Australian Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam has ‘welcomed’ the overnight discovery of the practice of Internet trolling, but questioned calls for further government regulation as the solution.
“Exposing antisocial and abusive behaviour (online or offline) is probably going to be positive in the long term,” he said, “We don’t support bullying or hate speech, and it’s good to shine a spotlight on some of the cowardly behaviour that’s become normalised online. However, this is hardly a place for additional government intervention.”
Internet trolling has become a hot issue in Australia, where Internet trollers are called “cybertroll” with the abuse on Twitter of two high profile celebrities. However, Ludlam think regulation is not the answer. “It’s ironic that the same media platforms that ran a ‘freedom of speech’ campaign against media reforms (which would only impact on the power of the largest media proprietors) are now demanding a legislated crackdown on the behaviour of individuals online,” he said, “They are the same platforms that have stayed almost completely silent in the face of Government proposals to spy on the communications of every Australian, and are the same ones that publish some of the most vitriolic and abusive comments.”
Jonathan Bishop is an internet trolling expert who runs the Crocels Trolling Academy, which provides advice on dealing with trollers and also dealing with malicious claims of trolling. He said, “Senator Ludlam is right that there has been too much concentration on throw away comments that are common in pubs, and not enough on the real abuse against people by bigots on the grounds of the disability or ethnic background for instance.”
Ludlam believes there is little difference between most Internet trollers and traditional sensationalist media, “Trolls seek attention in the same way shock jocks and tabloids seek ratings and circulation,” he said, “through controversy, provocation and emotional manipulation. It’s doubly ironic that the media outlets now leading the anti-trolling campaign are the same ones that have done so much to degrade the quality of public debate on their own platforms.”
Ludlam confirmed the long held view of Bishop that more laws dedicated to Internet trolling are not needed, as existing laws are up to the job, “This country already has laws to deal with harassment, defamation, and hate speech,” Ludlam concluded.