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Morality and social networks

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 28 March 2012

We all make mistakes - said and done things we regret and pray we'll be allowed to gracefully forget. Increasingly it seems this isn't an option in a digital age when virtually everyone has smart phones and few qualms about sharing images with the world online. The latest celebrity to say she's fallen victim is X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos who's accused her ex-boyfriend of leaking a sex tape recorded on a mobile phone 6 years ago when she was 17 and before she became famous. For £3.90 you could download the six minute clip of them sharing an intimate moment. She, of course, has posted her own video in reply - showing photos of herself and then boyfriend Justin Edwards, telling her fans and anyone else who cared to take a peak, how heartbroken and violated she felt. Justin, whose stage name is MC Ultra, denies he leaked the tape and claims filming it was Tulisa's idea. She's now obtained a High Court injunction to try and stop the tape being distributed and is reported to be considering suing for £100,000 damages. This modern day morality tale tells us a lot about celebrity culture and our prurient desires, but is it also an indication of how social networks and digital technology are changing our relationships - cheapening and brutalizing them? You don't have to search very hard to know that there are countless other and many more disturbing examples of this kind of thing online. Is it just a combination of the immediacy of technology and the lack of judgment of youth, or are there another elements at work here? A desire to hurt and humiliate, a lack of compassion and empathy. Empathy is not a quality much on display among internet trolls - for example 25 year old Sean Duffy who was jailed last year after posting videos and messages mocking the deaths of teenagers and taunting their families. An extreme case, but again, not an isolated one. Is this the price we pay for freedom of speech? Are those women bloggers who've given up in the face of repeated violent and misogynistic online abuse just being thin skinned? Or have they seen more clearly that there's something dark in the heart of social networks?

Dr Aric Sigman - Child Psychologist; Dr Bernie Hogan - Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute; Caroline Farrow - Catholic blogger; Padraig Reidy - News Editor, Index On Censorship.

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Melanie Phillips, Claire Fox, Kenan Malik and Michael Portillo.

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