AS mentioned elsewhere, something rather unusual is happening over at bebo.com, which (after 2 mins of skimming) appears to be a website for children from different schools to have a web presence and contact others. This is tricky territory, but as a phenomenon it’s worth recording; some children from Ballymena are openly accusing other teenagers of involvement in the tragic murder of Michael McIlveen, 15, who died a few hours ago. There are also a number of emotional threats, and according to Slugger contributors’ unconfirmed posts, some text has already been removed and police are investigating. No-one has, as far as I’m aware, been charged. Nor should any of the posts on bebo be seen as evidence of anything. At the moment, the bebo posts are nothing more than hearsay and possibly even fuelled with the kind of unsubstantiated rumour that sometimes goes around after sectarian killings. The posts could be false, but if genuine, and children are openly chatting on the internet by boasting or making grave accusations about serious crime, what questions does that pose for us?
Some of the bebo posts are highly charged with emotion – unsurprisingly, given the circumstances – but parts of some kids’ profiles are openly sectarian material. The different posts by the different kids make sectarian violence sound like an after-school game. Which it is, sometimes. Until someone gets hurt.
If children in north Belfast can organise a riot through text messages, then maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at how some of us brought up on sectarianism and technology seem to be harnassing it in an equally serious way.
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(There are no direct quotes from the sites and I’d ask for no potentially libellous or legally prejudicial comments please – talk in the general rather than specific. Should any Moderator feel the need, feel free to turn the comments off.)