Complaint fails to silence newspaper criticism of troll page
AN ATTEMPT to have The Gympie Times investigated by the Australian Press Council has been thrown out.
A member of Facebook group Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls asked the council to censure The Gympie Times for its coverage last month of comments which appeared to mock the death of Dolly Everett, a teenager driven to suicide by online bullies.
The paper criticised the "vile language" and posts frequently made on the page.
After the initial article appeared, newspaper staff were subjected to a barrage of threatening, abusive and degrading comments by a small number of the group's members. A fake Facebook profile of editor Shelley Strachan was also set up by a person unknown, and then used to post false comments on her behalf.
Degrading posts about Ms Strachan continue to be made on the group's page this week. Gympie police are investigating.
Three other Gympie businesses have since come forward to report similar experiences.
A Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls member complained to the Press Council in late January that The Gympie Times had "continued a barrage of stories/posts about a local FB group and they have stooped to the level of publicising the names of members in a closed group, along with comments they have made". She believed the comments "would only be seen by other members in a closed group".
Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls has almost 3800 members.
The Press Council said the complainant "expressed worry that more innocuous comments published under the impression of privacy would be published, and asked that the Press Council 'please tell (The Gympie Times) to stop, and offer a public apology to the members which have been named'
"After careful consideration of the complainant's concerns, the Executive Director (of the Press Council) has decided not to refer the complaint for further consideration," the Press Council said.
"In such circumstances, whether or not the users whose comments have been published are 'fake account(s)', a reasonable expectation to privacy is not considered well established nor is a substantial level of harm as it concerns the subject of this article, the reported 'threats, abuse against newspaper staff' which are reportedly the subject of investigation by police.
"General Principles 5 (of ethical journalism) in relation to privacy and General Principle 6 in relation to harm are also balanced against the public interest, here in particular in providing readers with access to reliable information and potentially exposing or preventing crime.
"The complainant has been informed of the outcome and the complaint is now closed."