February 24, 2014
Anti-bullying advocates suffered a tremendous loss yesterday when Australian model and television host Charlotte Dawson took her own life. Dawson became an active campaigner against cyber bullying in 2012, after she became inundated with negative messages from some of her 53,000 Twitter followers, including one troll who suggested she hang herself. She was hospitalized that same year, after taking prescription medication and tweeting “you win.”
But win, they won’t. If passed, “Charlotte’s Law,” proposed cyber bullying legislation in Australia, will demand that social media companies (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) wake up and respond to hateful online behavior. The Coalition Government wants to introduce a legally binding scheme that includes civil penalties and new criminal definitions to make it easier to prosecute online abusers.
Dawson is an example of how the cowardly act of cyber bullying can affect anybody, especially those already prone to depression. She is also an example of the dangerous consequences of social platforms like Twitter when misused. Whether it’s Ian Barber or the high school students in Lake County, Florida who called their classmates “fat” and “ugly,” social media users need to stop being empowered by the cloak of anonymity. Lawmakers need to convey this message to cyber bullies: You will be punished. You will lose.