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OPINION: What or what isn't private online?

THE piece on the comments members of a local Facebook group made regarding the suicide of teenager Dolly Everett, and it's accompanying opinion piece, have created an impassioned debate on The Gympie Times Facebook.

The Gympie Times was contacted by a member of the group featured in the story, disgusted with - as they described it - a number of posts relating to Ms Everett. Screenshots of said conversation were sent alongside the initial message and formed the basis of the accompanying article.

Attempts were made to contact the group's administrators and one of the group members featured in the screenshots for information or comment. They were unsuccessful.

The article highlighted the potential impact those types of comments, on groups public or private, could have on people who were struggling with their own issues.

That didn't really happen though, with the conversation dominated by which group the screenshots in question came from, how The Gympie Times had breached the privacy of a group with nearly 4,000 members, the potential impact the story would have on Dolly Everett's family and how The Gympie Times had destroyed the reputation of the community after the story was picked up by the Daily Mail.

On the first point, there was considerable debate as to which group the comments were posted in - Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls or the Gympie Information and Advice group. Both are immensely popular, with the latter having over 13,000 members.

In the interests of full disclosure, here are a number of uncropped screenshots we were sent - with names and coarse language blurred.

Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times.
Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times. Contributed

We used these comments in the aforementioned story.

Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times.
Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times. Contributed

They appear to have been posted to Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls.

Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times.
Screenshots provided to the Gympie Times. Contributed

The next question is where does the paper stand in reporting online matters? What's considered private any more?

Facebook continues to be a major presence in most people's lives, with the boundaries between what is real and what is digital becoming increasingly blurred.

Harassment, trolling and cyberbullying are a scourge on our society, and the impacts can be life-changing and devastating, just ask the Everetts.

Any reasonable expectation of privacy on a group with 3,800 members that anybody can apply to join is ludicrous.

Hypothetically, what if somebody on that group, struggling with suicidal thoughts had seen those posts making fun of a dead teenage girl? How would they have felt? How would anybody feel?

After all, anybody can take a screenshot nowadays.

The story showed an viciously ugly aspect of how we talk online that left many unhappy - upset that a newspaper covered it instead of reflecting on our own behaviour and what comments like this says about our society and how we act on the internet.

There is no barrier any more, what you type has the power to inflict harm - it's the same thing as hurling a stone at somebody. What you type is real.

As for the point about Gympie's reputation being ruined by the post, a number of commenters have helpfully pointed out that a large number of members aren't even from the Gympie area.

Anyone who takes it as a reflection on the wonderful people of Gympie as a whole is either naive, wilfully ignorant or seriously misguided.

For the numerous people who have gotten into contact with us to complain about our moral bankruptcy, we'd like to direct you to the Gympie Whinge, Vent and Trolls page where you can offload any comments you see fit.

 

yeah cheers, thanks guys.
yeah cheers, thanks guys. Contributed

We thought this was pretty funny too.

If you, or anyone you know is seeking support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Gympie Times


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