Internet Trolls can be Prosecuted Under Australian Law

by The FindLaw Team

The perceived anonymity of the internet makes some users behave in a manner they normally wouldn’t in person, which may be a mistake because an individual’s online actions may have real world consequences. Australia’s first conviction of an internet “troll” who defaced a social network tribute site should be a warning that there are laws that exist to counter bad online behaviour.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code Act (the Criminal Code) Part 10.6 can be used to prosecute individuals who are “trolls”.

What is an internet “troll’?

Internet trolls aren’t loveable creatures with crazy bright coloured hair but rather are individuals who engage in online behaviour that is provocative and offensive, with the ultimate goal of garnering some sort of online attention. Arguably, the most common example of trolling behaviour is posting offensive comments in response to a post or article. However, the explosion of the popularity of social networking sites has seen an increase in trolling behaviour – leading to the imprisonment of the first Australian for being a “troll”.

What are the laws that regulate “trolls”?

The Criminal Code Part 10.6 regulates internet services and some of the areas that the Part encompasses are child abuse material, child pornography, as well as using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause an offence to the reasonable person as stated in Part 10.6, Division 474.17(1).

There are laws at state level that also be used to prohibit offensive online behaviour, such as Queensland’s Criminal Code, as well as the Crimes Act in both New South Wales and Victoria.

Are there any options to stop “trolls” in Australia?

Depending on what type of trolling behaviour was undertaken, there can be a few options available. If an individual believes that they have been defamed, seek legal advice. However, if the trolling behaviour has included content that would normally be refused classification, or classified as X 18+ or R 18+ a complaint can be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) who can investigate complaints relating to prohibited material.


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