In the face of increasingly shocking headlines, an underlying issue exists around cyberbullying using Social Media.
The online environment carries a perceived anonymity and distance from the victim for abusers. Cyber bullying is the use of technology to harass others in a deliberate, abusive manner – either through email, text message, instant message, or through posts on website forums and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.
The headlines belie a complex and worrying behaviour online.
For anyone working alongside a public identity, or is a public figure themselves there is a responsibility to identify and address the issue early.
In Australia the Criminal Code Act 1995, makes it an offence to misuse telecommunication services to menace, threaten or hoax other persons.
In addition, anti-stalking laws have been used in cases of cyberbullying. An example is the 2010 prosecution for stalking in Victoria by a man who sent several threatening text messages to a person who then committed suicide.
The perpetrator pleaded guilty to the charge and received an 18- month community-based order.
‘Think Before You Type’
Government must invest in online safety if we are to better protect people from the impact of cyber-bullying and reduce its prevalence.
Special efforts are needed to address the disproportionate level of cyberbullying that occurs among girls, LGBT youth, and youth with disabilities.
As an industry we need to coordinate efforts to help set standards about what is acceptable behaviour online. Educational efforts could target youth with messages about tolerance and respect, and outreach efforts should target these vulnerable groups with messages of support and information on how to seek help if involved in cyberbullying.
Professional marketing organisations and agencies could make publicly available best-practice social media risk matrices and filtering guides for the public to utilise.
It is crucially important to use a combination of search filters and blocking practices in place to – at least partially – shield cyberbullying attempts. Filters and blocking are simple actions are easy to set up when you are first establishing your presence on social media or at any time.
For those who think they are or may be the victims of criminal conduct, the first step must always be to report matters to the police. Do not shut down a social media account before consulting with the police, as vital evidence may be lost in the process.
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