Jacoby Poulain: Turning the tables on cyberbullies

By Jacoby Poulain

1 comment
Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor and a Hawke's Bay District Health Board member.
Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor and a Hawke's Bay District Health Board member.

As far as I'm aware there's always been a tension between how much the government should do versus how much we as individuals, parents, families and communities should do and take responsibility for.

This age-old dilemma was highlighted again recently by way of a petition delivered to Parliament demanding action be taken in regards to the "Roast Busters" - a group of young men accused of committing sexual impropriety with intoxicated and underage girls, then posting bragging footage to Facebook and naming and shaming and causing much distress and harm to the girls involved.

This is a case of sexual misconduct - but it's also a case of cyber-bullying.

The internet's only a relatively new phenomenon in relation to the history of the world. We're still grappling with its use and possibilities. I'm an advocate of the power and knowledge available from the positive use of such a tool or resource, however I do realise the internet can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use it.

Unfortunately some choose to use it in ways that are destructive to others.

The question then becomes what should be done about the destructive use of the internet, social media and the likes and who should be doing it? The 110,000 Roast Busters petitioners are calling on the Government to address the situation, which includes cyber-bullying. Parents are also calling on our schools in relation to this and other harmful incidents involving the use of the internet, and equally we have schools urging parents to monitor and control this space.

The Government has recently introduced new anti-cyberbullying laws into Parliament. The Harmful Digital Communication Bill proposes to create a new offence of sending messages or posting harmful material, punishable by up to three months in jail or a $2000 fine. Inciting someone to commit suicide will also carry a maximum three-year jail sentence. It also proposes to set up an "approved agency" to help resolve cyberbullying incidents. Cyberbullying is real but most people have no show of trying to reach a successful conclusion by complaining to the likes of the corporate giant Facebook which may have well-intended policies but are simply swamped with millions of users worldwide without sufficient capacity to deal with each complaint, unless it hits an extremely high threshold.

A dedicated resourced agency would have more sway and authority to get through to such networks and also to investigate and advocate individual cases where otherwise to do so would be too stressful or technical for the victim. The agency would also be an avenue of information and advice available to the wider community. Parents and the wider community observing cyberbullying can contact the agency and seek assistance, direction and avenues of support.

Overall, so long as the changes of law are communicated clearly and easily to our communities which I recommend is needed, I believe the new laws will help empower many sections of our community It will take about six months for the new laws to pass through Parliament. In the meantime, good information on this topic can be found at www.Netsafe.org.nz

Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor and a Hawke's Bay District Health Board member

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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