- Senator the Hon Mitch FifieldMinister for Communications
End Anonymous Cyber Bullying and Trolling
Bullying is a major problem in our society and the anonimity of the Internet for social media, email and online chat services has facilitated the growth of this problem.
Bullying is not teasing or name calling or having a laugh at someone's expense, it is the ongoing, repeated and persistent harrassment, intimidation, humiliation and abuse of someone threatening physical, emotional and even sexual harm.
Bullying costs our economy billions of dollars each year through our health system, our law enforcement, our judiciary and our industry.
In Australia there are thousands and thousands of cases of online bullying and trolling every year with the consequences for children and adults leading to social isolation, mental health issues, loss of promotion or advancement, loss of productivity days at work and in the most severe cases suicide.
It is estimated that almost 40% of Australian Suicides each year (nearly 1,000 people) have bullying as the cause or as a major contributing factor.
It is because of this, having lost a childhood friend to bullying, that I and others (all having lost someone or had someone experience severe Bullying) have joined together to try and make a difference.
Cyber Bullying has occurred in record numbers in recent years primarily due to the anonimity the Internet grants to Bullies. People can create an online account using any details and they are almost impossible to track. IP details can help authorities track down serious bullies but that is problematic given the data access process and whether the bully has used public wi-fi or a VPN.
Almost 85% of serious bullying and trolling is done by anonymous or fake accounts and in most cases, these accounts were established purely to facilitate this behaviour.
If people could retain their anonimity online but knew their identity was obtainable by authorities if they were engaging in serious bullying then fewer people would engage in this behaviour as they would be wary of the consequences.
Our petition calls for the authority of ACMA to be expanded to make two-step phone verification be mandatory across all providers of social media, email and chat services in Australia, linking every account to a phone number.
This is something that millions of people have opted into already for security verification of their accounts and makes no impact to these users. Making phone verification mandatory for all accounts would ensure that, for those people who decide to engage in Cyber Bullying, their details would be accessible by the relevant authorities, making most people second guess how they communicated to others.
People engaging in Bullying, Trolling, Homophobia, Racism, Grooming, Revenge Postings and Animal Creulty Postings would no longer be able to do so hidden behind the anonimity of the Internet and would be held to account for their actions.
We don't support the calls for making Cyber Bullying a specific criminal statute. Harrassing, intimidating or threatening someone whether in person or online is already a criminal act, the problem is in the authorities being able to track down these people which our petition addresses directly.
This is not a curbing or a restriction of Free Speech. Is it really Free Speech if it involves a person issuing threats or harrassment or intimidation from behind a wall of anonimity? Can't a person express their Free Speech without bullying?
- Minister for Communications
Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield
The problem of Cyber Bullying and Cyber Trolling has reached levels of incidence and occurrence that its effects are having significant and dramatic effects on Australian Citizens and their families. Cyber Bullying and Cyber Trolling can and often leads to mental illness, depression, emotional distress and even suicide.
Cyber Bullying and Cyber Trolling occurs in such levels in our community that, from researched commission by the Abbott Government, one in five school children aged 8 to 15 years have experienced Cyber Bullying and whilst specific research is yet to be completed, statistics show that 1 in 8 Australians online across all age ranges have experienced Cyber Bullying.
To provide remedy and solution to this problem, we the undersigned, petition for the authority of ACMA to be expanded to be able to enforce a two-step phone verification to be made mandatory across all providers of social media, email and chat services in Australia, linking every account to a phone number. Furthermore we petition for verification to re occur every 12 months to ensure all accounts are current.
To ensure that privacy is maintained and the rights of Australians are protected, we further petition that access to the phone number associated with each account only be made accessible by the service providers through a Court issued subpoena.
This is a service currently offered as optional and therefore requires no development, establishment or set up by the service providers and could be implemented immediately upon requirement by ACMA.
Whilst these changes would dramatically reduce Cyber Bullying and Cyber Trolling almost immediately, this change would also dramatically reduce other issues facing Australian Citizens including Online Homophobia, Online Racism, Online Sexual Grooming of Minors, Online Revenge Postings, Cyber Stalking, Online Animal Cruelty Postings and provide a faster identification process for authorities of those using Social Media to access, support or participate in Terrorist related activities.
We thank you for your consideration.
Angels Hope &
The Anti Bullying Network
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