Category Archives: Technology

Crisis Communications: Imperial Sugar Case Study

At approximately 7:15 pm, on February 7, 2008, a large explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery rocked the area of Port Wentworth, Georgia, killing 14 people and injuring 36, and although, the incident was found to be the fault of Imperial Sugar, this discussion will focus on the crisis communications and public relations surrounding the event (Bauerlein, 2010; U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, 2009). According to a report from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA; 2009), although John Sheptor was appointed Chief Executive Officer merely nine days earlier and did not enjoy the support of a crisis communications team, he was thrust into the spotlight having to deal with this particular crisis.

According to a local television station, the people of Savannah and Port Wentworth responded admirably at the first hint of trouble (“Sugar refinery explosion,” n.d.). This is more of a testament to the community than to Imperial Sugar; however, it promotes a sense of good-will and community trust that Imperial Sugar was able to leverage. Almost immediately, Sheptor, in conjunction with Imperial Sugar partner Edelman, was holding regular news conferences, disseminating press releases, and correcting the record. The only delay is seemingly the time required to work with first responders and investigators (“4 found dead,” 2008; PRSA, 2009; U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, 2009). According to the PRSA (2009), Sheptor and Edelman immediately instituted a program to communicate to “employees, stakeholders, investors, elected officials and the media, and to engage the public in helping the company support the Imperial Sugar employee family” (p. 1).

As the crisis wound down to the recovery phase, it is important to note, as Chapman (2008) chronicles, that all displaced employees were still being paid by Imperial Sugar. All employees that were able were used to help in the clean-up efforts and ultimately maintained their employment status with Imperial Sugar. Within a week of the incident, Sheptor reported that the company was looking to rebuild and, in just over two month’s time, the decision to rebuild was official (Securities and Exchange Commission, 2008).

Sheptor leveraged Edelman’s communication philosophies which allowed communications to be prioritized, correct, honest, and abundant. While also providing much needed information to employees and families of missing employees, especially, this mode of communication also allowed Edelman, and Imperial Sugar, to cultivate media relations that will benefit them in the future.


4 found dead in Ga. sugar refinery blast. (2008, February 8). Associated Press. Retrieved from

Bauerlein, V. (2010, July 8). Imperial Sugar to pay fines in deadly Georgia explosion case. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Chapman, D. (2008, April 13). Sugar refinery near Savannah determined to rebuild. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved from

Public Relations Society of America. (2009). Crystallizing a response to a crisis (Product # 6BW-0911A05).

Securities and Exchange Commission. (2008, April 17). Current report: Imperial Sugar Company (Form 8-K). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Sugar refinery explosion (Collection of news reports). (n.d.) WTOC. Retrieved from

U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. (2009, September). Investigation report: sugar dust explosion and fire (Report No. 2008-05-I-GA). Retrieved from

The Arby’s Public Relations Failure

Using Research in Planning

Hendrix and Hayes (2010) outlines the typical course of public relations using effective means to address the concerns of all stakeholders while promoting the course as the best option. This is only effective, however, if the course is actually the best option. This is where research becomes important. Public relations depends on research to get a true sense of the stakeholder when considering marketing decisions and how the stakeholder might be affected. This research can be useful in both determining the course of action necessary to move forward and to communicate these decisions to the stakeholder in a manner most effective. Without this research to guide decision-making, a company can easily upset an important segment of stakeholders while intending to be portrayed in a very different light.

The Importance of Social Media

Social media outlets (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al.) provide a rapid means of communicating with stakeholders. Social media is a useful tool for public relations practitioners to use when addressing concerns of or making assurances to stakeholders (Coombs, 2012; Fearn-Banks, 2011; Hendrix & Hayes, 2010). Lynn Kettleson and Jonathan Bernstein (as cited in Horovitz, 2012), both crisis managers, recommend using social media to quickly assess the public conversation, contribute to the conversation by providing factual and compassionate reassurance, and most importantly, put a corporate face on the response by having a senior executive respond to provide a sense of responsibility to the stakeholders.

Arby’s Social Media Failure

On April 4, 2012, the corporate Twitter account was used to respond to another Twitter account recommending that Arby’s stop advertising on the Rush Limbagh radio show (@Arby’s, 2012). Although Arby’s did not currently advertise on the aforementioned radio show, the response indicated that efforts to “discontinue advertising during this show as soon as possible” are being undertaken. The controversy, however, began when customers replied with their concerns via Twitter. According to The Blaze (Adams, 2012a, 2012b) and Forbes (Walker, 2012), instead of making a public statement regarding the controversy or even addressing the concerns of their customers on Twitter, the customers who complained to the Twitter account were summarily blocked. Walker (2012) decries this action as pathetic, stating “any major corporation […] needs to be able to accept and listen to criticism from customers [….] but using a coercive measure like blocking flies in the face of everything the social media space is supposed to be about” (para. 1).

Just as quickly and quietly as the Twitter accounts of those customers were blocked, they were unblocked (Adams, 2012b). This decision was, again, met with disdain as the company failed to apologize or address the issue publicly.

Arby’s Fails Again

On the heels of the Rush Limbaugh and Twitter controversies, Arby’s, again, finds itself in the midst of a public relations crisis. A month later, A USA Today article (Horovitz, 2012) describes a Michigan teen finding the fingertip of an employee in a sandwich ordered at Arby’s. Though the response from an Arby’s spokesperson was public and included an apology to the teen, it was criticized as being inadequate and potentially harmful to its already damaged reputation. Horovitz (2012) states that no mention of the incident was made on the corporate website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.


The directions of this assignment were to find an incident that was significant or complex enough to require involvement from senior management and, although in both incidents senior management failed to respond publicly and comprehensively, I feel that these two cases did, in fact, require senior management involvement. A rapid response by the public relations team could have addressed the concerns of the company’s apparent political actions towards Rush Limbaugh and reinforce commitments to the customer to provide good and fresh food.

The second controversy could have been addressed quickly by using social media outlets to assure customers that, although food preparation can result in minor accidents for employees, these problems are unusual and every possible step is being taken to ensure the safety of the employees and the safety of the food being served. This would also provide an opportunity to further the corporate image as a caring and compassionate company that understands the importance of a trusting relationship with the customer.

As stated in the opening of this paper, research is important to any public relations program. Tools, such as the survey provided in the appendix, are useful in determining the needs and desires of the various subgroups and demographics of the corporate stakeholders. The data provided by these types of tools can provide direction to future public relations efforts.


@Arby’s. (2012, April 4). Response to @StopRush [Twitter post]. Retrieved from!/Arbys

Adams, B. (2012a, April 6). Arby’s responds to annoyed Limbaugh fans by blocking them on Twitter. The Blaze. Retrieved from

Adams, B. (2012b, April 9). Backpedal: Arby’s immediately regrets its decision to block customers on Twitter. The Blaze. Retrieved from

Coombs, W. T. (2012). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning managing, and responding (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2011). Crisis communications: a casebook approach (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hendrix, J. A. & Hayes, D. C. (2010). Public relations cases (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Horovitz, B. (2012, May 17). Finger incident places Arby’s reputation in jeopardy. USA Today. Retrieved from

Walker, T. J. (2012, April 15). Arby’s makes social media blunder. Forbes. Retrieved from


Sample customer survey.

1. How often do you eat out at restaurants?

a) very infrequently (less than once per year)

b) annually

c) monthly

d) weekly

e) very frequently (more than once per week)

2. How often do you visit an Arby’s restaurant?

a) very infrequently (less than once per year)

b) annually

c) monthly

d) weekly

e) very frequently (more than once per week)

3. Do you prefer to receive offers from your favorite restaurants?

a) yes

b) no

4. How do you prefer to communicate on the internet (check all that apply)?

a) email

b) websites

c) social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

d) text messaging

e) other: _____________________________

5. In the past year, have you provided a compliment, complaint, or suggestion to any of your favorite restaurants using the internet?

a) yes

b) no

6. How often do you visit the websites of your favorite restaurants?

a) very infrequently (less than once per year)

b) annually

c) monthly

d) weekly

e) very frequently (more than once per week)

7. Do you feel that restaurants can provide meaningful communication to customers using the internet?

a) yes

b) no

8. Are you more likely to visit a restaurant if it was more accessible on the internet?

a) yes

b) no

9. What is most important to you?

a) quality of food

b) price of food

10. Is corporate responsibility to the community and environment important to you?

a) yes

b) no

The Hiring Process & Social Media

Social media has blossomed in the past few years beyond what many could have imagined. Today, it seems that many people engage others on the internet and social media without regard to their own personal privacy. Additionally, according to Jones and Behling (2010), privacy settings within social media applications tend to be complex, which inhibits their effective use by privacy-minded users. The result is an open and rich source of personal data, the problem of which is context.

I view social media as personal advertising where, unless specifically stated in the terms of service, the information posted by others is considered to have entered the public domain; others may view social media in the light of property rights where, although many people might not lock their front door, the invitation to invade the space is not assumed (Rosen, 2009). Regardless of personal views, information seekers need to be mindful of three things: 1) the terms of service for using the application resources, 2) the privacy policy in effect for using the application resources, and 3) the context of entries and the audience each entry is meant to reach (Jones & Behling, 2010; Rosen, 2009). Considering that the personal data made available on social media applications is not typical of allowable employment interview scenarios, employers need to be mindful that searching out this information may lead to unethical and illegal hiring practices (Fallon & McConnell, 2007; Jones & Behling, 2010; Rosen, 2009). Still, employers use social media to further vet applicants (Jones & Behling, 2010). Another consideration along similar lines is the use of generic web-based searches that could uncover similar information (Rosen, 2009).

In the case study provided by Coutu (2007), Virginia performed an internet search on Mimi and know suffers the problem that one cannot unknow knowledge. Additionally, Virginia know feels ethically compelled to share this information with Fred, the CEO. While this information would not be pertinent in the hiring process of a line employee, staff employees require more scrutiny, especially those that are being vetted for significant leadership positions. Rosen (2009) states, “employers do have broader discretion if such behavior would damage a company, hurt business interests, or be inconsistent with business needs” (para. 15). With this in mind, I tend to consider the paradigm of privacy practices when confronted with public officials and celebrities. A public head of a company or division might not have the same expectations of privacy afforded to a typical job applicant, but this would be a question for lawyers, as Mimi alludes to in the case study.

Basing the decision to investigate Mimi via Google on the general welfare of the organization, I would recommend allowing Mimi to defend her position in order to minimize bias and assumption. Two questions could be asked of Mimi that may allow her to mitigate concerns stemming from the search: 1) Regardless of any past pretenses, do you feel that you can represent this company appropriately if faced with issues regarding international politics? 2) Do you have any concerns about operating effectively within a political environment, such as China? Asking these questions, however, assume that the legal ramifications have been assessed and that they have been deemed appropriate for these particular circumstances. Ultimately, however, the decision lies with Fred to formulate a team that he feels can further the goals of the organization. He may consider the search results inconsequential and hire Mimi regardless of these findings, which would also be appropriate.


Coutu, D. (2007). We Googled you. Harvard Business Review, 85(6), 37-41.

Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resource management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Jones, C. & Behling, S. (2010). Uncharted waters: Using social networks in hiring decisions. Issues in Information Systems, 11(1), 589-595.

Rosen, L. (2009, September 15). Caution! – Using search engines, MySpace or Facebook for hiring decisions may be hazardous to your business. Retrieved from

SWOT Analysis: Day Kimball Healthcare

Day Kimball Healthcare (DKH) is a non-profit health care organization serving the northeastern Connecticut, southcentral Massachusetts and northwestern Rhode Island communities. The mission of DKH (2011) is “to meet the health needs of our community through our core values of clinical quality, customer service, fiscal responsibility and local control” (para. 4). A comprehensive health care system, DKH offers primary care and a multitude of medical and surgical specialties along with sophisticated diagnostics by offering a comprehensive network of more than 1,000 employees including more than 200 physicians, surgeons and specialists. DKH is comprised of Day Kimball Hospital, four community health care centers, Day Kimball HomeCare, Day Kimball Hospice & Palliative Care of Northeastern Connecticut, Day Kimball HomeMakers, and Physician Services of Northeast CT, LLC.


DKH provides a host of services to the community, including:

  • primary medical care,

  • emergency medical care,

  • surgical care,

  • palliative and hospice care,

  • home health care, and

  • social services

DKH appears to strive towards providing a comprehensive health care solution to the community that is robust, yet limited in specialty, especially critical care, trauma, and pediatric services.



The primary catchment area for DKH includes the Connecticut towns of Brooklyn, Canterbury, Eastford, Killingly, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Sterling, Thompson, and Woodstock, and the Rhode Island towns of Foster and Glocester. According to the available U.S. Census data (2010), the population served is nearly 92,000 with average growth in the last ten years of nearly 9%. The median age of the catchment population (37.8) is merely 3 months older than the median age of the Connecticut population (37.4). The median household income is $66,422 (CT: $67,034).


DKH is the primary health care provider within the defined catchment area. Some of the population, however, rely on three other community-level hospitals, Backus Hospital (Norwich, CT), Southbridge Hospital (Southbridge, MA), and Windham Hospital (Windham, CT). Additionally, some of the population with advanced disease processes rely strictly on the primary and emergency care services of the nearest urban centers (Worcester, MA, Hartford, CT, and Providence, RI), with many of DKH’s emergency patients transferred to these tertiary care centers for trauma, critical care, and pediatric specialties.


DKH, as a health care organization, can be adversely affected by patterns of infectious diseases within the community. As each season mounts, the health care system becomes overwhelmed and requires coordination between other health care facilities in the area.

Additionally, a large disaster would strain the resources of DKH; however, this would be a temporary issue, resolving as the disaster winds down. There is ample opportunity within the catchment area for a disaster to unfold, including traffic on the major highway that divides the catchment area as well as the number of large manufacturing entities in the area.


Strengths. DKH provides comprehensive long-term health care to community members. DKH enjoys a strong and comprehensive relationship with a large network of physicians and other primary care providers.

Weaknesses. DKH has no intensivists, physicians with expertise in critical care, and provides very limited critical care service. As a result, DKH must transfer many cases to other facilities to rule in or rule out critical illnesses or injuries, which negatively affects earnings.

Another weakness lies in DKH’s reliance on electronic patient care reporting. DKH uses a number of patient care reporting platforms that do not integrate with each other. This creates a need for over-redundancy and opportunities for patient care errors. Further, a fully integrated system would allow for health care partners to access up-to-date patient care information without delay.

Opportunities. Opportunities exist for DKH to expand their services by further decentralizing the current services offered and concentrating on which scopes of service to expand or improve upon. By improving laboratory reporting standards and facilitating full integration of patient reporting, patients of DKH will be able to obtain a more standardized level of care throughout the health care continuum.

DKH should cultivate their relationship with the public by being more active and visible within the community performing screenings, vaccinations, blood drives, as well as other public relations endeavors.

Another opportunity exists with the patient population who suffer from critical illness or injury that is yet to be determined. These patients face risk in transport to tertiary care centers when, often times, the transfer is unwarranted by later findings. By cultivating relationships with specialties in the tertiary care centers, these patients could be more fully determined to need (or, not need) transfer to tertiary care centers, keeping the financial reward of caring for patients in-house while obtaining specialist coordination.

Threats. The largest threat to DKH, as with any organization, is its reputation within the community. Funding, which is largely based on governmental and private insurance providers, is also a considerable threat that must be managed continuously. However, other threats are significant and can be actively managed.

Pandemics are unlikely to occur but present catastrophic scenarios if they do, indeed, occur. Pandemic influenza, as well as other pandemic diseases, presents a situation of an increasing need for awareness and preparation.

Unpredictable weather in the northeastern Connecticut presents a likely and significant threat to the provision of health care. Recent and historical storms have proven to impede access and egress to and from patients both out in the community and at the hospital.


This SWOT analysis is limited by the a posteriori knowledge and perceptions of the author, a paramedic who is active within the health care system, and it is limited in the scope of an academic exercise to practice SWOT analyses.

However, DKH has overcome many adversities in the past and continues to grow, but seemingly without proper direction. The efforts thus far seem disjointed and without a clear structure or coherent path into the future. DKH would benefit from an internal SWOT analysis that could be performed without the limitations inherent herein.


Day Kimball Healthcare. (2011). Day Kimball Healthcare. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). 2010 census data. Retrieved from

Messaging as an Ongoing Process

Just after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in the Prince William Sound off of the Alaskan coast causing the 36th largest oil spill in history (Baker, n.d.; Fearn-Banks, 2011; Holusha, 1989; Moss, 2010). Though the initial ecological insult was severe, Exxon’s poor response to the emergency is noted as having the most significance (Baker, n.d.; Holusha, 1989). According to Fearn-Banks (2011), the initial public relations response was swift, but the public perception, especially with the obvious absence of CEO Lawrence G. Rawl from the public spotlight, was that the company did not view the incident with the importance that it deserved (Holusha, 1989). “The biggest mistake was that Exxon’s chairman … sent a succession of lower-ranking executives to Alaska to deal with the spill instead of going there himself and taking control of the situation in a forceful, highly visible way” (Holusha, 1989, para. 6). Rawl made comments about being technologically obsolete as a reason for not responding to the incident personally, and in a later television interview, Rawl explained that it was not the responsibility of the CEO to read specific response plans, then he went on to blame the media for the crisis (Baker, n.d.; Fearn-Banks, 2011).

According to Fearn-Banks (2011), Don Cornet, Exxon’s Alaska public relations coordinator, rushed to the scene and instituted a plan focused on the clean-up upon hearing of the incident; however, resources were scarce and the plan was slow to implement. Alaskan oil industry regulations held that the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, an oil company consortium, was ultimately responsible for the initial response, which was soon taken over by Exxon. It was Alyeska’s involvement in the incident that introduced George Mason, an experienced crisis communications public relations expert for the company that represented Alyeska, into the spotlight. Mason worked with Cornet to streamline the media response and did much to limit the impact of Exxon’s poor media relations, even in light of Rawl’s disastrous commentary. Without the efforts of Mason, Cornet, and a few others, it appears that Exxon’s reputation would have suffered much more.

The primary issues identified in Exxon’s response to the Valdez incident, according to Baker (n.d.), are 1) a lack of resources and preparedness for a crisis of this magnitude, 2) failing to commit to prevention efforts in the future, and 3) the perceived indifference to the ecological shock.

According to Holusha (1989), Exxon’s response to the Alaskan spill was immediately identified as highlighting what not to do in responding to a crisis. Holusha compared Rawl’s messaging and response with that of the Ashland Oil spill and the Union Carbide incident in Bhopal, India, in which both CEOs responded immediately, availing themselves to the media to answer questions and respond to scrutiny.

The Exxon Valdez spill was significant, large, costly, and affected many industries and lifestyles in Alaska. Rawl’s response should have been immediate, and he should have taken responsibility to be apprised of all efforts being undertaken to rectify the situation. Legitimizing Rawl’s concerns of being a distraction to local efforts, he could have held frequent press conferences in the mainland United States, which would have limited the media’s need to send so many representatives directly to Alaska. This would have helped to show cooperation with the media as well as allow Rawl to address any concerns that the public might have. The messaging should have been that Exxon will do everything needed to return Alaska back to pre-spill status no matter the cost or manpower required.

Today, social media presents a unique opportunity for companies to address their public. Recently, Connecticut Light and Power utilized Facebook and Twitter, two popular social media programs, to provide real-time updates to their affected customers during a freak early snowstorm that put most of Connecticut without power for weeks (Singer, 2011; State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, 2011). Though there are still concerns that Connecticut Light and Power were unprepared for such a crisis, without the deliberate effort to maintain communication with customers, the corporate image would have been much worse, as Exxon experienced.

It is a common precept in crisis communications that crises will occur and hopes can only be made to minimize their effect (Fearn-Banks, 2011). While preparing for such a crisis, a focus on communication and messaging should be paramount. The more the public trusts that the company will respond to the emergency effectively, the more apt they will be to acknowledge the difficulties involved in such a response. Messaging should be open, honest, and realistic. Every effort to use a multitude of media (e.g. radio, television, print, internet, telephone, et al.) to maintain a sense of transparency should be used to promote messages that accept responsibility and sets realistic goals. These communications, however, should not be unidirectional. A conversation needs to take place where the public can have their concerns and curiosity addressed in a fair and open environment.

By addressing the concerns of all stakeholders in a timely, open manner, corporate images will fare much better even in light of the worst crisis imaginable.


Baker, M. (n.d.). Companies in crisis – What not to do when it all goes wrong: Exxon Mobil and the Exxon Valdez. Retrieved from

Coombs, W. T. (2012). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning managing, and responding (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2011). “Textbook” crises. Crisis communications: a casebook approach (4th ed; pp. 90-109). New York, NY: Routledge.

Holusha, J. (1989, April 21). Exxon’s public-relations problem. New York Times. Retrieved from

Moss, L. (2010, July 16). The 13 largest oil spills in history. Mother Nature Network. Retrieved from

Singer, S. (2011, November 4). CT utility takes heat over winter storm response. News 8 WTNH. Retrieved from

State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. (2011, November 8). Winter storm October 29, 2011 (Situation Report #49). Retrieved from

Impact of Technology: Social Media and Cyberbullying

The advent of the internet and social media allows like minded people to easily seek each other out and share their ideas. As I see a growing trend towards anti-sematism not unlike that of the 1930’s, I begin to draw parallels to that time and imagine sociopolitical paths of the likes we never want to tread. It was for this reason and others that I made a simple post on Facebook and Twitter reading “I support Israel.” This proclamation was made to let my Jewish friends know in no uncertain terms that I would never sway towards anti-Jewish sentiment, and it also made my other friends aware that I would not support them if they should harbor such feelings. There is inherent freedom in the idea of free-flowing information; however, this freedom also comes with responsibility. The same technology that promotes freedom also simplifies efforts to conspire against ideas, governments, and sometimes individuals. It is this conspiracy against individuals that has piqued my interest. The use of the internet (and, other technology, such as cell phones) to conspire against individuals can be seen in the act of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying, according to Bill Belsey, the award winning author of the website “involves the use of information and communication technologies such as email, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others” (as cited in Li, 2007, p. 1779). Li (2010) goes further to include “exclusion” to this list. Exclusion is the specific and intentional exclusion of an individual from an online group. Further, Li (2007) hypothesizes that internet users are socially isolated and inept. This is certainly not the case. Li also discusses demographic differences in both victims and bullies, but the evidence from other studies prove confounding to any hypothesis regarding specific demographics (Schneider et al., 2011; Slonje & Smith, 2008; Smith et al., 2008; Smith, Mahdavi, Carvalho, & Tippett, 2006). Children do not seem either savvy enough or willing enough to block these communications as they happen (Smith et al., 2008). Further, children and adolescents are not emotionally stable enough to make this type of rational decision when confronted with cyberbullying; however, they also do not seem prepared to become emotionally stable enough to deal with typical adolescent musings when they become persistent, such as rumors posted to a website.

There is a real problem with social media and cyberbullying, but we need to call it as it is: bullying. By attaching the prefix cyber- to the act, we acknowledge the sophistication needed to perpetrate this type of bullying, which might egotize the bully. Most communities respond to cyberbullying by focusing on the technology used to perpetrate the bullying; however, it is more important to focus on the motivations and the social intolerances involved in bullying in general. By losing sight of the cause and focusing on the vehicle, no one will be able to overcome this problem, which is inherent, though sometimes magnified, in normal social adjustment and development of children and adolescents. Communities that wish to address cyberbullying would do well to educate the students about social responsibility, the rights and responsibilities of civic duty, and the different levels of appropriateness of various forms of communication.


Li, Q. (2007). New bottle but old wine: A research of cyberbullying in schools. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(4), 1777-1791. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2005.10.005

Li, Q. (2010). Cyberbullying in high schools: A study of students’ behaviors and beliefs about this new phenomenon. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, 19(4), 372-392. doi:10.1080/10926771003788979

Schneider, S. K., O’Donnell, L., Stueve, A., & Coulter, R. W. S. (2011). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health. Advance online publication. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300308

Slonje, R. & Smith, P. K. (2008). Cyberbullying: Another main type of bullying? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49(2), 147–154. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2007.00611.x

Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008). Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(4), 376–385. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01846.x

Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., & Tippett, N. (2006, July). An investigation into cyberbullying, its forms, awareness and impact, and the relationship between age and gender in cyberbullying (Report to the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Brief No. RBX03-06). Retrieved from

Electronic medical records:

The Push and the Pull

Increasing safety and efficiency in medicine can only lead to an increase in health care quality, right? Some might not agree, especially when it comes to the implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs). There is a federal effort to ensure all medical records are in digital format by 2014, and supporters of EMR technology laud their effectiveness at minimizing medical errors, keeping records safe, facilitating information portability, and increasing cost-efficiency overall (The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009). Unfortunately, many are skeptical of the cost, security, and utility of such systems (Brown, 2008; The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009; Terry, 2009). These concerns (and others) are dramatically slowing the pace of EMR adoption, especially in smaller private practices where cost is a significant issue (Ford, Menachemi, Peterson, & Huerta, 2009).

Does EMR adoption actually increase safety? As Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla (2009) point out, a working computer terminal is required in order to read the EMR. If the computer system fails, there is no longer access to the medical record. This could be detrimental in a number of cases, especially when considering emergency medicine. Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla also describe how difficult it can be to maintain such a system. With this in mind, it is plain that as the system ages there will be more frequent outages and, therefore, more opportunity for untoward effects. Further, recent research shows how EMRs enforce pay-for-performance schemes that many U.S. physicians resent. McDonald and Roland (2009) demonstrate that physicians in California would rather disenroll patients who are noncompliant when reimbursed under pay-for-performance models enforced by the EMR software. Declining to treat patients who express their personal responsibility and choice in their own medical treatment cannot improve the effectiveness of safety in the care that they receive.

There needs to be a middle ground. Baldwin (2009) offers some great real world examples of how some hospitals and practices use hybrid systems to ensure effectiveness and quality while enjoying the benefits of digital records. According to Baldwin, there are many concerns to account for when considering a move from an all paper charting system to an all digital system. Many times, these concerns cannot be allayed and concessions between the two systems must be made. Brown (2008) suggests providing a solid education to the front-line staff regarding EMR implementation, and hence, obtaining their ‘buy in’ to the process to create a smoother transition to implementation. However, this does not address the safety concerns. Baldwin’s advice to analyze which processes should be computerized allows a solid business approach to EMR implementation, allowing some processes to remain paper-based if it makes sense to do so.


Baldwin, G. (2009). Straddling two worlds. Health Data Management, 17(8), 17-22.

Brown, H. (2008, April). View from the frontline: Does IT make patient care worse? He@lth Information on the Internet, 62(1), 9.

Edmund, L. C. S., Ramaiah, C. K., & Gulla, S. P. (2009, November). Electronic medical records management systems: an overview. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 29(6), 3-12.

Ford, E. W., Menachemi, N., Peterson, L. T., & Huerta, T. R. (2009). Resistance is futile: But it is slowing the pace of EHR adoption nonetheless. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16, 274-281. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3042

The HWN Team. (2009, March). Electronic medical records: the pros and cons. Health Worldnet. Retrieved from

McDonald, R. & Roland, M. (2009, March). Pay for performance in primary care in England and California: Comparison of unintended consequences. Annals of Family Medicine, 7(2), 121-127. doi:10.1370/afm.946

Preidt, R. (2009, December 16). Pros and cons of electronic medical records weighed. Business Week. Retrieved from

Terry, N. P. (2009). Personal health records: Directing more costs and risks to consumers? Drexel Law Review, 1(2), 216-260.

Expansion of Law Enforcement Post-9/11

Prior to 1993, federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), felt more than adequate in investigating and preventing terrorism on U.S. soil (Smith & Hung, 2010). On September 11, 2001, as has been done on numerous emergent occassions, the U.S. government all but suspended Article III, Sec. 2 and Amendments II, IV, V, VI, IX, X, XIII, XIV of the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting liberty; a premise I find sadly ironic.

According to an article by Abramson and Godoy (2006), the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) promotes intelligence sharing among the intelligence community, utilization of technological tools to combat tech-savvy terrorists, allows easier access to the business records of suspected terror supporters, allows search warrants to be affected without undermining other concomitant investigations, and allows wiretaps to be dynamic in order to follow the target suspect more easily. Detractors of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, argue that these measures undermine certain liberties that Americans are right to enjoy. These detractors warn of information cataloging that could lead to massive data stores of private information of regular citizens, unwarranted investigations, searches, and seizures of casual contacts of someone under investigation, and general use of “sneak and peek” warrants for the investigation of petty crimes.

One particular part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the usage of letters of national security that demand secrecy of government involvement from the recipient, was struck down by a federal judge based on Constitutional freedom of speech issues (Liptak, 2007). This is no surprise. Passing 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 1 in the Senate just six weeks after 9/11 and with little debate, this knee-jerk legislation was destined for failure, at least where public relations is concerned (Weigel, 2005).

The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) grants immeasurable power to law enforcement to investigate and prevent terrorism, this is a good thing; however, most of the provisions seem to fail whenever exercised against a U.S. citizen or lawful resident (Weigel, 2005). We need to rethink our approach to terrorism and ask the question of ourselves: is our safety worth every ounce of our liberty?


Abramson, L. & Godoy, M. (2006, February). The Patriot Act: Key controversies. Retrieved from

Liptak, A. (2007, September 7). Judge voids F.B.I. tool granted by Patriot Act. The New York Times, pp. A18. Retrieved from

Smith, C. S. & Hung, L. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

USA PATRIOT Act. P. L. 107-56 Stat. 115 Stat. 272. (2001).

Weigel, D. (2005, November). When patriots dissent. Reason, 37(6). Retrieved from

Using the U.S. Patriot Act to Fight Terrorism

Many of the fundamental tenets of a free American society are founded on the basis of liberty. Americans enjoy liberty, but I surmise that many are unfamiliar with term. We as Americans can enjoy certain freedoms because of liberty. Liberty describes the condition of man to be able to govern him- or herself with regard only to the consequences of actions and decisions, the responsibility of liberty. Merriam-Webster (2011) defines liberty as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges, and the power of choice” (para. 1). Using liberty as a foundational political philosophy, our forefathers prescribed our abilities as citizens in our freedom.

Faced with horrible, vicious, and unfamiliar terror, our society became frightened and called on our lawmakers to ease this fear. Without a full understanding of that which we were facing, the knee-jerk reaction that is the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) was signed into law. The unfortunate reality is that this law violates almost every libertarian prescription codified in the U.S. Constitution and those of the many states. No longer are we, as citizens, free to travel interstate by a common means of the day (air travel) without undue and warrantless searches and seizures. No longer can an American citizen be knowingly free to have private phone conversations without the fear of wiretaps, save for those that are reviewed by a judge to be warranted.

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which make[s] the defense of the Nation worthwhile” (U.S. v. Robel, 1967, pp. 258, 264). (as cited in Strossen, 2004, p. 368)

America is resilient because of the liberties enjoyed by every citizen. Legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT ACT (2001), undermines these liberties and creates a weaker nation as the focus turns towards government for the protection of the individual instead of the individual protecting the government as it has been since America’s inception. Focusing more on our freedoms and liberties while restating the need for each citizen to take an active role in their personal security and that of their community would go much farther than any knee-jerk legislation could ever hope to. I agree with Strossen (2004) that the USA PATRIOT Act is unnecessary, overreaching, and counterproductive the security of our free State.


Liberty. (2011). The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from

Strossen, N. (2004). Terrorism’s toll on civil liberties. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 9(3), 365–377. doi:10.1300/J146v09n03_07

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001).

Hacking Cyberterrorism

Although not particular to cyberterrorism, for this discussion I have chosen hacking as a type, or means, of cyberterrorism. Hacking covers virus loading and denial of service attacks, also. In order to carry out a cyberterrorism attack, it must be based on some sort of hacking. First, however, we must agree on the definitions of hacking and cyberterrorism. US Legal, a website dedicated to providing legal reference, broadly defines hacking as “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access” (Computer hacking law & legal definition, n.d., para 1). Cyberterrorism is, according to Denning (2006):

…[H]ighly damaging computer-based attacks or threats of attack by non-state actors against information systems when conducted to intimidate or coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are political or social. It is the convergence of terrorism with cyberspace, where cyberspace becomes the means of conducting the terrorist act. Rather than committing acts of violence against persons or physical property, the cyberterrorist commits acts of destruction or disruption against digital property. (p. 124)

Arguably, in order to use a computer system to do any of the above, it involves hacking, but without hacking, there can be no cyber- component to cyberterrorism, which leaves mere terrorism. Fortunately, using these definitions, there has never been a cyberterrorism attack ever in history (Brunst, 2008; Conway, 2011). Brunst (2008) goes further using the term terrorism to include the planning (and, even pre-planning) phases of an event. I disagree with this tact in scholarship. Brunst fails to provide the distinction between cybercrime and cyberterrorism. Thinking simply, having a Facebook account in order for ease of communication does not amount to meeting for coffee. Messaging a friend on Facebook and organizing a meeting does not constitute meeting for coffee. The act of two or more persons meeting for coffee is a conventional one, however it was planned. This is the same with terrorism. I argue that, although much planning and radicalization can occur using computer networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, general information websites, et al.), any terroristic act that stems from such organization would still be considered conventional terrorism unless the act, itself, is described as being technological in nature (Conway, 2011).

There is potential for a cyber-attack to generate fear, economic impact, and the loss of life. This is why we concentrate on security measures to ensure difficulty in accessing systems without proper credentialing, rapid identification and response to active intrusions and threats, and recovery techniques to identify and repair data, networks, and nodes that were involved. For this reason, networks are designed with human redundancy. Human redundancy, as Clarke (2005) explains, integrates human decision points within a technological operational structure in order to detect, indicate, explain, and correct an error. Additionally, infrastructure, a commonly regarded target by the experts, tends to be resilient by its own nature making cyber-attacks inefficient and ineffectual (Conway, 2011; Lewis, 2002; Wilson, 2005)


Brunst, P. W. (2008). Use of the internet by terrorists: A threat analysis. Responses to Cyber Terrorism, 34(1), 34–60.

Clarke, D. M. (2005). Human redundancy in complex, hazardous systems: A theoretical framework. Safety Science, 43(9), 655-677. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2005.05.003

Computer hacking law & legal definition. (n.d.). US Legal. Retrieved from

Conway, M. (2011). Against cyberterrorism: Why cyber-based terrorist attacks are unlikely to occur. Communications of the ACM, 54(2), 26-28. doi:10.1145/1897816.1897829

Denning, D. (2006). A view of cyberterrorism five years later. In K. E. Himma (Ed.), Internet security: hacking, counterhacking, and society (pp. 123-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from