Riyadh Khalaf, Amber Doig-Thorne, Nikki Lilly and Rosianna Halse Rojas discuss online bullying within the YouTube community.
The panel opened with the general question of “what is online bullying to you?”, where the majority of the panel agreed that it’s often harsh comments trying to bring you down, left by people who have nothing better to do than act on the insecurities they deal with.
It was then discussed if well-known creators on YouTube experience more bullying within their comment sections. Riyadh Khalaf spoke out, saying that creators are bullied throughout their YouTube career, so even with a small subscriber count you still find mean comments. Amber Doig-Thorne went on to say that, sadly, it’s those comments that stand out. “They’re like a bad song that gets stuck in your head,” Riyadh said in agreement. Nikki Lilly joined in on the conversation, saying creators get used to it and learn to focus on the nicer comments.
It was then asked if the panel go to anyone in particular upon seeing the nasty things said about them. Riyadh spoke of how he was originally a young queer who still wasn’t out of the closet when he first started YouTube. So, when it came to trolls online commenting on him being gay, he didn’t really have anyone to go to, as no one in his real life knew. Nikki said she often went to her parents. However, she felt her nicer viewers were often lovely to speak with and stood up for her, allowing her to feel safe in her own community.
Amber then mentioned how she’s actually received death threats and had stalkers in the past. Riyadh claimed how crazy it is to think celebrities receive these comments too; they have security surrounding them, but YouTubers are often just normal people. This led to a discussion of the police originally not understanding how serious these threats are and how they’re slowly learning as time goes on.
It was then asked how the panel deals with the hate they receive. Nikki talked about how she thinks about the individual behind the comment, “I often feel sorry for them because they’re so sad in their life [that] they have nothing to do but send hate.” The panel all agreed that sometimes it’s good to have a social detox and step away from the online world. Amber reminded everyone that you have the power to control the comments through the use of the hide and block tools, with the final point for the question being “don’t respond”.
Rosianna Halse Rojas then asked the panel if they’d ever witnessed bullying between commenters and how they deal with it. Riyadh stated it’s hard to control because “you don’t want them to become mindless and blindly follow you. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there’s a line between a well thought out one and a mess.” Nikki agreed in that commenters should be mindful of what they’re saying.
Before turning to the audience, the last panel question asked if the trio thought bullying had improved over the years. Riyadh said that, as a whole, he thought bullying had gotten worse. However, the knowledge of how to react to it has grown. Amber agreed, saying that the fact the panel was being held was a step in the right direction.
The questions then turned to the audience, where it was asked if social platforms themselves should do something to curve bullying online. The panel came to a joint agreement that platforms do attempt to stop it and provide services for users to monitor their comments and viewership. However, they did think it could be improved. Riyadh compared the current policy to what it was like when he began on YouTube, “Originally, there was no policy to protect us, so it was easy to get hurt. Even though they could improve, I’m sure we all fully understand it’s difficult. Because of the tough time beforehand I’ve now got tough skin and I’m thankful for that.”
A parent then asked how he could help support his child on YouTube. Riyadh stated that the fact parents had come along to the panel to learn about online bullying was amazing, as it allows them to understand the world their children are involved in. With that, they can collaborate at home to keep the child safe.
A member of the audience then inquired as to if the panel had ever met an online bully in person. Nikki talked about how often the comments are from people who are curious about her. She tries to educate them and would rather they politely ask about why she looks different, rather than just staring at her.
A topical question was then brought up about the UK parliament tackling online bullying by deleting anonymous accounts. Amber made a point that the rest of the panel agreed with, saying, “Although a large part is anonymous people online, it’ll never go away completely.” Riyadh then made the point that a lot of LGBTQ+ community members who aren’t out yet rely on anonymous accounts to view and comment on videos showing what they need to learn in regards to their sexual identity.
The final question asked about how to deal with hate in real life, especially in school, because others had found a creator’s video online and shared it amongst their peers. Amber made a brilliant final point, saying, “At the end of the day, they’re views, so you say ‘thank you’ for that. It’s all jealousy, really. Be proud of what you do.” Riyadh added to always speak to your teachers because they have the right to protect you.
Photos by Christy Ku.