SBS News announces Dr Oboler’s report & discusses internet trolling

SBS News announced Dr Andre Oboler’s report into Aboriginal Memes and interviewed Dr Oboler on the phenomenon of ‘trolling’ and ‘griefing’.

‘Trolling laws’ inadequate, lawyer says

By SBS News

Australia needs to have a ‘very important review of the laws’ when dealing with issues of trolling and cyber bullying, a lawyer has told SBS’s Insight.

Lawyer Greg Walsh says current Australian laws are inadequate in prosecuting perpetrators of online offences such as cyber bullying.

“In my practical experience I don’t think the laws are adequate,” he tells Insight.

“What happens in practice is that our police officers, both at federal level and state level, don’t have the practical commitment to perceive these offences as seriously as they actually are with the potential to harm individuals, which they do.”

Walsh has represented families affected by cyber bullying and trolling. He wants tougher laws to crack down on trolls and believes online anonymity shouldn’t be allowed.

“I’ve been in cases where tragically young boys and girls have been trolled in the most despicable way – they’ve taken their own lives,” he says.

“We need a greater degree of resources and commitment into detecting these crimes. We do it with child pornography and there’s no one in Australia who would ever criticise those laws.

“We’ve really got to have a very important review of the laws in Australia.”

Information activist Asher Wolf disagrees. She says pre-existing criminal laws are enough to prosecute people who behave in an offensive manner online. She believes online anonymity is crucial for freedom of speech.

“People should have the right to say what they feel,” Wolf tells Insight. “Quite often people use anonymity to whistle blow. We need anonymity for people to be able to bring justice.”


A new report into the Facebook hate pages which racially vilified Aboriginal people has outlined a more hard-core form of trolling, while calling for a M15+ rating on Facebook to stop kids from exposure to online hate.

In August, SBS reported on the series of pages that, together with a wave of complaints, led to investigations by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and ultimately pressured the social media giant to remove the content.


But for parents like Stephen Deguara, justice was hard to come by.

A few days after his 15-year-old daughter Kirsten was killed in a car crash, a website created in her memory was attacked by trolls. The laws were powerless to stop them.

“All of a sudden there was jokes starting to come through… even a game was posted. This is on her RIP website. I mean it destroyed us,” Deguara says.

“Because they didn’t post anything pornographic or say anything pornographic, the Queensland police couldn’t do anything.”


Dr Andre Oboler from the Online Hate Prevention Institute, publisher of the report, says that “greifing” is a particular form of trolling that needs to be distinguished.

“Greifers” are individuals who use Facebook through anonymous accounts for the explicit purpose of destroying people’s online experience,” Dr Oboler said.

“Trolling can serve a moral purpose, greifing does not. There is no free speech element to greifing,” Dr Oboler said.

Asher Wolf says there is some “great trolling out there” and that greifers are morally repugnant.

“I don’t believe that trolling is the same as bullying or griefers,” she said.

The report also asks the Classification Board to make better use of its discretion, outlining how serious racism falls within the category of “adult themes”, requiring a minimum M15+ rating to would stop those under 15 years of age viewing content of that nature.

The report points directly to Facebook to take responsibility for the adhering to local laws and calls for a civil penalty regime to make social media companies share the cost associated with the problems associated with the technology.

“They take money from advertisers in Australia and they send adverts that are targeted at Australians… they must be accountable to Australia and must operate regarding Australia within societal normal,” he said.

Tonight, Insight discusses the impacts of trolling and hears from trolls themselves. Tune in at 8:30pm on SBS One.

Watch Stephen Deguara’s story below

Source: SBS Staff, “‘Trolling laws’ inadequate, lawyer says“, SBS News, 16 October 2012