Charlotte’s Law :: Support for Victims of Trolling and Cyber Bullying

Charlotte’s Law :: Support for Victims of Trolling and Cyber Bullying

This week has been a game-changer in the ‘social sphere. Why? Because this week, a witty and tenacious woman called Charlotte Dawson killed herself. And now, she’s gone.

Well documented was her love/hate relationship with social media and the abuse that it can produce without any provocation. Like tiny, soul wounding spears- comments from social media “trolls” are damaging people. People we know and people we love.

I was sad for Charlotte. Her family and her friends. Her experiences with social media brought to mind something my mother said to me when I first got a mobile phone. “I would have had an horrific time at high school if I knew the bullies could get me at home.”

It makes me feel nothing short of relief that social media wasn’t around when I was in high school. It makes us worry about the fact it’s seeping its way down to kids as young as 10, and they’re being humiliated by it every day. As if adolescence isn’t hard enough. It does leave no one untouched.

I feel so strongly about Charlotte’s story in particular because I’m a community manager. Whilst it sounds like I might round up people at small-town fairs to volunteer for some ‘barn raising’ or the like- I manage social profiles for brands. I’m their voice online.

When you interact with a brand I am responsible for; you’re talking to ME. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Each day, it’s my job to provide community members with content, answers to their questions, and relevant information about the brands/products they’re into.

I also deal with trolls.

Not so affectionately referred to as “keyboard warriors”, I see daily what Charlotte experienced online. Hate inciting, ill-informed, cowardly provocateurs who make it their business to place offensive rubbish in a public arena with the hope of getting a reaction. I have seen it all, and until you’ve played in the rough parts of ‘town social’, it would be hard to reconcile the fact that a few words could seriously have an impact on someone’s health.

I am equipped with guidelines, experience, processes and training to manage people and offensive commentary online. And it still takes a toll. Even if it just puts me in a bad mood for 2 minutes. There’s a definite physiological response to seeing pure bile being thrown about.

I’ve had people ask if a gorgeous baby in a photo was “disabled” and “wearing a wig”. I’ve had people comment on pictures of size 8 models calling them “fat” and “ugly”. One individual threatened a member of my community with sexual violence over a difference of opinion.

I’ve moderated comments calling for all gays to “do their part for evolution and kill themselves”. I have seen an image of a woman, naked and brutally murdered on her kitchen floor. I only wish I was making it up. This is stuff that I work hard to make sure you never see. Stuff that doesn’t belong on the platforms I use or within the communities I manage.

By no means do I ever want to censor the conversation to a point where legitimate feedback and discussion can’t take place? There would be no fun left in the job for me if that were the strategy. I love a good conversation as much as the next person and by no means do I want people to think social media is a place for negative commentary to be “hidden” or “deleted”.

What I do want, however, is to make sure people know moderating content isn’t about censorship. It’s about keeping offensive garbage away from the eyes of people who, for the most part, want to participate and engage with brands in an environment they’ve come to be the most comfortable and familiar with. Social media.

I also want to ensure that the people who instigate this irresponsible and unjustifiable commentary never get near those likely to be hurt the most. People like Charlotte Dawson.

As a community manager and a person, I invite you to sign the Charlotte’s Law petition.

I also implore those who may do or have written something hateful or offensive on social media before to remember this: there is always someone at the other end who is reading what you’ve written, and they’re a person too.”