their life.

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Reasons of Cyber Violence

The causes of network violence are related to the subjective and objective environment of the network.

Firstly the hidden features of the network lead to the emergence of network violence, because the hidden features of the network have two levels of significance.

Users access information by observing the network time and space isolation hidden by the main text and language means. Secondly, in online networks, the user's identity is hidden by registering multiple user IDs, which makes the privacy of the network more complicated. The user can be active in the network with different identities. Due to the anonymity of the Internet, individuals do not have to take responsibility for the network activities, so the moral bottom line is easily broken. Many users can use the privacy of the network to make violent speeches to other users on the network to attack others, but if they participate in the competition as the real identity, they must think twice (Hao, 2007).

The second reason for the formation of network violence is collective behavior and entertainment desire. Collective behavior refers to the social collection, and cyber violence is a typical collective behavior; at the same time, it has the obvious function of group entertainment (Yuehua, 2008). The active participants of cyber violence are more likely to make the world fear not to fall into chaos. From the psychological point of view, the disconnection of cyber violence is to entertain the audience, attract the attention of the audience victims, and make the audience happy to pursue it. Collective behavior makes the group of network violence participate in network violence with a positive attitude, and face the problem of network violence with an irrational way of thinking. The participants have no sense of responsibility more and more. Participants make moral judgments and judge others based on simple information, easily solve participants' problems, gain pleasure and satisfaction from the process, attack others and hurt victims in subtle ways (Juanqi et. al, 2009).

The third reason for the formation of Internet violence is the dislocation of freedom. The birth of the Internet provides a platform for grassroots people. Users use the Internet to express their opinions. Most users think that free comment on the Internet is a symbol of freedom and social progress because users can freely speak on the Internet and act as masters of public opinion supervision and justice. Most Internet users think that their self-expression on the Internet is a unique view of society, and they will think that they are right and disagree with other views. When Internet users reach consensus and freedom, they will not realize that network attacks will harm others. So this kind of unrestricted freedom is a kind of dislocation freedom. In the Internet forum, this kind of dislocation freedom will lead to a lack of reflection and control of users, which leads to network violence (Juanqi et. al, 2009).

The fourth reason is the lack of law and moral restriction. The disadvantage of internet violence is that the lack of legal awareness when users use the Internet leads to social moral distortion. In real life, people will be responsible for their actions because of legal constraints. However, there are no laws to regulate users in the network, which makes the network moral lack. Once the lack of moral constraints, people will be irresponsible for their behaviour. Hao (2007) has too many unknowns in the network, so users usually don't have to take responsibility. Moreover, because the formulation of network law lags far behind the reality, when there is network violence, there is no timely establishment of reasonable laws and regulations to restrict users, which leads to the growing trend of network violence. All of these increase the possibility of cyber violence.

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Consequences of Cyber Violence

While people can not harm others physically through Internet, consequences of cyber violence may be similar or even more serious to the victim, depending on many factors. As in the case of bullying in the physical world, cyber violence has detrimental consequences for the victims. McGuire and Holt (2017) list negative emotional conditions, embarrassment, anger, shame, and even depression among the main effects of continuous attacks to list a few. The main impact of cyber violence includes four aspects. In the majority of cases, the information and accusations of the aggressor online are false, but the speed of such information dissemination on the web makes it difficult for the victim to react to such information promptly and prevent it from spreading (Khosrow-Pour, 2018). The audience that receives and transmits such information is wide so that the victim would get into trouble and danger, the inaccurate information will cause serious damage to the victim's life both online and offline.

Network violence is the transmission of false information, true and false difficult to distinguish. With the development of cyber violence, a lot of information has become untruthful and unreliable false information in the process of dissemination. This process is often the truth that is misinterpreted, which will make people misunderstand some information or the parties concerned. When many netizens participate in Internet violence incidents, they will treat things with personal emotion. In other words, they tend to have a "first impression" on an event, and this "first impression" is a criterion that is hard to change. Many netizens who do not know the truth will also unconsciously join in the cyber violence, because they believe the content of false information, so as to virtually act as a promoter of the development of cyber violence. Therefore, the false information in network violence is not good for society, but also the lack of morality (Flüchter and Schöttli, 2014).

Cyber violence infringes upon rights and interests. In cyber violence, the parties will be hurt physically and mentally. Such irrational violence directly affects the real life of the parties. Especially through the network to the party's personal information investigation and exposure, personal privacy was leaked, and in real-life harassment. This is a serious infringement of rights. For example, many stars suffer from "depression" or even suicide because they cannot bear the criticism of cyber violence. This is enough to prove that infringement of rights is a very serious impact of cyber violence. Cyber violence will harm the moral values of Internet users, the right values are the guarantee of social harmony and normal operation. Network violence impinges on people's own defense system, and moral values will be distorted under the impact of cyber violence. The originally advocated dialectics was completely ignored in Internet violence, which led to two extremes. In the case of cyber violence, the netizens who participate in the incident blindly support one side's views and personal colors that are too absolute, doing things that violate morality while ignoring their own mistakes.

This is the expression that cyber violence distorts value. The occurrence of cyber violence makes participants strengthen their own opinions. Therefore, when other opinions invade, participants will try their best to maintain their own opinions, leading to self-deception, no longer accepting other opinions, and distorted values.

Cyber violence can cause social panic. Cyber violence infringes on the right of reputation and privacy of the parties to a certain extent, increases the risk of personal information security, and causes public panic. Some intemperate speech or behavior on the network has touched the law, make moral and good faith lose gradually. Researchers say the harassment of victims of cyber violence is on the rise globally, and that it causes more cybercrime than traditional violence. And some cyber violence can destroy a person's life. With the popularity of social media people's behavior and language can through these social media show in public life, with the development of human flesh search, private information was revealed, too many Internet users pay close attention to and criticism of the network events to expand the influence of things, cause the cyber violence, these behaviors cause serious physical and mental damage to a party. As a result, more and more people do not trust the government or other people's help because of cyber violence, and social credibility is reduced.

Concluding RemarksEdit


As it stems from the analysis conducted, cyber violence is a serious negative aspect of online communication and web as such. It may take different forms, which vary based on the cyber violence manifestations, effects, and consequences. The most prevailing form of cyber violence is cyber bullying, which is generally based on power imbalance and might lead to very serious harm to psychological and physical health of a victim. At the same time, other forms of cyber violence such as cyber stalking, flaming, or trolling might also be intentional acts to cause harm to a victim, and hence all are the examples of deviated online behavior. There are many reasons and factors that foster cyber violence, which include but are not limited to the nature of online networks that allow remaining anonymous, the pressure of collective behavior and freedom people feel they have online, as well as the lack of legal action and punishment for such behaviours. When considering the consequences of such behavior, it becomes clear that this problem is more multi-faceted than anyone can imagine, and this means that a comprehensive collective action at many levels is required to address this challenge of the modern cyber society.


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