Online shaming is a powerful tool in the hands of cyber bullies and cyber-bullies use it to target others online, says research from Australia’s leading consumer rights advocacy organisation.
The research, published today, has been commissioned by the Australian Cyberbullying Coalition (ACBC).
It found online bullying was being used as a tool to harass and bully individuals in Australia, but the way it was being done was changing.
It also found that social media platforms were being used to harass others online and that these actions were being condoned.
ACBC chief executive Alex Neve said online bullying had the potential to negatively impact on individuals and society at large.
“Online shaming is the worst form of harassment,” he said.
“[It] is not only used by bullies but also by those who don’t understand the harm it can cause.
We also know that it is the first step in the bullying cycle and it has the potential, in the short-term, to hurt the mental health of individuals and to deter them from seeking help.”
He said online shaming was not an effective way of dealing with bullying.
Online shaming has the same effect as physical abuse and that’s why we don’t see it in Australia.
This is a very real and very worrying trend, he said, and it’s important to make sure people know they’re not alone.
In its submission, ACBC argued that online shaming should not be a form of bullying and it should be a crime.
Its submission also said the law should be changed to allow for a civil fine for those who use online shaming, as well as criminal charges for those responsible for causing harm.
Internet service providers and advertisers have been warned not to use online bullying as a means to silence people online.
Australian Cyberbullies Coalition (ACA) CEO Alex Neven.
(Supplied: ACBC)The ACTC’s submission argued that the online shaming debate was taking place too quickly.
“We need to get the debate going, not in a vacuum, and we need to ensure it doesn’t get derailed by political and social agendas,” Mr Neve told news.com (Aus).
“We also need to recognise that these kinds of activities are a growing problem in our society and we must do everything we can to make that change.”
The ACTB’s submission was also critical of the current laws, arguing that they were unnecessary.
“The legislation that is currently in place should not prevent or penalise individuals who are engaged in bullying and who are engaging in an act of online shaming,” Mr Nave said.
“There are a number of other measures that could be put in place that would actually prevent or punish bullying.”
Mr Neve and Mr Neave both said they were disappointed with the Federal Government’s proposed changes to cyberbullying laws, but they supported the ACTB and the ACCC’s call for a more robust and effective response.
“I am not aware of any legislation in Australia that would prevent people from doing this or deter others from engaging in this,” Mr Kiely said.