Beyond Blue chief executive Kate Carnell has criticised Twitter for not doing enough to stop trolls, despite the serious damage that cyber bullying is causing to mental health and the lives lost.
Charlotte Dawson’s public battle with trolls, and the depression she said they caused, triggered a public debate in 2012 on how to protect social media users. One troll had told Dawson: ”Go hang yourself.”
Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft signed up last year to a federal government complaint-handling scheme designed to remove hateful material from social networks.
”Twitter haven’t signed up. That’s not good enough,” said Carnell, the former ACT chief minister.
She described cyber bullying as ”easy bullying” that was becoming more common due to its anonymity.
”Yes, governments have a role, but so do major social media sites. Facebook have been active in this area. There’s lots more work that people like Twitter need to do,” she said.
Carnell also urged the public to act and make a complaint when they saw cyber bullying.
”Whether it’s a mate or yourself, it’s really important not to do nothing.”
The federal scheme for social media complaints has been criticised because it is voluntary, with no sanctions against international companies.
The Abbott government is considering a legally binding scheme with civil penalties, and has proposed a simplified cyber bullying offence that will make prosecution of trolls easier.
Bridianne O’Dea from the Black Dog Institute said Dawson’s death was ”really shocking”.
Microsoft research has shown that a person’s Twitter feed can predict their mental health, she said.
Dr O’Dea is conducting research to determine the impact on a suicidal or depressed person when other people respond to their tweets.
”People need to be careful how they respond to tweets and aware of how they treat people online and offline,” she said.
Dawson’s death was an example of ”a catastrophic end”, she said.
”I wouldn’t say it could cause someone to take that action, but it’s a contributor.”