Update: 4.15pm The Charlotte Dawson saga has shown how vicious social media can be.
The television personality, who’s a judge on Foxtel Australia’s Next Top Model, was admitted to hospital early on Thursday morning after a row on Twitter escalated into a torrent of abuse.
It has led the national crisis support service Lifeline to question the diligence of social media in monitoring cyber-bullying.
Even the federal coalition has jumped on the bandwagon, calling for changes to laws to better protect people from harassment.
Lifeline spokesman John Mendel said the operators of Twitter and Facebook have as much responsibility for stamping out cyber-bullying as the individuals who write the offensive posts.
Dawson, a New Zealand-born Sydney-based TV performer, was admitted to Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital after being the subject of a continuous tirade of abusive tweets.
Women’s online magazine Mamamia described it as “eight hours of unrelenting abuse” in what was the latest chapter in days of cyber-bullying.
A spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital told News Ltd the 46-year-old star was expected to make a “full recovery” after emergency services were called to her home about 3am on Thursday.
A Foxtel spokeswoman said: “We have spoken with Charlotte’s management and understand she is okay, but needs some peace and rest at this time.”
Mr Mendel said Facebook, Twitter and other social media should shut down pages and posts carrying offensive material.
“In terms of the platforms, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, they do have some degree of responsibility, particular when behaviours become endemic,” he said.
“Everyone has a joint responsibility.
“Individuals themselves, who are victims of cyber-bullying, have the responsibility to report it and it’s incumbent on Facebook and Twitter to shut down those pages or remove posts.”
Australian social media commentator Laurel Papworth also posted her thoughts on Thursday, saying: “Charlotte Dawson has made a career of slagging off all and sundry and using her broadcasting power to bully others, calling critics bogans and scrags.
There’s more to this story than ‘woe is me’. And while I’m sorry that Charlotte Dawson has let this drama affect her (we are responsible for when and how we are offended), I think we need to look a little closer at what happens when we meet trolls online.”
The cyber-bullying of Dawson began when a Melbourne woman, Tanya Heti, tweeted her, saying “on behalf of NZ we would like you to please go hang yourself”.
The Sydney-based TV star had described her native New Zealand as “small, nasty and vindictive”.
Dawson confronted Heti about abusive posts directed at her and a Melbourne follower who had lost her partner to suicide.
That follower admonished Heti for her tweet directed at Dawson.
Heti replied to the Melbourne woman: “if I was your fiance I’d hang myself too gohangyourself.”
After Dawson, who is an ambassador for the Australian anti-bullying program Community Brave, appeared on Nine Network’s A Current Affair on Wednesday night, the cyber-bullying directed at her snowballed.
Twitter “trolls” unleashed more than 100 messages of abuse, many of which included four-letter words in comments such as “neck yourself ... “ and “please put your face in a toaster”.
Mr Mendel said Facebook and Twitter needed to respond to any complaints or moderate their sites in real time, similar to the way problems are handled at online gaming sites.
“They need a 24-hour moderating service to resolve these things as people can get bombarded by this stuff.”
Chairman of the federal coalition’s online safety working group Paul Fletcher told News Ltd the “online hate campaign” against Dawson was “shocking”.“No Australian should ever have to go through something like this,” he said.
Twitter has been contacted for comment regarding its policing of cyber-bullying.
If you are subjected to cyber-bullying, visit beyondblue.org.au or call Lifeline on 131 114.