By Danielle Daquino and Matt Burgess, Director.
As the social media phenomenon moves from strength to strength, abuse continues to proliferate the cyber world. Social media has moved in leaps and bounds in recent years. Political leaders nationwide are calling for media and communication law enforcement. This has been sparked in light of recent attacks that have resulted in online forums being littered with abuse.
Anonymous taunts and threats are being directed toward popular Australian identities on forums such as Twitter. No one is immune from the taunts, and few are being held accountable due to the anonymity of the attacks. Those subject to the attacks of these keyboard warriors include sports stars, celebrities and even Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The Twitter war resulted in TV personality, Charlotte Dawson; suffering a breakdown after being vilified by these Twitter trolls. Dawson was admitted to Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital after a plague of nasty comments littered her Twitter feed. One troll bluntly remarked, ‘go hang yourself’. It seems no one is sheltered from the aggressive taunts that are plaguing social media forums. NRL West Tigers’ captain, Robbie Farah, was recently attacked with comments about his late mother being posted on his Twitter account. This led to him publicly speaking out, pledging that the government strength the enforcement of communication laws in Australia.
It seems obvious that measures need to be taken to tie the hands of these keyboard crusaders. Like any matter, the cry for government intervention has delivered an obstacle of problems. Some people are calling for the anonymity of Twitter to cease; however, this does present a double-edged sword. The good and the bad always seem to go hand in hand. Maintaining your anonymity on a public forum does spark its advantages. One clear advantage is that people can express their opinions on highly contested matters without fear of being scrutinized for their beliefs. With these blurred lines, there lies difficulty in punishing cyber bullies. Perhaps education is the first step we can take in a pledge to combat these faceless bullies.
Twitter, Facebook and instagram are all examples of platforms that have changed the way we think and interact. Anyone with an account linked to these platforms is exposing themselves to the risks associated. Some choose to ignore the risks, and rather combat the bullies with a ‘who cares’ front. It seems, however, that there is a vast difference between being at the centre of line debate, and being attacked with viscous messages and insults. Public attention highlighting the psychological torment of popular identities seems to show just how far the trolls have overstepped the boundaries. One matter that most people would agree on is that anonymous trolls need to be held accountable for their actions. The question lies in ‘how’?
The measures that are being taken are perhaps not reaching effective heights. The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Cybersmart program has outlined a five – step process to help people combat the trolls. Education is imperative; however, disciplinary measures also need to be taken.
Victorian Attorney – General Robert Clark met in Brisbane just four days ago to instigate a proposal regarding social media national guidelines. His initiatives included warnings for users and protocols for media companies to adhere to. Other alternatives implemented by companies such as Twitter may be the ability to block abusive users.
We have also seen newspapers step up and curtail the action. The Daily Telegraph initiated a ‘Stop The Trolls’ campaign, which called for disciplinary measures to be taken and enforced against trolls. Whilst a reform of legislative measures is being called for, the Australian Federal Police have discussed how they are closely monitoring the activity on sites such as Twitter. The problem still lies in holding these cyber bullies accountable.
Defamatory comments by warriors masked with keyboards needs to be put to a halt. The wave of the social media phenomenon is not set to pass any time soon. Free speech advocates may say that no one should be punished for what they say or believe. We must, however, draw the distinction between comments and opinions as opposed to verbal assault on an online forum. A revelation of these identities may be the only means in sparking legal action against cyber bullies.
This blog is for discussion purposes only. This must not be considered legal advice.
For legal advice on this topic and references to any information in this article, please contact
Matt Burgess, Director:
Phone: +61 405 722 739
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