by SIMON COPLAND
It’s time to stop the trolls.
That’s what we’re being told by the Daily Telegraph who yesterday started the #stopthetrolls campaign. On the face of it, this idea has the potential to do a lot of good.
Trying to stop online abuse is a good thing (no judgements on the methods here). Yet, as the media focus on the trolling of some, why do we ignore or even accept the constant abuse and bullying of others that occurs every day?
The campaign is calling on Twitter to stop allowing people to troll online anonymously. It has come about after a number of high-profile trolling incidents over the past couple of weeks.
First, Charlotte Dawson was admitted to hospital after being attacked by Internet trolls. Following that, Tigers captain Robbie Farah spoke out after someone sent an abusive tweet to him after a game, resulting in calls from NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to change federal legislation in this area and earning Farah a meeting with the Prime Minister.
It’s important to be clear here: bullying and emotional abuse is serious and we should do what we can to stop it, whether on or off line. Homophobic abuse is one of the leading causes in the high rates of depression and suicide in GLBTIQ people. Racial abuse creates similar problems in Australia’s Aboriginal community. Research shows that those who have suffered from bullying at school are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide.
Yet what’s interesting about our new focus on stopping the trolls, it how isolated it is. Whilst we are all up in arms and obsessing over Internet Trolls, what we’re not seeing are any sorts of similar campaigns to stop homophobia, or to stop racism, or to stamp out sexism.
In fact, depending on the public profile and the public support for a person – trolling and abuse are often completely ignored or in some cases, just accepted as part of life.
For example, whilst Robbie Farah has been complaining about abuse he’s received, one thing he and the Daily Telegraph didn’t mention was the Tweet he sent last year (which he has now apologised for) saying that Prime Minister Julia Gillard should be given a noose for her birthday. Apparently stopping the trolls wasn’t that important when the abuse was directed at our PM.