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Home » Media Matters » The late #Charlotte Dawson, Twitter and easy anonymity on the internet.

The late #Charlotte Dawson, Twitter and easy anonymity on the internet.

TV personality Charlotte Dawson, who was found dead in her home in inner Sydney on Saturday. Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage

TV personality Charlotte Dawson, who was found dead in her home in inner Sydney on Saturday. Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage

Ah be prepared for another large outpouring of “grief” for the death of another “celebrity” and the scions of our own media go into overdrive to praise Charlotte Dawson who committed suicide in Sydney on Saturday . I have been quietly watching this story unfold and examining the reactions from the social media . Especially interesting has been the attribution of blame to those shining lights of humanity who populate the nameless denizens  of Twitter. Apparently Dawson was seriously addicted to arguing with them and subject to some rather nasty taunting and suggestions that she should kill herself. Now its probably impossible to quantify just how much this sort of online cruelty influenced that fatal appointment with a rope but given the revelations that Dawson’s whole life and career was in some sort of meltdown and her underlying depression  I tend to think that such a suggestion is rather too simplistic.  None the less there has been quite a few commentators to the news story suggesting (quite correctly IMHO) that easy anonymity is a great contributor to the meanness, cruelty  and level of rancour shown to Dawson in her social media immersion.

At the very least there is a good argument that Twitter and all social media should be required to know who it is that is signing up for access to their service so that those who are using it as a medium for harassment or pernicious cruelty can be both traceable and accountable. Of course there will be those who will make the counter argument that ” the internet” should be free and that there is no need for any accountability beyond the disdain/disapproval  of other users. From my experience this is a nonsense especially in something as ephemeral as Twitter, even more so when those who misuse social media just keep reinventing themselves if it becomes untenable to continue with one particular online identity.  More and more as the boundary between our online and “In Real Life” existence become ever more blurred and merged the more we have to extend the accountability that we have in the real world to our existence online and the sooner that this is achieved the better all of our lives will be.

With respect Comrades



  1. Iain Hall says:

    Gerald i have been running and moderating this blog for eight years and I and rather certain that your citation is wrong.

  2. Ray Dixon says:

    Good post, Iain. I agree that Dawson had bigger problems than Twitter but who knows what impact the trolls really had on her self esteem? It wouldn’t have helped. As the article you link to says:

    On the internet, they’re known as trolls. But let’s name them for what they really are – bullies, plain and simple.
    These cowards lurk in the shadows of the online world, using false names to spread their messages of hate.
    Their attacks can be vicious, intensely personal and, with the growth of social media like Twitter and Facebook, dangerous as well.

    So true. As for “Gerald’s” link, citing a nearly decade old example in Sth Korea just doesn’t cut it. Anonymous online trolling has escalated many times over (exponentially) since then. Besides, the article actually kicks an own goal and proves that banning total anonymity works, by concluding thus:

    Given that the Commission estimates that only 13% of comments are malicious, a mere 30% reduction only seems to clean up the muddied waters of comment systems a depressingly negligent amount.

    Huh? 30% of 13% is about 4% – which is a lot of abusive trolling. One in 25 is a high number, not a “negligent” one.

  3. Richard Ryan says:

    Iain, email I sent off to the Sunday Telegraph this morning. Is self murder a crime? “Suicide is an act of narcissistic manipulation and deep hostility” —-Germaine Greer. Now ye lot of wordsmiths down there at the Telegraph, stop those “cash for comment eulogies” wipe away those fake tears, and get back to work. Shalom, Richard Ryan. Iain, this lot of professional mourners on the Sunday Telegraph this morning just gave me the shits, I mean they just went on and on—-I mean I had to go and see a good Aussie movie today to clear my mind, Wolf Creek 2. Fantastic movie GD would love it..

  4. Richard Ryan says:

    Dawson was good at dishing it out to others on TV, I shed no tears for this self- murderer. Did she put her suicide on twitter?–just asking.

  5. Richard Ryan says:

    Was the rope Australian made? I hope so.

  6. GD says:

    I tend to agree with you, Richard, she was a coward. With all the money she was earning, her ‘struggle’, as opposed to the multitudes of depressed poor people or homeless people, was self-indulgent. Get a grip. Unfortunately she didn’t.

  7. richard ryan says:

    The Daily Telegraph Monday 24th. Feb. Exclusive: Charlotte’s lament for Miller in final hours. F.F.S.—can you let her rest R.I.P.

  8. Iain Hall says:

    She described cyber bullying as ”easy bullying” that was becoming more common due to its anonymity.

    ”Yes, governments have a role, but so do major social media sites. Facebook have been active in this area. There’s lots more work that people like Twitter need to do,” she said. Ms Carnell also urged the public to act and make a complaint when they saw cyber bullying. ”Whether it’s a mate or yourself, it’s really important not to do nothing.”

    The federal scheme for social media complaints has been criticised because it is voluntary, with no sanctions against international companies.

    The Abbott government is considering a legally binding scheme with civil penalties, and has proposed a simplified cyber bullying offence that will make prosecution of trolls easier.

    from here

  9. Simon says:

    I popped in to hopefully see some like-minded opinion and haven’t been disappointed. For a moment I thought I was being overly cold and heartless.

    Yes, it’s a tragedy whenever our mental demons that we all struggle with to lesser or more extent finally win out in a low moment away from the help and support of loved ones and friends and someone takes their own life. Often one that we’re left shaking our heads in disbelief at the potential lost. We’ve all known people who have ‘decided’ to punch-out at possibly a preselected moment much to our surprise and grief but one thing is for sure: Twitter did not kill Charlotte Dawson, she did it herself.

    An unpopular view. One that if I was to share on my own twitter account I might expect some less than polite replies. And yes trolling and bullying and the need to cut tall poppies down to size is a story long older than the internet.

    Really the focus should be on depression and seeking help, and should the culture of media and community silence end.

  10. Iain Hall says:

    Thanks for your comment Simon, like a lot of people i have had people that were part of my life both attempt and succeed in suicide. Likewise I am familiar with the problems of mental illness, its a familiarity that has made me totally lose any tendency to romanticize either.

  11. GD says:

    like a lot of people i have had people that were part of my life both attempt and succeed in suicide

    Iain, I unfortunately have also had three friends/colleagues who have chosen the easy and final way out.

    This is not the fault of Twitter. There will always be a Twitter or other triggers. The sadness is that the person doesn’t feel able to reach out to those close to them or even reach out to those they only know in passing. A word here or there could completely turn the situation around for the suffering person.

    In the case of my three friends, I only wish a phone call had been made, to me, or to my friends or colleagues.

    One word could perhaps have turned things around for the young drummer suffering who knows what turmoil. I roomed with the guy. I toured with the guy. I even ironed his shirts on his first trip out of town. He had everything going for him. He was talented and well connected, his Dad was a top session drummer, yet he felt disconnected. If only he’d rung me.

    Another colleague, a cellist, felt like a failure at 40. He’d failed the SSO audition. He didn’t turn up for our gig. He’d hung himself the day after the audition.

    Why didn’t he ring one of us?

  12. Iain Hall says:

    Its two people in my life, I could not save my friend who had a rather serious brush with the law, spent time in prison, skipped bail to NZ and then felt that his life was utterly empty. I had moved on to be an adult student and I blamed myself for quite a while as your comment suggests, you know the what if stuff. The sadist irony was that he hated his father more than anything but now they both share the same grave. The other person in my life I managed to save form the pills, twice and it took ages but they have come through the other side, have found a reason to live. You win some and some you don’t. From this experience I have learned two things, firstly to have utter disdain for the posers who threaten self harm or deliberately do it for attention or political leverage (think lip sewing “asylum seekers” here) and I have similar contempt for all of those who want to beatify those who suicide.

  13. richard ryan says:

    If Dawson was a sex-worker or drug addict who took her life—–we would not have heard a word of it—-but she was a media worker, so what may you say? prostitution and journalism like peas in a pod.

  14. Brett Rossi says:

    Is it ok if I tweet about this post?

  15. Ray Dixon says:

    I hope France has the same take away food franchises we do – because the burqas are better at Hungry Jacks.

    (I learnt that one from GD)

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