A Sydney woman with cancer has been traumatised after she was on the receiving end of horrifying comments online when she looked for help saving an injured ibis.
Chelsea Campbell, who has stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma, spotted the bird with a badly-damaged wing “in distress” on the train tracks in Miranda, in the city’s south, on Wednesday afternoon.
The 21-year-old immediately contacted NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) staff who contacted Sydney Trains to help rescue the bird, which was positioned in a puddle near a locked gate.
Yet when they were informed there was no immediate action that could be taken, Ms Campbell went in search for help online.
Taking to a local Facebook community page, she revealed her annoyance at the lack of action over the suffering ibis.
But she was left horrified at the response of those within the group.
“Basically the response I got was, ‘Is she kidding?’,” Ms Campbell told Yahoo News Australia.
She said she was ridiculed for trying to help a bird such as the ibis, which is often referred to as a ‘bin chicken’ – a derogatory name given due to its developed habit of feeding from waste.
“Quite a few saying I was naive to think Sydney Trains would stop trains to help,” Ms Campbell said.
‘Some really nasty people’
The comments only worsened and “some really nasty people” began to browse the photos of Ms Campbell without hair due to her cancer treatment, she said.
“They said that ‘you look like an ibis yourself’,” the 21-year-old revealed.
She claimed one of the comments read: “Go kill yourself.”
After the post was quickly inundated with more than 50 comments, it was removed by the Facebook group’s admins due to the escalating abuse.
A devastated Ms Campbell, who suffers from depression and anxiety, contacted her family over the comments, who have slammed the actions of the online trolls.
Her aunt, Sam Ward, took to the group to condemn the behaviour of a handful of trolls.
“I am absolutely disgusted in some of the comments made on here to my niece the other day when she made a post asking for help to save an Ibis,” she wrote.
“How would any of you feel if your son, daughter brother, sister, mum, dad was told to go ‘kill themselves’ when asking for help?!?! (sic)”
Ms Ward told Yahoo News Australia those responsible “should be ashamed” of their actions.
“They have no right to judge others for any reason,” she said.
Despite the comments, Ms Campbell continued to update WIRES on the ibis’ condition throughout the evening until it was eventually recovered about 9.30pm by “amazing” rescuers from the organisation.
Ms Campbell said the comments had made her “extremely upset” and was shocked “so many people could be so cruel”.
Expert’s warning on social media activity
Cyber safety expert Susan McLean told Yahoo News Australia those who make threatening and abusive comments need to be held accountable.
“It’s a sad reflection on society that people will tell another to go kill themselves online,” she said.
“This is not a technology issue, it’s a societal issue. People are believing it’s acceptable to harm others.”
Ms McLean said it was “terribly distressing” that people targeted online would consider taking their own lives from such abuse.
She said those who made the posts should be held accountable for their actions, which can be prosecuted through a series of cyber bullying laws.
The cyber safety expert said page administrators in sizeable groups were also responsible for the well-being of its members.
“We’ve got to hold page administrators to account and the general public to account,” she said.
Ms McLean encouraged those who are bullied or on the receiving end of threatening messages to contact authorities.
“We need people to go to the police and to take this seriously,” she said.
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