Internet a feeding ground for trolls
EMILY BAKER | The Examiner | March 18, 2013, 1 a.m.
A LAUNCESTON Facebook group emerged in the past week claiming to be a window into the "scandalous" lives of Launceston's youth.
"Jocks" - defined by the group as someone who likes Red Bull and going to the gym - were personally attacked on the page.
The behaviour was derided by author of Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued Mark Pearson.
"People have prosecuted people for things like this," Professor Pearson said.
The media law researcher and former journalist said that while satire and comedic pranks were tolerated online, bullying, defamatory comments and taunting were not.
"Once they start honing in on individuals and their private material [such as photographs], they've overstepped the mark."
Political figures and leaders in the community were fair game if the material related to their work, according to the Queenslander, but "if it's some 14-year-old with self- esteem issues" there was no excuse.
Cornerstone Youth Services executive officer Cate Sinclair agreed.
"It's hugely damaging," Ms Sinclair said.
She said individuals targeted by trolls could experience "anxiety, depression and a loss of confidence".
"The physical impact is huge."
Notorious trolling group Facebeef made news earlier last week after duping current affairs program Today Tonight into running a fabricated story.
Facebeef's Lewis Spears, better known as Nebz Adlay, told The Examiner that the group had started out exactly like the Launceston page.
"We gave social commentary and also gave it on a more personal level," he said.
"The difference is we don't and still don't attack a singular person unless they decide to attack us first."
Northern Community Policing Services Senior Constable Annabel Shegog said there was often little police could do about online behaviour.
"If it's not an offence offline, it's not an offence online," she said.
The police would follow up if people felt stalked or threatened, and she mentioned child exploitation as another issue they would deal with.
If someone felt they had been defamed, they were encouraged to seek legal advice.
The best way to deal with trolling behaviour was reporting it to the content's carrier, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
A troll-avoidance technique was to check your privacy settings on social networks and monitor who you allowed to be your friend or "follow" you.
As one person attacked by the Launceston group wrote, "this s--- is only cool on Gossip Girl".
If you have been victimised by someone's online behaviour, report it to the website's creator and talk to a trusted family member or teacher. Contact Lifeline on 131114 or Kids' Helpline 1800551800.
Courtesy of The Examiner