The New South Wales government will introduce strengthened Commonwealth laws against cyberbullying and online trolling this month.
Once the laws are introduced, offenders will face up to a maximum of five years in jail. The previous sentence for such crimes was a maximum three year jail sentence. The updated laws will include definitions of online and social media stalking and intimidation.
Those sending abusive, threatening or hurtful emails, messages, pictures or videos online as well as sending repeated unwanted messages will be liable under these new laws. Along with this, victims will be able to use this evidence as the basis for Apprehended Violence Orders applications.
NSW Attorney-General, Mark Speakman, told ABC that the law changes send a clear message.
“[It makes it] absolutely clear that online stalking and intimidation are no-goes in NSW,” he said.
In an ever-changing digital landscape, Mr Speakman asserted that these law changes were needed.
“Modern technology require modern laws,” said Mr Speakman.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, said while laws also apply to juvenile offenders there is still a “criminal threshold” to warrant incarceration.
Commissioner Fuller said the hope is that victims will come forward with evidence and be confidant knowing that there are laws to protect them from online abuse.
“Hopefully that’s motivation…that the victims will save as much evidence as they can on their computers and phones and they can feel confident coming into police stations now knowing there is legislation to support them, the police force is there to support them,” said Commissioner Fuller.
The barrage of online abuse can be relentless can seem inescapable and the culprits are not just teens but more often grown men and women. Adding to this there is also the anonymity aspect, where trolls feel protected behind a computer or phone screen to send repeated messages encouraging self-harm on others.
Remember author and engineer, Yassmin Abdel-Magied? Her one tweet on Anzac day opened up a year of online attacks and death threats, which eventually prompted her to leave Australia.
While high profile people are constant targets, the trend is widespread. Earlier this year, 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett took her own life after enduring relentless cyberbullying. Since then, the Everett family has continued to raise awareness on online abuse and cyberbullying prompting a nationwide conversation on how to address this issue.
If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide please call these hotlines; Lifeline (13 11 14); Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467); Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or see a doctor.