Hate messages surge and look the same, with their crude violence and minimalist spelling. In the past, bullying took place behind a chestnut tree at recess or near the school building, when a child identified as vulnerable was cornered by malicious classmates. This type of intimidation still exists, but now it is also online that we spit our gall, with complete impunity behind the screen of our phone.
An impunity that has its limits: a teenager was arrested last week in the middle of class by the police on suspicion of death threats posted on social networks, under a pseudonym, against a classmate. The investigation made it possible to determine his identity based on his activity on social networks. It was also proven that the boy did not know his victim directly, but was in contact with her only through the Instagram application.
In addition to facilitating this type of practice – removing all verbal restraint from the aggressor – social networks are also accused of constituting a form of harassment themselves. The system of algorithms on which they operate in fact blindly offers the Internet user content similar to that which he has previously consulted. Thus, vulnerable people who look at pages on depression or suicide find themselves directed towards similar themes, which helps to maintain their dark thoughts. This is what the parents of a teenage girl who ended her life two years ago in Bouches-du-Rhône are denouncing: they have just filed a complaint against the social network TikTok for “failure to provide assistance to person in danger” and “propaganda or advertising of means of killing oneself”.
As for the government, it submitted to Parliament a bill “aimed at securing and regulating the digital space”, while Gabriel Attal announces the deployment of a vast project to combat school bullying. Will we finally achieve regulation of the virtual world with very real measures and laws?