Rotorua teens targets of gossip websites

A Rotorua mother is concerned about the impacts a "scary new trend" to name and shame teenagers on Facebook gossip pages has on those targeted.

Another Rotorua gossip page set up on Facebook naming and shaming teenagers has been causing concern among parents.

The Facebook page called Rotoruas (sic) Vegas Dramas was set up on January 18 and late last week had close to 500 likes. By yesterday afternoon the page had been removed.

It follows in the footsteps of similar Rotorua-based gossip pages OMG Rotorua Confessions and Vegas Goss Tell.

Gossip about various people in Rotorua is sent privately to the page's administrators who then post it on the page, including names of people involved. The person who sent the message remains anonymous, as do the people who run the page.

Some of the things being posted on the page include naming people as thieves or outing them for taking drugs.

Some of the posts on the page have attracted up to 100 comments from people, including threatening or defamatory remarks.

A Rotorua parent contacted The Daily Post concerned about the gossip which was being posted on the page and said it was a form of cyber bullying.

The woman didn't want to be identified, for fear of her children being targeted on the page, but she said a lot of the information on the page was untrue but people were taking it seriously.

"I saw it because a friend of mine commented on a nasty posting about her daughter. I was really upset for the girl so posted that I had contacted the police."

The woman reported the page to Facebook.

"I am a teacher and see the impact this kind of bullying has on young people," she said.

"It is public humiliation and they have no idea who has read or believed such posts so it really knocks their confidence."

The woman said she had since deleted her Facebook account because she didn't want to be associated with those sorts of gossip pages.

"I just think our kids have enough to deal with growing up without this kind of public bullying," she said.

"The people who run these pages should be charged with defamation or something as they choose to post these things.

"It's a scary new trend and I'm sure it is not what Facebook creators had in mind."

Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said people who considered making any potentially defamatory or damaging comments should be aware they could be traced, no matter how anonymous they tried to be.

Mr Cocker said the internet gave disgruntled people a bigger voice and anonymous internet attacks could have a devastating impact on the person targeted.

"The rise of social networking and similar sites on the web have enabled people to connect with others and they often invite feedback and that's a positive. But, on the flip side, if people are unhappy or disgruntled it gives them a voice," he said.

"The key message for those posting on those sites is to be sure of what you are saying."

Mr Cocker said anybody who made defamatory or damaging comments about the mayor or anybody else could face legal redress and even find themselves sued.

"Facebook has a record of what people have posted and can track the people who posted it so you are certainly not anonymous," he said.

"Even if people try to set up an anonymous profile, the thing about the internet is that everything leaves a footprint that can be followed if enough energy is put into it."

Rotorua counsellor Irene Begg has previously told The Daily Post people needed to be cautious when becoming involved with gossip pages.

She said it was unlikely people were getting any sense of relief from confessing and that it was more like "one-upmanship".

"It's about shock-ability and notoriety. People see these posts and decide they can out-do them.

"Rotorua is a really small town and people could become a victim quite easily.

"Someone's mate or family member or colleague might see their post and make that connection," she said.

She said such pages had the potential to spiral out of control.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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