It’s a refreshing change to see an online viral phenomenon that’s not just a cat video or a similarly silly meme. One of the newest is a socially-conscious Canadian creation that’s turning heads.
In the week since its release, the Kids Read Mean Tweets video has racked up more than two million views for its powerful take on cyberbullying.
In a take-off of the popular Celebrities Read Mean Tweets segment from Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show, a group of teens read racist and mocking tweets, including one telling a girl to kill herself.
The kids are actors, but that makes it no less uncomfortable.
“We wanted to use the ‘Mean Tweets’ model because in a way, those videos give the message that cyberbullying is ok — even funny,” said Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network. “But adult celebrities have the maturity and confidence to overcome these hurtful words. Children don’t. For regular kids, words can cut like a knife. Cyberbullying is an epidemic that invades their lives and leaves many feeling like there’s no way out.”
Increasingly, Canadian laws are evolving to protect those victims who previously felt powerless.
The 2014 Protecting Canadians From Online Crime Act specifically criminalizes harassment via “telecommunication” and prescribes jail time for offenders.
Provinces are developing their own legislation to combat the problem as well. In 2013, Nova Scotia created a law allowing victims to sue cyberbullies or their parents if the aggressor is a minor. Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec have also created new laws against online harassment.
That’s not to say cyberbullying used to be easy and legal. It’s always been possible to sue someone for damages resulting from harassment, including loss of reputation, pain and suffering, costs of moving schools or medical costs.
Cyberbullying could also be considered criminal if it includes indictable offences like defamation, criminal harassment, mischief, extortion, uttering threats and more.
However, new legal changes are specifically tailored to cyberbullying and its unique nature.