Fast action urged to erase online abuse

The longer hurtful or defamatory comments remain on social media websites, the harder it is to remove them, according to a senior University of Wollongong researcher.

Professor Willy Susilo, director of the Centre for Computer and Information Security Research, said while many social networking sites had software in place to quickly remove potentially offensive images, it was up to individuals to report hurtful comments as soon as possible.

His comments come after the Illawarra Mercury reported the tragic tale of Courtney Love, a 15-year-old Kiama schoolgirl who took her life in 2012 after being subjected to relentless cyber bullying.

Prof Susilo said online comments didn’t just exist on the one social media site, but rather were administered by a third party in the ‘‘Cloud’’.

‘‘The Cloud itself is managed by a third party, where the implementation usually uses multiple servers for backup,’’ he said.

‘‘Therefore, having one post removed means that there will still remain multiple copies elsewhere.

‘‘Manual deletion takes more time – there are thousands of comments there and they will not be able to handle it one by one.’’

Prof Susilo said it was impractical for people to expect social media companies to track posts down, and said education was the best way to tackle cyber bullying.

Lake Illawarra police youth liaison officer Senior Constable Scott Burgess said although they might not realise it, cyber bullies were likely to be committing a criminal offence.

‘‘Using a telecommunications network with intent to commit a serious offence and using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence are the two main offences,’’ he said.

Snr Const Burgess said cyber bullying was often more difficult for the victim to deal with because it wasn’t just limited to school hours.

‘‘Years ago it was in the school yard, face to face. But when they went home, it ended,’’ he said.

‘‘Now, with social media, they go home ... and there’s no break.’’

He urged victims to report instances of cyber bullying to police. ‘‘As police, we’re unaware of anything that happens unless it’s reported to us,’’ he said.

‘‘Parents also need to be a bit more involved with what their kids are doing on the computer.’’

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