James McGibney is sick and tired of reading about kids who kill themselves after being subjected to online and offline bullying, which is why he started BullyVille.com. If he reads about a kid attempting suicide after some jerk classmates litter their Facebook pages with insults, it infuriates him, and apparently he is not alone. Thousands of celebrities have joined his cause, including Becca Tobin from the hit show Glee on FOX and Dj ASHBA, lead guitarist for Guns N Roses. BullyVille has been credited for saving countless young lives and the national media has taken notice. If someone is bullying a teenager and telling them they should go kill themselves or to “go drink bleach and die,” chances are pretty good BullyVille will go after them. The website gives people a safe place to talk about their own bullying experiences, in the hopes that sharing these feelings will give people a chance to see that they're not alone.
Every day we read the stories about kids like Amanda Todd and Jamey Rodemeyer who were subjected to such bullying that they felt their lives were no longer living. We warn our kids about saying hurtful things to each other via text messages, on message boards. We tell them about how not only is bullying someone online hurtful, but in some cases, it is also illegal. We can do so much as parents, but it's websites like BullyVille that can give kids (and adults) the tools and support they need to fight back. Mommyish spoke to former Marine James McGibney about his wonderful project, and how it all started.
What made you decide you wanted to start BullyVille?
It’s no secret that I own quite a few “Ville” Internet properties and I knew that BullyVille was going to have the greatest impact on our society but I wasn’t exactly sure how. There are so many amazing anti-bullying websites already in existence, such as thetrevorproject.org, noh8campaign.com and glaad.org, just to name a few. I wanted to make sure that when we launched BullyVille that it had an immediate and positive impact. Ironically during this time, I became acutely aware of the nasty and despicable world of revenge porn, specifically Isanyoneup.com. From that very moment on, I made it our mission to seek out and legally destroy anyone who runs a revenge porn website or needlessly bullies people, especially children.
BullyVille has an interesting history in regard to its origins with Hunter Moore and how you obtained the website from him. How did that all come about?
When I first heard about Hunter and isanyoneup.com, I’ll admit I was mildly intrigued. It’s one thing to build a website, almost anyone can do that, but his fan base was growing at a staggering rate. Once I looked at the content I realized why. This guy was taking images of naked women (and men) some of which had been reported as hacked (and underage) and was republishing them on his site with vicious captions for millions of people to see and subsequently comment on. He would even put their Twitter handle and a screenshot of their Facebook page. Like his company tagline stated it was “pure evil.” Young girls were threatening suicide and he could care less. The images would never come down. I then spent a couple of weeks studying his every move online and researched him ad nauseum.
I observed his responses to lawyers who attempted to get naked images of possibly underage girls removed from his site. They were all unsuccessful. Facebook even sent him a cease and desist letter which went nowhere. The guy was untouchable from a legal standpoint (CDA of 1996), so I trolled him harder than anyone could ever imagine. He was telling the media he was making almost $20,000 a month -- that was a total lie, not even close. We offered to buy it for next to nothing and he was desperate for money but had no intentions of shutting it down. He finally caved in and we purchased and immediately shut down the site. We were flooded with thank you emails from women who were contemplating suicide before the site went down. It was a good day for humanity. Unfortunately, he recently stated that he was going to rape my wife while my kids watched, so he’s now dealing with retraining orders and lawsuits which I’m sure he’s enjoying. As @primusdomina once said, “have you heard of the karma café? There are no menus, you just sit down at the table and get exactly what you deserve.” I’m going to spoon feed him.
How have you gotten so many celebrities interested in this project?
We have been very fortunate and have been blessed with continuous media coverage. Most celebrities understand what it’s like to be bullied, especially online. Go look at any celebrities timeline on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. Telling someone to go get a shotgun and kill themselves, along with their family is a bit much. Now imagine someone saying that to a 16-year-old. If we can help one person make the right decision and not commit suicide -- well that’s a feeling that we should all want to experience at least once in our lifetime.
How have you been teaching your own kids about bullying, Internet usage and growing up in this digital age?
I have two beautiful baby boys. They’re my heart. Luckily they are both still young and don’t have to deal with bullying just yet. I take a completely different approach to bullying than most. I used to get bullied all the time and had very few friends growing up. I wouldn’t stand up for myself. I was a coward. Then I joined the United States Marines and my life changed forever. I learned how to defend myself, but more importantly, I learned how to stand up for myself. Make no mistake about it, life is one continuous battle, and your brain is your most important ally. #brainsoverbullies
BullyVille isn’t an anti-bullying site that tells you everything is going to be okay and to just move on and forget about it. That’s not how it works in the real world. We want you stand up for yourself, and if necessary, fight back, but not physically, if that can be avoided. Our motto is simple -- “brains over bullies.” Chances are about 100% that you’re smarter than your bully. Use your brain to outwit them. Beat them at their own game. Sometimes you need to be a bully to beat a bully. I realize tons of parents will disagree with that, and that’s fine. There are plenty of sites out there that will give your kids a great big virtual hug. We’ll do that as well, however we are also going to give them a voice because they need to be heard and we need to listen.
What do you think the most important things parents can do in regard to bullying and cyberbullying?
First and foremost, pay attention to what your kids are doing online. If there’s one thing I cannot stress enough it’s this. Sit down with your son or daughter and tell them to never, and I mean never, take a naked photo of themselves or let someone take a naked photo of them…..EVER! If it ends up on the net, intentional or not, it is a much harder process then you think to get it down.
It's ironic that you have recently become a victim of bullying yourself - in regards to Lee Stranahan. What is up with that?
Internet bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They sure don’t like it when they get bullied back. Sometimes you know right from the get go that a logical conversation with a notorious bully is pointless. Not every battle is worth the fight, but I felt that wasting 20 minutes out of my life to address him was warranted. #brainsoverbullies