You can tackle the cyber-bully


OPINION: SOCIAL media has forged a vast new world for us to interact with friends and strangers.

But while many of us have jumped in feet first into this online playground, we’re still to work out exactly what the rules are and how we should enforce them.

When a foul-mouthed Facebook page sprang up last week urging people to “name and shame” Albury’s most promiscuous, a trial by the masses resoundingly found the page’s creators should “get a life”.

That was followed by frustration that the page, while it hadn’t at that point done much naming, was allowed to remain stubbornly in the public domain, collecting more than 3000 likes, despite several reporting the page to Facebook.

It wasn’t until the creators began gleefully listing names of young people, including children, that the page was eventually closed down — a good 24 hours after the naming spree began.

At the heart of the problem was not knowing who ran the page.

Because Facebook settings allow the administrator of these sites to remain anonymous, the creators could sling all the mud they liked, knowing they didn’t have to take responsibility for their comments.

They were either oblivious or unconcerned they could be breaking the law.

Cyber-safety expert Professor Donna Cross said the defence of anonymity encouraged people to be even more fierce and nasty online.

The academic with Edith Cowan University said the challenge for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter was to keep up with the constantly changing behaviour of young people.

Professor Cross said while people were getting better at knowing what to do when cyber-bullied, they still don’t quite now how to react as a community.

So what can we do when faced by something like the “name and shame” page?

And did the community to do the right thing by jumping on the page to defend its victims and slam the creators?

Professor Cross said she couldn’t answer that because it hadn’t been researched.

But she said there had been some studies done into other areas of bullying that showed it helped when the vast majority of people made it clear they won’t put up with bad behaviour and provide a “cocoon of support” for bully victims.

Though she noted it was never a good idea to match abuse with abuse.

“But by being clear that as a community you find this unacceptable and disgusting you’re establishing new social norms and an environment where you don’t have these social norms any more,” Professor Cross said.

If last week’s Facebook drama did one thing, it was to serve as a warning to the next person who wants to use Facebook or social media to abuse or offend.

The community won’t sit back and tolerate it.