Online bullying, threating, intimidating, abusing and revenge porn are proposed to carry heavy fines of up to $111,000 for individual people, and more than $500,000 fine for corporations including Facebook and Twitter, for failing to take down such offensive material, or for failing to disclose the identities of the perpetrators.
Many millions of Australians communicate via social media, conduct their businesses and jobs.
While the technology provides great advantages, it also provides a platform for tragedy, namely online or cyber bullying or trolling. Arguably, the law must draw the line between free speech and maintaining the ability to express your views or opinions.
Victims of online abuse need protection, and “a lack of legislation in the online space affects us all- even if you are not online”, says sports news presenter Erin Molan.
“We would never tell a victim of domestic violence to just “ignore it”, to “stop reading abusive emails or letters” or to become more resilient. Yet we tell this to victims of online abuse.”, says Erin Molan.
Ms Molan discloses a correspondence she received from a teacher that echoes these concerns:
“So, so often, kids are in tears at school. So, so often, kids are highly anxious and don’t want to come to school The reason? Social media and bullying/trolling on social media.
“I would say that close to 80 per cent of my student welfare times is spent on talking to students about issues that have happened online the night before or over the weekend.
“It is rife and it is relentless. The amount of bullying, trolling, abuse, intimidation and genuine mean behaviour that happens on social media and over online gaming is astronomical.
“We have tried everything from external professional programs, chaplaincy, counselling and nothing seems to get through.
“I just want to let you know Erin that I played your editorial to my class during the week. It was phenomenal! You could hear a pin drop in the room.
“I have personally changed my conversations with kids about getting offline and just ignoring it.
“Now I am going hard on the bullies and the cowards who are doping the bullying! They will be held accountable!
“My students have been referring to it all week and I have sent the link for the parents to listen to it as well…”
The federal Government prescribes penalties for offences of threatening, harassing or offending using a carriage service in Australia.
Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) defines a “carriage service” as any service that carries communications by “guided or unguided electromagnetic energy”. i.e. text message, social media platforms using the internet, phone calls etc.
Currently, the law under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) prescribes up to three years imprisonment for using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend in circumstances that a reasonable person would see it as such. This offence currently can also attract up to a fine of $12,600.
Questions? Get in touch with some of Australia’s talented criminal lawyers Sydney has to offer today.