Freedom of speech is a loose term in our society today, where we see people believe that their actions online towards others is of their right to say whatever they feel. We have now got to the stage where governments and corporations have had to get involved to mediate the situation as it is affecting too many lives. Some people feel as it is a breach of privacy, but honestly, where did the saying; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” go?
The awkwardness of the situation is the age of the internet and social media, and the people putting through legislation on cyber-bullying are at the age where they may not be affected by the issue. This is where we learnt by fire, seeing young people taken by these acts and the struggle we have gone through to see change, not on local levels, but national and international to see a fight around the world.
Just like bullying at schools and workplaces, cyber-bullying in various acts is now a criminal offence in Australia. We have the Criminal Code Act which means anyone causing offence, harassment, stalking and menace over social media could see up to three-years imprisonment and a fine of more than $30,000.
Further push for criminal action against bullying
What needs to be understood is your rights as not all cyber-bullying can be deemed as criminal. Social media pages can help you in the fight against bullies by report systems or even through direct contact with their anti-bullying and complaint services to have comments and images taken away or users banned. In cases of defamation, some people have gone to lengths of creating websites to bully others, this is a criminal offence and the website can be shut down and the offender can serve a jail sentence. Service providers like Telstra and Optus have been known to cancel and ban communication services of offenders and report all criminal behaviour to police.
Some users have created websites just to attack others
Schools have addressed the issue of cyber-bullying and are teaching kids as a common practice to understand what is online and the ethically way to approach social media. Most schools ban phone use for productivity, but understand it is being used outside of schools and have measurements in place if certain children have issues online. A recent TV show on the streaming service Netflix has addressed the issue of cyber-bullying at school. Thirteen Reasons Why has been more controversial than many other TV shows in recent times as it addressed teenage suicide. Schools have had to ban the viewing of the show by contacting parents and asking for supervision when it comes to streaming content through the service.
Schools cracking down on cyber-bullying to help prevent teen suicide
Where do we go from here, what do we do if we have all this legislation, but the problem persists?
I believe if we are more on top of the bullying, we can bring it down.
To remember what can be consider as a criminal offence:
- Using the internet to harass in an offensive way.
- Accessing accounts without permission.
- Encouraging suicide.
Written by Nathan Biddle
Nathan is a design, advertising and social media student at the University of Sunshine Coast. When not studying full-time, Nathan works part-time at Snowcentral, where he looks after social media and blogging for the snow store. He also interns with Australia University Sport as the Creative Lead to the Marketing Department.