Reason Leader and Member for Northern Metropolitan, Fiona Patten, has today introduced new legislation designed to stop trolling in its tracks.
In an Australian first, the Racial and Religious Tolerance Amendment Bill 2019 will extend Victoria’s anti-vilification laws – currently only reserved to racial and religious vilification – to hate speech based on gender, as well as disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.
“Hate speech lives and breeds in social media feeds and the comments sections of news articles. Women are shamed and bullied through the everyday mediums that we use to consume media and communicate,” Ms Patten said.
Freelance sports writer Erin Riley, 30, has for years received daily online abuse, including rape and death threats, as well as being the target of several huge mob attacks. During the first of these “pile-ons” she received about 2,000 messages over a two-day period involving “every kind of abuse possible”.
Ms Patten said despite women like Erin being resilient, they received swarms of vile harassment.
“Trolls are out in force and they know they will not be held to account, and this Bill changes that,” she said.
“People need to take personal responsibility for their actions. These are real messages, sent and received by real people – with very real effect. That is why I’m proposing real penalties.
“This bullying can lead to suicide. It causes physical, psychological and emotional harm. It affects people’s sense of self-worth and feelings of safety and belonging in the community.”
Vilification is public hate speech that threatens or incites hatred and violence against another person, or group of persons, based on who they are, not something they might have done. It is also behaviour that incites serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule.
“This Bill draws a clear line as to the racist, homophobic and gendered hate speech that we will not tolerate in Victoria. It is time that we take personal responsibility for what we say online,” Ms Patten said.
“Our laws have not kept up with technology and this Bill helps amend that.
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. With this legislation, there will now be someone at the gate saying to trolls – ‘you shall not pass’.”
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