USERS of a social networking page publishing vulgar comments about local females are risking criminal convictions and jail terms. The Facebook page titled ‘Gippsland Sluts Exposed’ was created last month and has more than 3000 followers. But despite the criticism levelled at the site this week in the ‘Sentinel Times’ by local police and the community, it still remains up there. What does it take to get something as disgraceful as that removed? The anonymous administrator of the page encourages users to send in names, pictures and information about females in the Gippsland area. Those names and details are then published on the site, with victims then subjected to abuse, taunts and humiliating comments from followers of the page. Within hours of the Sentinel-Times being alerted to the page, followers of the site had jumped from 1200 to more than 1500 with the majority appearing to be teenage Facebook users particularly from the South Gippsland area. According to Acting Sergeant Glen Rielly of the Korumburra Police, those responsible for the page and anyone who takes part in the comments could face serious trouble under revised stalking laws. “The type of behaviour now constitutes what is called stalking,” Sgt Rielly said. “There was an Amendment to the Crimes Act in 2011 which is commonly referred to as ‘Brodie’s Law’. “Basically anyone that puts this sort of stuff on the internet, Facebook probably being the most common now, can be found guilty of stalking.” Sgt Reilly warned that charges relating to this can see defendants facing a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. “The crime of stalking now includes bullying behaviour,” he said. “That is any behaviour that is abusive or offensive which can be both words and acts, harassing or threatening conduct, conduct that has or could cause victims to physically harm themselves and mental harm including psychological harm or suicidal thoughts.” Sgt Reilly said the content from the Facebook page can be categorised as stalking. “I would say this type or website or page would be doing all five of those behaviours I mentioned,” he said. “So what they are doing is an actually an offence. “The victims (those that have been named) could take out intervention orders against these people that are publishing this stuff. “For someone who is facing stalking charges, this is what is known as an indictable offence and is really very serious. “Maximum penalties that can be given for this type of offending is 10 years’ jail.” Sgt Reilly encouraged those who are victims to print out any posts or comments that have been made so it can be used as evidence before the courts. “Victims can report this to us here at the police station,” he said. “They should print any of this sort of stuff off and hold on to it as well.”
Changes to the Crimes Act in 2011 followed the death of 19 year-old Melbourne woman Brodie Panlock who took her own life after being subjected to ongoing bullying and harassment in the workplace. ‘Brodie’s Law’ now applies to bullying occurring anywhere in the community, such as the workplace, schools, sporting clubs and on the internet including email or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The page comes as Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan was encouraging young Gippslanders to think twice before they upload or send private photos or share personal details online. He said more and more young people were reporting that online posts and images placed on media such as Facebook and Twitter have resulted in them missing out on jobs, being bullied or stalked. Mr Ryan said as part of a major State Government online safety campaign, young Gippslanders have a chance to share in $1500 of prizes by designing an image or video depicting the ‘It’s There For Life’ message. “The web has a long memory and once something gets online, it can be there for life,” Mr Ryan said. “Social media is a great tool, but it also has potentially damaging impacts. “As young people go forward and start a career or enter into relationships their digital reputation stays with them for life. “We want young Gippslanders to have the best start, but if you’ve posted something inappropriate online there’s a chance a prospective employer may have found the post and made a judgement before they’ve even met you. “While we are not saying don’t post comments and images on social media, we are saying think twice before you do.” Mr Ryan said the campaign would involve the launch of a state-wide creative competition; new cyber safety information sheets; and targeted messages on the pitfalls of posting personal information online or sending it to others. “It’s important to draw the line between what you share and what you keep to yourself, because the simple fact is what goes online stays online,” Mr Ryan said.
If you need immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust. **