Cyberhate with Tara Moss

UPDATE: Tara will give an address on the topic of Cyberhate and Beyond at the National Press Club, August 9. The address will be televised on the ABC.

UPDATE: Watch Cyberhate on ABC iView now.

I have been a tad quiet on my blog lately as I’ve spent much of my time in the past 10 months or so helping to get the show Cyberhate off the ground, co-writing it, and working on the filming and editing with our team. I’m proud to be co-executive producer and co-writer of this series, as well as host, produced in partnership with The Full Box Productions and the ABC.

When I was approached by the Full Box, who I worked with on Tough Nuts: Australia’s Hardest Criminals for CI, to see what kind of show I wanted to make, it was Cyberhate. I’ve spoken out about the issue of online abuse, written about it in my handbook Speaking Out, and spoken at schools about cyberbullying over the past few years, and during that time I’ve become familiar with many of the shocking stories as well as the many of the unhelpful myths around the subject – online abuse is ‘not real life’, ‘it’s just some bad words’, etc. I wanted a program that examined the different kinds of abuse experienced today and the impacts it has our lives, our mental health and democracy itself. I wanted to look at the subject from multiple angles, from legal and scientific perspectives, and from the viewpoints of people of different backgrounds, genders, ages and political views, hopefully encouraging a more nuanced, evidence-based public discussion about an issue that tends to garner a lot of automatic, knee-jerk reactions.

This issue is relatively new. It’s easy to forget that Facebook didn’t even exist until 2004, and Twitter was created in 2006. Many of us grew up in a time before mobile phones, let alone Snapchat. A lot of common ideas about what’s happening online haven’t caught up with the lived realities.

While perpetrators abuse others, often in targeted attacks, we’re still told to ‘just switch off’, as if our lives aren’t totally integrated with digital technology today. As if our workplaces don’t use technology. As if we can somehow avoid text messages, or email. Or having a public presence online. As if those being abused have less of a right to participate in public life than their abusers.

I’m pleased today to find this five star review of Cyberhate with Tara Moss as pick of the week in The Age and Sun Herald, described as ‘Thoughtful and provocative’ and ‘essential viewing’:

‘A ferocious ambassador for human rights, Tara Moss wastes no time in debunking the sentiment behind the playground chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Her opening statement makes clear that real people write the real words that impact on real people on the other side of the computer screen.

Unlike Ian Thorpe, whose two-part series, Bullied, starts an hour earlier on the ABC’s flagship channel, Moss has a personal connection to her subject. She reads aloud some of the sexually violent abuse she received on Twitter after a 2014 appearance on Q&A made in the wake of the launch of her memoir, The Fictional Woman. It was in that book that she revealed that she was a survivor of rape.

Wearing her journalist’s hat, and perhaps that of her other alter ego as a crime novelist, Moss is able to detach herself from her painful experiences, at least while the camera is rolling, and drive this intelligent exploration of the issue.’

Read the full review.

Cyberhate airs on ABC iView from March 14, and airs on ABC2 on March 15 at 9:30pm. Some information for teachers can be found below, from the ATOM Study Guide for Cyberhate:

We can’t leave the internet to the bullies.

* Cyberbullying can be a crime. Learn more about your rights at LawStuff.

* Children who are bullied or find their privacy attacked or private images shared online without their consent can report that to the police, or report to the E Safety Commission.

* You can also contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

* If the online abuse you are receiving is linked to domestic abuse or abuse from a former or current partner, you can contact 1800 RESPECT.

* If the abuse you are receiving is related to sex, gender and sexual attraction, such as being attracted to the same sex or being a transgender person, and you are experiencing that abuse, or a family member, friend, supporter, worker or person you are working with are receiving that abuse, QLife is a national telephone and counselling service that operates from 3 pm until midnight, seven days a week. You can visit their website at: https://qlife.org.au/ or phone 1800 184 527

* If you or someone you know if experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can contact the Suicide Call Back Service.

* Other important services include Headspace and the Mens Help Line.

* Read more about Cyberhate with Tara Moss at ABC NewsHuffington Post, News.com.au, Stellar Magazine, and The Age.

Watch Cyberhate on ABC iView now.

* Watch Tara’s interview with ABC News below:

11 Comments

  1. The likes of Facebook and Twitter provide a form of anonymity for those with the mindset of cowardly abuse, largely free from comeback. It is a form of empowerment, just as the racist, bigoted scum in the US now feel empowered to come out courtesy of Trump’s behaviour. It is a sad sign of our times that these scum are now allowed to get away with such things, with only a very few exceptions. Not sure what the solution is.

  2. Carol Jeffs

    I’m watching this evening, having heard you speak to Richard Glover on ABC Radio. Thank you, I have been simultaneously horrified and impressed watching this program. Horrified by the sheer nastiness but impressed with all your interviewees.

  3. Targeted

    Tara, thank you for exposing this modern and vile phenomenon. I’ve been a target many times with the worst incident occurring late last year. I left a comment on a Facebook page in defense of an abused animal and was promptly targeted by hundreds of recreational hunters within hours. My profile had been clearly shared within a group somewhere online and I received hundreds of comments and private messages some with death threats, vile images of disembowelled and decapitated animals and mysoginistic content (also keep in mind the death threats were from licensed gun owners). They also took it one step further and targeted my workplace’s Facebook page and sent emails to my boss. I deactivated my account and called the police. The police basically shrugged their shoulders and said, “Yep, that’s Facebook”, just delete your account if you’re worried (the ‘punish the victim’ mentality).
    Tonight’s documentary was eye opening albeit disturbing. It honestly and accurately exposed what a sad world we currently live in.

  4. Rob

    Dear Tara,

    Thank you for the Cyberhate programme. I’ve just finished watching what I am guessing is just one episode and I have to congratulate you. As a father of two children in the middle of this “revolution” in human interaction and as someone who has no interest or taste for social media but is reasonably IT and cyber savvy I have a lot of concerns and I’d like to make a few observations.

    Towards the end of the programme, a number of comments were made relating to accountability and consequences. My view is that these two concepts are becoming irrelevant in today’s society and it doesn’t matter if you are talking about cyberbullying, irresponsible driving, or being president of the United States.

    Our kids are growing up with that model of behaviour and they think it is normal.

    The Internet provides the definitive opportunity to indulge such behaviour because it appears to be anonymous and therefore completely without consequence. As such I don’t think it is an issue in it’s own right but cyberbullying is a striking and very current example of a much broader social problem.

    You might see this as a criticism of the programme but the targetting of media personalities and high profile people seemed to be a focus. Devil’s advocate – are “celebrities” are as much to blame for this behaviour as anyone else? As a “celebrity” it is possible through social media to say whatever the hell you like with no consequences. Witness the afore mentioned president and dare I mention the name, Andrew Bolt…… Live by the sword?

    Why would it surprise anyone that people with less well developed senses of “consequences of actions” would resort to such media to vent their feelings on a much more intimidating scale. I don’t think you need to be a psycopath to indulge, the guy behind the mask didn’t seem to be.

    Nonetheless, such behaviour is beyond abhorrent be it on the part of a troll or a media celebrity.

    I disagree with some of the expert commentary on the best way of dealing with these people. My personal experience with bullies of any type is that ignoring them simply makes them try harder. The best way to deal with them is to give the biggest one a bloody nose. Since we can’t actually do that, we need to have more socially acceptable ways of enforcing the idea of “consequence of actions”. The laws need to be tightened and not by creating bigger fines since they don’t think they are going to be caught anyway. The law needs to catch up with technology. There needs to be an easily accessible legal way of tracing and outing such people. If a kid in a bedroom can hack into “secure” government websites I’m sure this is possible for our esteemed law enforcement agencies if only they were allowed to do so.

    Best Regards
    Rob

  5. Gary Kurzer

    Thank you for the series. It brought a rising problem to media attention. It is part of a multi tentacled beast that is evident in many other domains, not just cyber bullying.

    It is part of a submerged iceberg that is now a fundamental part of our dystopia. “Terrorists,” or “cyber bullies,” at their core, share a lack of empathy, and this manifests in their mechanical (mental and physical) destruction of other people. Its a broad, age old, and disturbing phenomenon.

    Tara, I am writing you a personal letter via HMMG to outline my perspective, and my experience with institutionalised bullying by the Australian government. It is inextricably linked with Human Rights, which as you know, have no enshrinement in Australian law. Regards Gary.

  6. Sue Allen

    Thank you so much for your speech at the Press Club today . You were so thoughtful and clear in your statements and I really liked the way you placed responsibility on the perpetrators and endorsing the people who endure such terrible bullying to not just fold their blogs and disappear thus furthering the power of these people. Yes it is “us” not the” internet. After listening to you as a senior cit- I will now go out and find out the laws covering the internet and the behaviour there. Thanks you so much for speaking out.

  7. Margaret Norriss

    Caught partof your abc talk this morning=fantastic. You said things that I have felt for most of my 77 years=thank you. I remember before I married years ago whilst working as a receptionist for Angus & Coote, the assistant manager whacked me on my bottom, a fact I still remember today, but in those days women were suppose to “take it” . We have come a fair way, but there is still a long way to go, and we need people like you to speak up for us. I’m not a man hater, but sometimes I get annoyed at the behaviour of men. I’ve got my degree from Melboune University via Gough’s wonderful free education, which enlightened me a lot, it was wonderful & today I read a lot always learning. However may say at this point some of the most hurtful things that have happened to me have been from women, & this puzzles & upsets me. So when I see & hear someone like you, I say thank God and thank you.

  8. Julie Fuller

    I love how, after your powerful speech warning of the potential for the normalisation of public abuse of individuals over the Internet, that man stood up and openly and publicly abused an individual while stating how such behaviour may influence the online variety. How ironic.

  9. Nick Parker

    Dear Ms. Moss,

    I was deeply moved by your speech to the National Press Club.
    Having suffered the type of online abuse as discussed by you, which also included physical abuse, violence and intimidation, I am completely empathetic to your message and the thoughts contained therein. I endured being stalked and physically assaulted, as well as having fake Facebook and Twitter profiles being created about me. I was sent sexually explicit content, including pictures of the perpetrators sexual organs.

    Due to the nature of my work and the industry in general, where the threat of violence is a very real occurrence on a daily basis, the creation of these profiles, which released personal information about me, such as my date of birth, address and contact details, served only to create endangement to myself and my family. What was made even more difficult was the fact I did not use any form of social media, which effectively resulted in me having to create a profile on those social media sites in order to lodge a report to request the removal of the fake profiles. To this day I refuse to engage in the use of any form of social media.

    The most disturbing part of the ordeal was the fact that these acts were perpetrated by a woman, with whom I did not have a personal or professional relationship with.

    Please keep spreading your knowledge, wisdom and desire to ensure any member of our society, especially women, do not have to suffer the mindless, morally and ethically bereft, unconscionable epithets of those weak guttersnipes, hurling abuse and threats from the dark anonymity of the internet, to make themselves feel superior to those they think they can dominate.

    I am firm in the belief that the abuse you, and most other women receive from men, is due to the fact they know, and are struggling to deal with, the irrefutable point that women are inherently better beings than men. Don’t give up and don’t give in. There are men out there who are disgusted by the inexcusable behaviour of these ignorant miscreants who don’t deserve the title of being men.

    Please continue to empower all, not just women, to protect themselves when using the internet or social media platforms, and continue to pursue those in law enforcement for the creation of laws to catch up with this rapidly expanding and ever-changing sphere of our existence.

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