Neelie Kroes: ‘You are mad. GO! AWAY!’ and other inbox gems

Cyber bullies are sad sacks who can do a lot of harm, but bullying should not be a reason to ban children from using the internet, says Neelie Kroes


I write often and with pleasure about the force for good of the social media but I do worry about the downsides sometimes. Cyber bullying, for one.

Fortunately I didn’t have any direct reason to broach the subject other than the usual digital junk that clogs up my inbox and twitter accounts on a daily basis. Here’s a small sample:

‘Neelie Kroes is an ugly old bureaucratic bitch’

‘You are mad! GO! AWAY!’

‘You’re a fool fooling yourself’

‘When Neelie was 18 the Romans conquered Britain’

‘I always knew this bitch was ugly.’


It’s par for the course, I suppose. After more than forty years of public service nothing surprises me. But if you are 13 or 16, words like this will hurt.

At some point in their lives, all youngsters feel too tall, small, fat, thin, ugly, unwanted or unsure about their place in the world, including your children and grandchildren. Bullying makes youngsters self-hurt, develop eating disorders, live a lie and sometimes even kill themselves.

Too many times we hear of young people committing suicide because they couldn’t cope with being falsely accused or being constantly badgered about their supposed imperfections.

Bullying is nothing new but today it’s more insidious. It is anonymous and less visible because it is taking place online or via messenger. We can all feel the pain of these youngsters and their families when we see a heartrending video or note describing the bullying and the nightmares that wouldn’t stop. Despite parental attempts to protect children from harm, suicide remains one of the principle causes of death among youngsters.

Social media

The social media seem to be playing an increasingly prominent role in this. I can hardly imagine a more traumatic event than a child taking his own life and I understand that parents blame the social media and will have nothing to do with them.

And yet it wouldn’t be right to ban your child from accessing the internet. As in the streets and the school playground, preventing this sort of behaviour is well-nigh impossible. What we need is online as well as offline rules for how we relate to others.

Parents and teachers have an important responsibility but they can’t be everywhere at once. Young people should also learn to stand up for themselves in order to protect and respect themselves and each other.

Social media businesses like Hyves and Facebook as well as television broadcasters, schools and help lines like can help to make youngsters more resilient and combat bad behaviour.

Cyber bullies, young and old, are sad individuals who, from the relative anonymity of their laptops or smart phones, are taking out their frustrations on other people. I wish we could convince their victims that it’s not them but the bullies who are the pathetic ones.

Neelie Kroes is euro commissioner for the Digital Agenda

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