Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Media Bullying – it’s not just in schools

The Four Corners report that aired last Monday (11th May) was a well overdue expose of NRL players, managers and administrators behaving badly. A full transcript of the show can be found here. It makes compelling reading and the courage showed by the women who came forward to be interviewed is to be commended.

But that’s when social media steps up to the plate and shows us the ugly face of Australia with a hate group created on Facebook directed at one of the women who was interviewed on the show. If it hasn’t been pulled already, the link is here.

Whatever your views on Ms Palavi’s dating habits, this is a major issue for any social media platform. The fact that Facebook has allowed a hate group like this to be set up – despite it being reported – is irresponsible. It is simply personal vilification and the group’s followers should take a moment to consider the seriousness of supporting it.

This highlights my concern about social media forums. While they can share valuable ideas and knowledge, they also provide a very prominent forum for the ugly side of our society. Through the flimsy defence of humour on sites like Facebook or YouTube serious issues are being trivialised which is impacting on what people consider acceptable behaviour in society.

Rape, sexual harassment or verbal abuse of women leading to trauma are criminal offenses. Harassing someone who has given evidence to police andmedia (an NRL whistleblower for want of a better term) about these sorts of incidents is akin to aiding and abetting criminal activity – or being part of the “bad NRL culture” cheer squad at best.

The harassment of women in any form should be discouraged – especially on social media forums like Facebook. I commend the efforts of groups like White Ribbon who actively campaign to address male attitudes regarding violence toward women.

However when 113 people can sign up for groups like the one mentioned above, it shows we still have a long way to go.