Twitter trolls on notice
Fri, 31 Aug 2012 11:12a.m.
By Dan Satherley
New South Wales police say they are going to hunt down people who sent abusive messages to TV host Charlotte Dawson on microblogging site Twitter.
Dawson was hospitalised yesterday after receiving more than 100 tweets telling her to commit suicide.
Several people set up anonymous accounts just to post messages like "on behalf of the world would you please go and hang yourself" and "put your face in a toaster", using the hastag #diecharlotte.
The abuse began with a tweet from a Monash University employee telling Dawson, "on behalf of NZ we would like you to please go hang yourself".
Dawson confronted Ms Heti over the tweet, even going so far as to call her on the phone. Ms Heti told her she was a "well-to-do white girl" who should be able to cope.
NSW police minister Mike Gallacher said the trolls would be "dragged out of their mother's basement and put before a court".
"These are sick minds we're dealing with," said Mr Gallacher.
"I'd be interested to see if they're still tough guys when they're in handcuffs… Even a cursory examination of the comments made to Ms Dawson overnight reveals they are clearly offensive to a reasonable person, which is the test for any prosecution under Section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act."
Anyone convicted of sending Dawson an abusive message would face up to three years in prison – but they would have to be caught first.
Online law specialist Rick Shera says in the case of anonymous accounts, that could be tricky.
"Twitter seems to be reasonably resistant to giving out details of its users, so if the people who are doing it are using handles which are immediately obvious who they are then that won't be an issue," says Mr Shera.
"But if they're not, then I think Twitter generally requires some sort of court order and even then, it sometimes resists. I don't know what its attitude would be in this instance, but it's not one of those who instantly give up information."
But if Twitter did hand over users' IP addresses – a unique set of numbers assigned to each internet-connected device – then police probably wouldn't have any problems tracking people down, in much the same manner people are caught sharing copyrighted material.
"When you're on the internet, ultimately you tend to be able to be found," says Mr Shera, "unless you're very, very expert at hiding your tracks – which probably people on Twitter may not necessarily be so."
Laws in both Australia and New Zealand are lagging behind the development of social media. Digital media strategist Karalee Evans told Australian paper the Herald Sun it is currently "difficult for police to gain access to the details behind abusive accounts in order to follow up complaints".
"At the very minimum, Australian law and police need to catch up with the internet," says Ms Evans.
Mr Shera says although harassment can be a crime whether it happens offline or not, there are gaps in New Zealand law that also need to be plugged.
"It doesn't make any difference as to whether it's online or offline, although as we've seen in New Zealand recently there do appear to be some gaps, and the Law Commission has said that there needs to be some work done around our laws to tweak them so that they work better in an online environment."
Ms Dawson remains in a Sydney hospital, under observation.
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23/10/2012 10:50:09 p.m.
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. - Thanks Wikipedia. This is what a Troll is. If you're stupid enough to take a Troll seriously, then you're f*cking dumb. The end. Her "confronting" these "Trolls" is stupid and pointless. This sh*t is like internet piracy - you can tighten up the penalties and publicize that it’s wrong but people are going to continue to do it since they can sit in the comfort of their own home and disassociate themselves from the warnings. It’s as effective as yelling at a deaf person. We're gen Y. We can see you jumping up and down, being angry, but we just don't care!! THIS IS THE INTERNET PEOPLE! If you're struggling to understand why people of the younger generation aren’t fussed, maybe try and remember how much more messed up crap is on the internet and sort out your priorities.
9/09/2012 10:00:57 p.m.
jenna nicholson wrote:
Poor Charlotte. NOBODY deserves a tirade of abuse like this!!! I hope Charlotte finds happiness and peace with a lovely relationship and true friends. Unfortunately these are often not to be found in the false world of celebrities.Come back to NZ Charlotte and set up house with a lovely farmer...I guarantee you won't be hassled and you'll be happy!
5/09/2012 10:16:54 a.m.
@MAX PERCY "Trolls" what does that mean? Do you actually know? These are just people mainly youngsters using it for attention/reaction a form of entertainment to them. It is not some secret monster gang that roam the streets at night who need hunting down and shooting. Have you lost your mind MAX? Everyone has their own choice to go on these sites or not. It takes two to argue, which is basically all this is - a childish argument that we now call the victors "Trolls" Look this is just an idea but STOP going on the site if it upsets you then the argument is gone! The "Troll" vanishes. No need for police or public hangings just a little common sense.
4/09/2012 10:20:38 p.m.
That is simply the nature of the internet. Trolls are everywhere, not just on Twitter. They do it for a reaction and she's giving them one. I doubt prosecuting them will be as easy as they make out either.
4/09/2012 1:31:10 p.m.
Max Percy wrote:
I think these so called "trolls" that leave abusive mesaages on the internet are a despicable lot. They are usually that gutless that they won't put their name to all the garbage they write and I hope the police track them down and not only prosecute them but name and shame those that have also contributed such nasty posts and are not to be presecuted.Let's indentify these "low lifes" and loosers for what they are.We need new regulations right across the board in my view in what is acceptable in writing content on the internet.Max Percy
4/09/2012 9:46:05 a.m.
She has some serious issues to deal with. It takes two to argue, we all say things in the heat of an argument that we do not mean. I feel ashamed of her using the police and trying to gain sympathy from the media. But what is it with the Police? why take such action it just makes the world a crazier place! Is the cheif of police agog with her stunning looks? do they have her picture on their locker doors? Come on see the person for what she is! NOT what she looks like. Please Get help Charlotte not attention!
4/09/2012 9:24:37 a.m.
Standing up for what is right wrote:
Thanks Charalotte for shedding light on a servere social problem that needs to be addressed. I am all for these cyber bullies being held accountable and a punishment affixed. They bear false witness ( Exodus 20:16) and there works are works in darkness.
3/09/2012 1:57:46 p.m.
More nasty vindictive types posting as usual. Whats wrong with them? Sick.
3/09/2012 6:40:42 a.m.
@ Craig, Well said that man!
Dawson, it is called 'what goes round, comes round....
2/09/2012 10:35:31 a.m.
I have to agree with Kevin. Charlotte is an attention seeker. So much that after she was released from the hospital, she went for an interview with Aussie 60 Minutes. Her story is on tonight (Sunday 2 September).
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