Cyber bullying goes too far

Two prominent Australian personalities have recently become the victims of cyber bullying with Australia’s Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson and West’s Tigers rugby league captain Robbie Farah both being sent extremely vile, harassing messages on the social network Twitter.

Unlike Mr Farah who was targeted by one anonymous Twitter account, Charlotte Dawson was the subject of a number of different tweets from several accounts. One of the accounts tweeting appalling messages to Ms Dawson was from a Monash University staff member who identified herself in her profile. She has now been suspended by the university due to the incident.

Earlier this week, Mr Farah provided a report to the New South Wales police who are looking into the matter and Mr Farah has received large amounts of support for his stand on cyber bullying. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has urged the police to pursue the matter and written to the acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan to seek a review of the current Commonwealth telecommunication laws.

These incidents come only four months after a Welsh university student was jailed in the UK for 56 days after tweeting racially offensive comments targeting a soccer player who collapsed during a game.

Read more from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Opinion – A culture of bullying

Big boys don’t cry and toughen up princess are terms which would be familiar to almost every male who has grown up in Australia. Bullying starts at a young age and, if the behaviour isn’t corrected during high school, it becomes an acceptable course of action later in life. I was the victim of bullying every day of high school and did not report it. Why? My mindset was that reporting bullying is not something real men do, we are meant to ‘face it like a man’ and to ride it out. I look back now and feel stupid for thinking this way but, when there seemed to be few resources available to help me with the issues and even fewer reasons to report a bully, the taunts slowly began to mean less and less and I rode it out.

The internet has introduced another form of bully, the anonymous ‘troll’ who can do or say anything they want without any danger of being tracked down provided they possess very basic computer hacking skills. The tweets sent out to Robbie Farah and Charlotte Dawson were horrible and the people sending these tweets should feel the full force of the law, but there is not much hope with the current cyber laws and, more importantly, how these matters are handled. There is a distinct lack of information available concerning your rights and if anyone can do anything about cyber bullying. This becomes most evident when you read the Sydney Morning Herald article about Charlotte Dawson’s cyber bullying incident. The article finishes with If you are subjected to cyber bullying, visit or call Lifeline on 131 114.” So, according to the newspaper, instead of reporting the incident, you are expected to seek help to cope with the issues.

A quick Google search of a number of different terms including ‘How can I report a cyber bully’ revealed a lack of information available to victims. The Australian Federal Police website did not give any contact information for victims of cyber bullying and the informational website which is a joint initiative between Ninemsn, Microsoft, the Australian Federal Police and a few other organisations also did not provide a contact for victims of cyber bullying. Instead, the website provided sources of help and advice and advised, in extreme cases, to contact your local police station.

Much like criminals, cyber bullies continue to strike until they are stopped. More effort needs to be put into preventing cyber bullying in Australia and there needs to be more help and police co-operation provided to the victims.

Written by Drew

Starting out as a week of work experience in 2005 while studying his Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University, Drew has never left his post and has been with the company ever since, working on the websites digital needs. Drew has a passion for all things technology which is only rivalled for his love of all things sport (watching, not playing).