By Dorothy Thompson.
I have often written about it, and hold those concerned in the greatest possible of social contempt. Unsocial media. It has long been the untouchable and faceless cowards canvas where anything goes. Unsocial media’s keyboard zealot’s post hate speech without any obvious consequences or filters. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-parent Google have shown no real interest in policing this most dangerous behaviour.
This week I was delighted to see the New South Wales government is finally taking these despicable gutless parasites seriously.
New laws inspired by tragic teen Dolly Everett will put cyberbullies in jail for up to five years.
State government amendments to be unveiled today will see abusive online trolls and those who send threatening texts or emails being slapped with Apprehended Violence Orders. Those who fail to curb their abusive behaviour will face arrest and imprisonment.
The changes will alter the definitions of “stalking” and “intimidation” to include online activities designed to instill fear of physical or mental harm.
The amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act are in response to the death of 14-year-old Northern Territory teenager Amy “Dolly” Everett, who committed suicide this year after a relentless online bullying campaign.
Under existing Commonwealth laws, trolls using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence face a maximum of only three years in prison. The NSW offence of stalking or intimidation carries a five-year prison sentence.
The amendments, to be introduced into state parliament in coming weeks, are aimed at protecting people from online abuse ranging from cyber-bullying and trolling, through to stalking and harassment of domestic or personal violence victims.
Examples of what will be covered by the laws include posting threatening or hurtful messages on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, posting abusive images or videos, and repeatedly sending unwanted messages or abusive emails.
However, it will be up to the courts to determine the level of criminality of an individual’s online activities, while police will also use their discretion over potential charges.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the changes would not affect “free speech”. “The changes recognise that online abuse can cause victims significant psychological trauma and have potentially devastating, even tragic consequences,” she said.
“The changes are not aimed at policing free speech. They are aimed at preventing abuse.”
Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the reforms addressed a trend of harassing victims on social media.
“This activity can make its victims feel scared, powerless and depressed,” he said. “The government is committed to protecting the community from new threats that arise with advances in technology.”
These fresh new laws come in response to the tragic death of Dolly as a child, smiling in an Akubra hat when she was the face of the iconic Australian brand, has been shared around the world in a social media campaign sparked by her parents to raise awareness of the dangers of online hate speech and bulling.
Her death sparked outrage and sadness, particularly in rural and regional communities around Australia. At the time even the egregious former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement on Facebook saying his heart was breaking for Dolly and her family. “Dolly’s passing highlights the devastating impact that bullying can have on its victims,” he said.
“Every step must be taken to reduce the incidence of bullying, whether offline or on, and eliminate it wherever we can.”
Mr Turnbull said the rise of online social media platforms presented new challenges.
“Cyber bullies can harass and intimidate their victims from any location and at any time of the day,” he said.
“Much more work is needed, from governments, health groups and the internet companies themselves, to prevent cyberbullying, stop it when it occurs and to minimise its impact when it does occur.”
Mr Turnbull said young people who were experiencing bullying online could lodge a complaint on the Federal Government’s https://www.acorn.gov.au/learn-about-cybercrime/cyber-bullying website.
Governments have been slow, if not recalcitrant to act to force the owners of these Internet giants to behave socially responsible. Perhaps they either don’t know how to, or they don’t see the problem as the epidemic plague that it has become.
Well fortunately one government has seen fit do to something positive about this mounting social pandemic.
This comes when the German Government starts enforcing a law that fines social media companies for not deleting hate speech on their platforms.
Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-parent Google need to take heed. The new law carries fines of up to $60 million per infringement if companies fail to remove posts that are “obviously illegal.”
Germany has started enforcing the controversial hate speech law that carries hefty fines for social media companies that fail to quickly remove objectionable content.
The law which was passed in June 2017, went into effect last Monday the 8th of January 2018, officially granting internet companies like Facebook Twitter and YouTube-parent Google just a 24-hour window to remove offending posts once a user flags them for review.
The law carries fines of up to $60 million per post if companies fail to remove posts that are “obviously illegal” within 24 hours. It grants a week to consider more ambiguous cases.
The “Network Enforcement Act”, colloquially referred to as the “Facebook law,” also includes defamatory posts and incitements of violence and social bulling.
All three companies have previously said they’ll cooperate with the new restrictions.
Twitter declined to comment on how the company would operate under the new law. Google did not immediately return request for comment.
“We’re committed to removing hate speech any time we become aware of it,” Facebook said in a June statement in on the company’s blog. Well we’ll see about that.
Given the history of the Nazi era, Germany is especially sensitive to hate crimes. I say well good on them (the German Government) The only way you can influence these corporate monolithics is to hit them where it hurts, in their hip pocket.
It only remains to be seen weather the rest of the worlds governments will follow suit.