Germany has more or less banned Isharegossip.com, a cybermobbing website aimed at school children and youths. The country’s censor body “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (“Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) put the site on the so-called index list, meaning the site is only supposed to be accessed by people over 18 and may not be advertised.
Due to a non-binding agreement, a “voluntary commitment” with the BPjM, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will erase the site from their indexes, yet only this time next month when the indexes are updated.
Use of Isharegossip.com became contagious under pupils in Germany this year. The site provides a list of schools by town and federal state, angry kids can make anonymous entries by school saying their classmate or teacher is a rotten egg or even viler claims.
The site quickly became famous for racist slander and cybermobbing of pupils. Last week, a 17 year old “peer mediator” was assaulted and hospitalised after trying to mediate between fellow pupils in a case of cybermobbing sparked through comments posted on Isharegossip.com.
Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs asked the BPjM to put the site up for review in early February. Teachers and parents had asked for a call to action and to ban the site entirely, taking it offline. However, the site’s owners have so far managed to stay anonymous, despite investigation by prosecuters.
Banning the site from search engines is more of a display of helplessness and political actionism designed to make voters happy than it is a viable strategy to counter cyberbullying and mobbing.
From the technical side, it is basically impossible to to identify a site’s owner if the server is outside of Germany and the .com domain was registered anonymously.
Isharegossip.com was apparently registered in New Zealand, is owned by a vessel called Jufax Intertainment situated in Riga, Latvia, whilst the site is hosted by Swedish free-speech webhoster PRQ, where Wikileaks‘ formerly colocated its server.
In addition, Pupils will not need a search engine to find out about the site itself, as the URL will be communicated through peers, orally or through social networks such as Facebook or Germany’s SchülerVZ. The ban may also prove counterproductive, as kids always find it exciting to do exactly the opposite of what old fogies tell them to.
It would make far more sense if teachers were to communicate to pupils how the owners of Isharegossip.com are making a fortune in ad revenues thanks to the site’s notoriety and the associated behaviour of its users.