Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer is a police reporter for the NZ Herald.

Calls go out for 'Charlotte's Law'

NZ leads way with cyber-bullying reform bill.

Charlotte Dawson campaigned against cyber bullying after online abuse.
Charlotte Dawson campaigned against cyber bullying after online abuse.

Tens of thousands of people have signed up to "Charlotte's Law", a petition calling on the Australian Government to introduce tougher cyber-bullying laws.

Initiated after the death at the weekend of Charlotte Dawson - who had campaigned against cyber bullying after experiencing sustained online abuse - the petition calls for Australia to adopt legislation similar to that currently working its way through the New Zealand parliament.

By last night, more than 37,000 people had signed up to the "Charlotte's Law - Tougher Cyber Bullying Legislation" petition on website Change.org.

Dawson's friend Em Mastronardi, who created the petition, said the 47-year-old former model and TV personality fought hard against bullying on social media.

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Her death shouldn't be in vain, she said on the website.

"We ask that the Australian Government and the state governments enforce the existing anti-bullying and harassment laws, and take action against those who violate them.

"We ask that social media companies take a more active role in the prevention of cyber-bullying, and take more responsibility in monitoring posts of 'hate'. We ask that together we unite to change the cyber-bullying platform."

Funeral details still hadn't been confirmed yesterday. Ms Dawson's sisters were expected in Sydney yesterday to begin planning the service with her closest friends.

A public memorial was expected to take place in Sydney, where she made her home, following a private cremation. It is also expected there will be a public memorial service in New Zealand.

A potentially world-leading bill introduced here in November, if passed, would address many of the issues raised from Dawson's case, and make it easier for the authorities to deal with cyber-bullies.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Judith Collins, had its first reading in November. Public submissions on the bill closed last week and the select committee will consider those and report back on June 3.

"We expect it to pass by the end of the year," a ministerial aide said. "This is a priority of the minister's."

The minister said last night the legislation was world-leading: "What I'm hearing from my ministerial counterparts in Australia and the UK, for instance, is that their nations are also grappling with the challenges presented by increased communications within the cybersphere.

"I'm proud New Zealand is leading the world with our response to this global problem and nations around the world will be following New Zealand's Harmful Digital Communications Bill with interest," she said.

Proposals in the bill include: creating a specialised approved enforcement agency for cyber-bullying complaints; making it an offence to send or post harmful messages, punishable with a $2000 fine or three months' jail; and creating a new offence of inciting someone to commit suicide.

"This bill aims to create a new civil enforcement regime to reduce harm to victims, and new offences to ensure serious harmful digital communications can be prosecuted," a ministry spokesman said.

Read more stories about Charlotte Dawson online here.

Where to get help

Lifeline: 0800 543 534

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865

Youth services: (06) 3555 906

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)

The Word

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (24-hour service)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

CASPER Suicide Prevention

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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