While we love it for Pinterest, sweet DIY tutorials and all the digital time wasters one can click on and get lost in, the Internet can be a not-so-happy place too. We’re all too familiar with the damage that can be done by Internet trolls, and one country has finally had enough. New Zealand recently passed a law that makes menacing digital communications a crime. It polices against messages to people that are, according to Engadget, “racist, sexist, critical of their religion, sexuality or disability.” Go, NZ!
While that may sound harsh, it’s not. In the US, online harassment is an epidemic. According to one US study published last month in the JAMA Pediatrics Medical Journal, 23 percent of young people have reported being the victims of cyber bullying — that is nearly one in four teens. Cyber bullying has been linked to suicidal thoughts and suicide, and recently, even Facebook has stepped in to help with their suicide prevention feature meant to prevent bullying. Online harassment isn’t limited to school children, either. Revenge porn made headlines again last month when Google announced they would be removing these types of sites from their search. Revenge porn sites feature nude images uploaded maliciously and without consent, and sadly, women make up 95 percent of the victims. While Google’s announcement was a huge win, we really shouldn’t just rely on individual companies to do the right thing.
While there are some cyber stalking federal laws in the US in place, these laws are still very limited, and they don’t charge a person with a pattern of harassment that is absent of threat. And sure, individual states also have some form of cyber harassment or cyber stalking legislation in place, but it’s piecemeal and not as comprehensive as the law that New Zealand recently passed. So, hey, America, maybe we should take a page from New Zealand’s book and do something about that?
(h/t Engadget, photos via Matt Cardy/Getty + Sean Gallup/Getty)