Snapchat could be bullying headache for managers

The booming use of messaging app Snapchat could cause major headaches for employers as workplace bullies take advantage of its self-destruct selling point.

Snapchat allows its millions of users to send messages, particularly photos or videos, to others but then automatically destroys the messages after they’ve been viewed.

But Seyfarth Shaw lawyers Justine Turnbull and Shomaice Zowghi warn that the app’s biggest selling point – its auto-destruct technology could encourage its use by those behaving badly at work.

“Since it is a platform where content is temporary, it’s easy to imagine its appeal to a person who wants to bully or harass others in the workplace,” they write in a post on the company’s blog.

“It is much harder to collect evidence in relation to conduct occurring on Snapchat – at least, much harder than Instagram, Twitter or Facebook where content can be easily shared and captured.

“Snapchat’s fleeting nature potentially encourages more inappropriate and/or high-risk behaviour and people often deliberately use Snapchat to share photos and videos that they wouldn’t dare to post on Facebook or Instagram.”


The lawyers note that, like all digital content, Snapchat leaves a digital trail an employer wanting to investigate poor behaviour would probably have to convince Snapchat to hand over data, which was “virtually impossible”.

“But where does that leave employers when someone makes allegations of bullying, sexual harassment or discrimination that have occurred in the workplace via Snapchat and no evidence can be collected to prove that the conduct took place?” they write.

“Unfortunately it will probably result in a situation that is all too common in such scenarios – one person’s word against another.”

They recommend companies include Snapchat in their social media policies and suggest that “it may be better to keep Snapchat and work colleagues separate completely”.

Read more.

We’re looking at cyberbullying the wrong way

It has been declared that Twitter has an abuse problem. However, blaming Twitter is a narrow-minded argument and a misunderstanding of the true problem at hand.

By no means is Twitter faultless, as there is certainly room to grow by solidifying a stance between free speech and censorship. This is a difficult process that platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have gone through before, and still are experiencing. No network is immune, and no one has discovered the perfect balance, even if it existed.

A solitary egg that isn't fit for eating.  Unhealthy and likely to be rotten/spoiled.You may also be interested in:

Twitter did not give birth to cyberbullying, nor will they abolish it. Online abuse is omnipresent and not exclusive to one platform over another. It’s a behavior that starts with a mentality, not a platform. Attacking Twitter for its policing or lack thereof does not attack the root of the problem. Even if Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow, online harassment will not expire.

A bully is a bully and a troll is a troll, no matter where you go online. For as long as online mass communication has existed, from the early days of AOL chat rooms, online bullying has existed. So, in order to effectively address the issue of cyberbullying, one must not only question the environments that yield such behaviors, but examine how and why the behavior exists in the first place.

The ability to hide behind not only a screen, and often an unidentifiable name or avatar, unquestionably leaves online harassment to prevail. Whether one’s absolutely anonymous or not, the reduction of faceless communication disallows immediate, raw or physical reactions and consequences.

With this in mind, one possible counteraction to Twitter’s predicament would be to restore the faces from faceless communication. When verification and accountability exists, it can be presumed that harmful behaviors such as abuse and trolling will curb. However, is this a step in the right direction?

Twitter’s problem is very real indeed, but the implications and possible solutions for this platform are apart of a much larger discussion pertaining to all human-connected developments. Going forward, we need to ask which directions we’d first like to head in.  In a context like Twitter’s, do we favor identifiable and culpable communication or anonymous and immune expression… even if that enables trolling and bullying?

Read more.

Can Bots Fight Bullying?

If a teenager gets bullied on social media, it’s usually up to her to report the incident. But one day, an automated tool might spot the harassment, ask her if she needs help, tell a moderator to step in on her behalf or notify her parents.

While rudimentary filters for bad language have existed for years, tech companies and others are experimenting with tools that use machine learning, crunching through huge numbers of online interactions to “train” themselves to identify bullying.


The Google subsidiary Jigsaw has developed a tool called Conversation AI, which uses machine learning to identify harassment. Jigsaw trained the tool with the help of institutions, including The New York Times, which provided 17 million reader comments from The Times’s website along with decisions that moderators had made about whether to accept or reject them. Analyzing comments that moderators had flagged as abusive helped Conversation AI improve.

Mary Aiken, a cyber security expert, proposes a similar approach in her new book “The Cyber Effect.” She hopes to create a database of user-submitted examples of harassment that can be used to develop an anti-bullying tool.

A number of other researchers and companies, including SRI International, which created Siri, have explored machine-learning responses to online harassment in recent years.

These efforts have the potential to change the way social networks and other technology and media companies handle harassment. Bullying is difficult to identify in part because the same phrase can be insulting in one context and affectionate in another, said Norman Winarsky, the former president of SRI’s ventures group. But by analyzing millions or billions of conversations, new tools could begin to identify patterns that distinguish innocent comments from harassment.

While AI tools are likely to improve over time, humans will probably always need to monitor them for accuracy and make the final decision in difficult cases. Companies that use the tools will have to ensure that their users consent to having their interactions monitored by a computer program. Identifying harassment, of course, is only the first step to protecting users of social networks. Just as important is how quickly the companies respond to acts of harassment once their tools spot that behavior.

Read more.

New app deters cyber abuse in schools

A new anti-cyberbullying resource is mitigating risks for schools while giving students fast and anonymous help at their fingertips.

The real time reporting service allows users to get help instantly via administrators who can immediately ask questions and follow up on reported incidents.

The program, called STOPit, was developed in 2014 and allows principals to report inappropriate behaviors, deter unethical or illegal activity, and mitigate financial and reputational risks to schools.

Schools using the service have reported a 50% reduction in the number of incidents.

Brian Luciani, principal of David Brearley Middle and High School, located in the US state of New Jersey, said STOPit had allowed his schools to be proactive in dealing with incidents of harassment and bullying.

“I have seen an 83% decrease in harassment, intimidation and bullying reports submitted to my office since we unrolled this program,” he said.

StopIt managing director, Greg Moss, told The Educator that given the program’s success in schools overseas, he hopes it will soon gain a foothold in Australia, where cyberbullying is rampant.

“I think what is missing from Australian schools is the same thing that was missing from US schools. There are lots of training and educational programs but nothing that actually empowers people to help themselves or help someone else,” he said.

“This missing component is an actionable solution that brings value to all involved [students, schools admins, parents, etc]. Essentially, this is deterrence, management and resolution all in one solution.”

However, Moss said there is not good news when it comes to bullying and cyberbullying statistics in Australia.

“Not only are some of the Australian schools rated the worst in the world for cyber bullying, the schools are potentially open to nasty law suites,” he said.

Read more.

‘Revenge porn’ posters could be jailed for up to 2 years under new laws

Cyber-stalkers and people who post ‘revenge porn’ online to humiliate their current or former partner could face up to two years jail under tougher new laws to be introduced in WA.

The move follows a recommendation from a national senate inquiry held earlier this year that suggested revenge porn be criminalised at a federal and state level.

People who post intimate photos of ex-partners online could face up to two years jail.

People who post intimate photos of ex-partners online could face up to two years jail.

People who post intimate photos of ex-partners online could face up to two years jail.

The new WA penalty forms part of the state government’s proposed restraining orders and family violence bill to protect victims of domestic violence and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Attorney-General Michael Mischin said the proposed changes would empower a court to restrain a person subject to a family violence restraining order from publishing intimate images online.

“On its own, the justice system cannot eliminate family violence. However, we can encourage and support victims of violence in the home while seeking to deter, and punish, those in the community who choose to offend, and that is what this law does,” he said.

“In particular, those who breach the conditions of a FVRO by posting ‘revenge porn’ on the internet or by using technology to stalk the subject of the order online will face serious criminal charges, which could send them to jail for two years.”

The bill also proposes increasing the maximum sentence for the offence of unlawful assault causing death from 10 years to 20 years to help deter ‘one-punch attacks’ and family violence cases where more serious charges cannot be proven due to lack of witnesses.

A person who tries to ‘coerce, control or cause fear’ another person will be considered to have committed an act of ‘family violence’ by definition – expanding the meaning to not just include physical violence.

Mr Mischin said the bill would also strengthen penalties for people who commit a violent act to an unborn child and its mother.

“If a person intentionally causes grievous bodily harm to a pregnant woman which results in the loss of her pregnancy, that person will face up to 20 years’ imprisonment, while a person who causes grievous bodily harm to a woman’s unborn child in other circumstances could be jailed for up to 14 years.”

Read more.

The largest cyberbullying problem you’ve never heard about

It’s the happy-go-lucky group you’d always expect to ‘hold their own’. After all, ‘banter between blokes’ is meant to be shared and enjoyed as ‘harmless fun’. However, new research released today has revealed that the majority of men suffering online abuse feel it’s gone beyond a joke.

While most adults would think of bullying as just a problem confined to school playgrounds, more men are experiencing it again rearing its ugly head, long after leaving school.


In a report carried out by cyber security firm, Norton by Symantec, researchers found more than three quarters (78 percent) of Australian men under 30, and over half (54 percent) of all Australian men, have experienced some form online harassment. With the younger generations, the one’s born with internet that are the victim of most of the abuse. A whopping 78 percent of the men that are harassed are under the age of 30.

The study showed the most common forms of online harassment include abuse and insults (34 percent), trolling or malicious gossip (29 percent), and rumour-spreading (27 percent).

It seems some trolls have no motive, with nearly half of the males suffering abuse (45 percent) being targeted for no specific reason.

That isn’t to say some abuse isn’t directed, the most common reasons men are attacked include social background (12 percent), physical appearance (11 percent), weight (10 percent), as well as race and ethnic background (nine percent).

Although Australia prides itself on being an accepting country, sexual orientation and religion were still common reasons for abuse.

31 percent of males from religious minority groups were attacked because of their faith while 23 percent of men are attacked for their sexual orientation.

If you are being affected by cyber bullying, you are encouraged to report the perpetrator to authorities, or reach out to organisations like beyondblue.

Read more.

Should you teach your children to have compassion for bullies?

My eight-year-old daughter came home from school in tears again. It’s a recurring theme. This time, one of the girls in her class told her she was allergic to her. The day before, the same child told her she had fat legs. And the day before that she shouted at her for touching the mud cakes in the sandpit without getting “permission”.

I have spent years trying to teach my kids to have compassion for others. To think about what you say before you say it, and to think about how your words might make another person feel. But sadly, there are no prizes for kindness in the playground. Now I just want to teach them how to stand up for themselves.

Coping with bullies: "I've decided to teach her how to roll her eyes and shoot condescending looks." Photo: Stocksy

Coping with bullies: “I’ve decided to teach her how to roll her eyes and shoot condescending looks.” Photo: Stocksy

Teaching her compassion might help make her become a better adult, but right now it is doing nothing to help her confidence or self-esteem. When I ask her to consider the bully’s feelings, she feels conflicted and unsupported. She is sad, insecure. She’s withdrawing.

I’ve spoken to the teacher. I’ve spoken to the principal. “We understand,” they say. “We will work with you to sort it out.” To their credit, they have come up with some great ideas to build her confidence and restore her self-esteem. But these aren’t preventative strategies. They are attempts to repair the damage after it has already occurred.

I don’t think the school is doing anything wrong. Because what can they do to control what comes out of eight-year-old mouths? How can they stop eight-year-olds from saying and doing eight-year-old things, which are mean and hurtful to other eight-year-olds? I’m thinking perhaps it’s time I teach my daughter how to play the game. Just so that it’s an equal playing field.

It’s a fine line, teaching our children how to be empathetic, while teaching them to stand up for themselves. Empathy and resilience are difficult to teach concurrently. If a child has to show the bully they are not scared of them, doesn’t that mean throwing back at the bully a little bit of what they are dishing out? Doesn’t that risk my child behaving like a bully herself?

I know I cannot shelter my daughter from the hurtful words or actions of others, and that people are not going to stop being mean when they graduate from high school. So along with compassion, I somehow have to teach resilience, for all the times she will come up against the nastiness. And she will come up against it, repeatedly across her life.

So I’ve decided to teach her how to roll her eyes and shoot condescending looks. I will teach her how to be dismissive, and to laugh off other people’s words. Things I have been purposely avoiding in my attempt to raise kind children. I will teach her to protect herself, and if it means there is some collateral damage, well, so be it.

What I won’t do is teach her to spit, hit or fight. I will continue to encourage kindness. But I will do what it takes to protect her, including toughening her up. Because I am not willing to teach either my kids or the bullies that their behaviour goes unnoticed, nor am I willing to risk either party thinking that the bullies are going to get away with it.

Read more.

Mitigating the legal risks of schoolyard bullying

Schools are facing new challenges when dealing with parental complaints about bullying with some parents retaliating against schools by refusing to pay school fees.

In May, the parents of a student at Wesley College in Western Australia refused to pay nearly $43,000 in school fees, claiming the school failed to protect their son from repeated bullying by his peers.

In that case, the parents alleged that their son was ridiculed and called names in front of Wesley College staff, who took no action to intervene. The parents also claimed their son was bullied on school outings and at school camps in the presence of College representatives.

When the parents found out about the bullying, they withdrew him from the school, but refused to pay outstanding fees. Wesley College responded by bringing bankruptcy proceedings against the family, seeking the amount of the unpaid school fees.

Paul O’Halloran, partner at FCB Workplace Law in Melbourne told The Educator that the approach taken by the parents in the Wesley College matter was “a novel one”.

“The parents defended the bankruptcy proceedings by arguing the College had fundamentally breached its contract to educate their child by failing to protect him from bullying, which limited his career prospects,” O’Halloran explained.

“Ultimately, the parents failed to convince the District Court of Western Australia that they had a legitimate case, with the Court finding an education free of bullying was not an essential or a fundamental term of the contract between the College and the child, because the child did receive some form of an education, despite the bullying.”

The parents lost their appeal to the Federal Court of Australia in March this year.

Paul O’Halloran said “the Wesley College decision demonstrates that, at least for now, parents cannot refuse to pay school fees simply because their child is a victim of school yard bullying, because in most cases, the child will have received some form of education, despite the bullying”.

However, he warned that this sort of defence by parents is likely to re-surface again.

While schools cannot guarantee that bullying of students will never occur, O’Halloran recommends that school principals guard against the risks of bullying and the complications it may cause to fee recovery by taking the following steps:

• If a school becomes aware that a student is being bullied, as a result of a complaint, or by direct observation, the school should intervene in order to meet its duty of care;

• Schools should ensure regular training is provided to staff on the school’s duty of care to protect students from bullying by peers;

• Bullying prevention policies should be developed collaboratively with staff, students, parents and the wider school community, all of whom should receive information and where applicable, training in relation to the content of the policy;

• Review application for admission forms to ensure they protect schools against legal risks relating to fee recovery and bullying conduct;

• Review representations made in publications, enrolment and admission documents and/or on school websites to ensure promissory statements are not made about the school environment that in reality cannot be guaranteed, such as “a bullying free environment”.

Read more.

Tips to build an anti workplace bullying culture.

We continually read about claims from victims of bullying in their workplace, or whistleblowers who report oppressive workplace cultures that condone bullying and discrimination.

Bullying alive and unwell

Not everyone is sure of what constitutes bullying, sometimes being too quick or slow to label behaviours that ultimately pose health and safety risks, costing companies millions every year through lost productivity. It’s essential in the first instance to know that workplace bullying is a clear sign of incompetent management.

The problem with three wise monkeys

It’s amazing how many companies (and institutions) have a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying, yet resemble the three wise monkeys. The monkeys could “see no evil, hear no evil” and they certainly spoke “no evil”. In companies where bullying occurs, this really constitutes the bulk of the problem.

Here’s three steps to build an anti-bullying culture at work.

1. See what’s going on and recognise bullying

Bullying is fairly easy to recognise as it constitutes repeated harassment (physical or psychological), exclusion, and setting unreasonable expectations and parameters (so that a person will fail). In the recent horror story concerning the traumatising of a 16-year-old apprentice, the manager unconscionably allowed his workers to bully the youth, and indeed joined in. The company copped a fine, but the youth may be experiencing severe psychological damage that could last many years. It is bad enough when management looks the other way, but jumping in for good measure takes workplace bullying to new lows.

2. Listen for patterns of bullying

If hurt is perceived, then it’s been received; though granted, things can get lost in translation. There’s no mistaking a pack in action – they’re in lynch-mode, chiming in, converging on (usually) one or a minority of people. It’s fairly easily spotted in cyber-bullying – the stridency of people’s interactions can’t be missed – but may be less obvious when (for example) a performance review is being conducted between two people. A recent survey of law firms found that the bulk of complaints about bullying arose from performance reviews that consisted of supervisors’ blunt or tactless assessments.

3. Speak up if you are aware of a bullying

Bystanders are often reluctant to verbally wade in when a bully is having a go at someone. It takes courage to defend an outsider / victim but silence may be construed as condoning the practice. It is noticeable when nothing is said. Moreover, it’s no good having some employees or management chortling over “political correctness” (while reserving the right to be judgmental themselves) or defending the need for “robust” discussions or unsolicited comments when others are continually experiencing offence or hurt.

Tips for less assertive staff to improve their emotional boundaries

Don’t put yourself down; instead recognise your own worth.

Don’t give in all the time; instead be assertive and proud.

Don’t lapse into negativity; instead move forward by caring for yourself.

Don’t stop learning and developing; instead unlock your potential.

Tips for those with domineering personalities

Don’t block self-awareness; instead understand your feelings and biases.

Don’t be moody or over-react; instead manage your emotions.

Don’t be insensitive; instead care about how others feel.

Don’t withdraw; instead communicate and connect with people.

Don’t be someone protesting the “right” not to “tread on eggshells” with staff; instead handle the eggs with care. Accountabilities need to be clearly in place for all to see, but also the expectations of a civil and civilised environment for people to carry out their work, feeling valued and safe.

Read more.

Trolls encourage kids to kill themselves

STUDENTS at northern beaches schools have been caught urging fellow students to kill themselves on social media.

Leonie Smith, who runs the Cyber Safety Lady business, said online bullying was on the increase and kids thought up the most horrific things they could say to each other without realising the tragic consequences.

“Kids are saying things like, ‘go kill yourself’ and ‘you should go and die’,” said Ms Smith, adding that police were increasingly having to deal with social media disputes in schools.

Generic picture of child on social media

She warned this type of behaviour was a “matter of life and death”.

“Some may be able to cope with that kind of abuse if they have strong support around them and the right constitution,” said Ms Smith. “But if not, it could lead to another Charlotte Dawson.”

Ms Dawson, a TV personality, killed herself after a history of online battles with trolls, a name given to people who abuse others online.

Ms Smith said while social media was a part of everyone’s lives now, online bullying was a growing issue in schools.

She said it was important parents educated themselves so they were better able to deal with what happens on social media.

Ms Smith said there were many strategies parents could put in place to help prevent online bullying and nip it in the bud if it happened to their child.

Youth liaison officer Senior Constable Robyn Jennings said police were often asked to come into schools to talk to children about online safety and etiquette, and give about two to four talks a week to children as young as eight. She warned children may not be aware they could be breaking the law with some of the things they write on social media.

Cyber Safety Lady’s next free talk for parents is on September 6, 7-8.30pm, at Barrenjoey High, Tasman Rd, Avalon Beach.

If you have a problem, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Tips to fight trolls:

■Accept social media is part of your child’s life and get educated

■Try and be in earshot or eyeshot of your child while they’re on social media and see how they’re reacting

■Encourage them to tell you if they are concerned about what’s happening online

■Make sure you get a screenshot of any nasty comments for evidence

■If it’s someone you don’t know block them

■It’s not always best to block someone you know, it can lead to others joining in

■Tell a teacher if it involves children at school

■If you don’t get the response you need keep taking the issue higher

■Contact police for advice

 Don’t react to abusive comments, trolls love drama

Read more.