Tougher online bullying laws call

Tougher online bullying laws call

Source: The Examiner
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When Frances signed into Facebook for the first time she was more worried about the technology than her past.

But the foray into social media returned the 50-year-old to the cruel world of her Hobart schoolyard.

Frances, not her real name, grew up the victim of “intense” bullying at high school.

“When I graduated I thought I’d finally escaped and disappeared into the wider world,” she said.

But venturing on to the social network quickly smashed her long held anonymity.

Before long her old tormenters from school found her online.

“(They) came after me again” she said.

“I was just horrified that they were still doing those things.”

Frances acted to avoid a second round of something which had “affected my entire life”.

She quit Facebook and took the extreme step of changing her name to again escape the bullies.

Frances’ cyberbullying experience is just one example of a problem Greens MP Paul O’Halloran says is outpacing legislators.

“Absolutely we need to toughen up,” he said.

“It’s an issue which is so new, we need to find ways to deal with it because so many people are getting hurt.”

Until recently the state government had argued current laws were sufficient.

In August, Attorney General Brian Wightman said Tasmania had clear laws which prevent bullying, whether it occurred by use of technology or face to face.

However following the tragic suicide of a 15-year-old Hobart school girl in September, Mr Wightman has called for a review of the state’s anti-bullying laws.

The reviews of the criminal code, which received tri-partisan support, will see if the laws around cyberbulling need strengthening.

Difficulties on legislating against digital harassment are common around the world. In the UK, which is facing many of the same problems with young people and online vilification, has no legal definition of cyberbullying.

Like Australia it continues to rely on laws that predate internet operators like Facebook to counter the online behaviour on those services.

In the US, some states are including specific online language into the statutes to help enforce bullying laws.

A similar approach may help Tasmania Police which is often “unable to assist” when it comes to material posted on social media.

Unless it’s a physical threat police said “less serious complaints” should be reported to social media sites.

•Ifyou need help contact Lifelink Samaritans 1300364566, Lifeline 131114, Kids Helpline 1800551800, MensLine Australia 1300789978, StandBy Response Service 0408133884, or beyondblue 1300224636.

When Frances signed into Facebook for the first time she was more worried about the technology than her past.