Top News

Editorial: Before you hit send…

Before you decide to use your keyboard as a weapon, think about the consequences.
Before you decide to use your keyboard as a weapon, think about the consequences.

It’s a cautionary tale, and one well worth paying attention to — because, while social media has made electronic revenge all too simple, it’s not without clear consequences.

By tapping just a few keys on your computer, you can do a world of damage to a former partner — damage that can’t be undone.

Four days before Christmas, Judge Wayne Gorman handed down his sentence in the extortion trial of Kyle Stephen Hunt.

Here’s how Gorman described Hunt’s actions:

Ms. X is Hunt’s former girlfriend — her identity is protected. After ending their relationship, Ms. X received texts from Hunt demanding that she tell her friends that she and Hunt were not separating.

“Ms. X testified that Mr. Hunt told her that if she did not do as he requested he would post pictures of her on Facebook. He also threatened to kill himself. The pictures that Mr. Hunt was threatening to release were photographs of Ms. X while she was naked and photographs of her and Mr. Hunt engaged in sexual activity.

“Ms. X testified that in order to prevent Mr. Hunt from harming himself and from posting the photographs, she acquiesced to Mr. Hunt’s request.”

What he wanted to make clear is that Internet revenge can and will be dealt with harshly, should it make its way to court.

Judge Gorman ruled that the threat constituted a clear case of extortion.

“The present day access to social media sites has dramatically changed the potential impact of extortion. For instance, a present day threat to release intimate photographs through social media sites allows for the sharing and dissemination of such photographs on a worldwide basis. This technology also makes it impossible for the victim to limit circulation or to retrieve the photographs. This modern day form of extortion is much different and more serious than older forms of extortion. The sentencing for such offences must reflect the changes in the sharing of information and the impact upon victims.”

The sentence Gorman handed down is a heavy one: nine months in prison, followed by two years of probation. It’s three months longer than the Crown was requesting.

And that’s where the cautionary tale comes into play. Judge Gorman placed special emphasis on two aspects of sentencing: deterrence and denunciation of Hunt’s actions.

What he wanted to make clear is that Internet revenge can and will be dealt with harshly, should it make its way to court.

It’s worth keeping in mind: if, angry, bitter and revengeful after a breakup, you find your hands hovering over the keyboard, one finger poised to press “send,” the best course of action is to think again.

Weaponizing social media is all too popular — Twitter and Facebook are already regularly the site of threats, bullying and stalking — but as this case points out, such actions are not without consequences.

It’s simple enough to send an electronic threat — but it’s also simple enough to give you a whole new address.

Recent Stories