Cyberhate with Tara Moss

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.

6 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

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