Talking internet trolls on ABC TV Lateline

Screenshot of Stilgherrian on Lateline: click for video and transcriptLast week Collective Shout activist and campaigns manager Caitlin Roper told her story of the horrific misogynist abuse she’d received online, and what can most politely be called a disappointing response from the police.

I reluctantly went to the police station, already knowing that threats against women online are not regarded as a priority. “Why don’t you just close down your account?” asked the officer taking my statement.

I explained how I used Twitter in the course of my work for a non-profit organisation. She pressed further — “but why do you need to use it?” — as if it was somehow unreasonable for me to believe I had as much right as anyone to access social media without threats

Another colleague went to the police after one man described how he intended to mutilate her body and dissolve it in acid. The police officer suggested that the internet was “not a very nice place”, and maybe she should stay off it.

Last night, ABC TV’s Lateline did a follow-up story, the reported being John Stewart, and I provided a few comments.

It’s interesting that the one piece they used was about the internet putting everyone right next to everyone else:

It’s simply that within the past people were in communities, that were mostly made up of people like them or people they grew up with. If there was a violent part of town or a red-light district or whatever it might be, and you didn’t want to go there or you didn’t want to know about it, well you just didn’t go there. The problem is now on the internet all of that is right next to you as well and people are shocked by this. They’re suddenly discovering that there are people not like them. They have different attitudes to women, different attitudes to acceptable language, to religion, to class, to sporting teams, to clothing as we’ve seen in the media lately. Everything.

I also said that thanks to the internet, we are now building a global society, and yet policing is organised on a regional or even local basis.

While these women, and so many others, have experienced appalling abuse, in most cases there’s no credible threat. Even if the police cranked up the mechanisms of transnational police cooperation, there’d be little chance of a prosecution leading to a conviction. Their lack of follow-up reflects that unfortunate reality, as well as many police officers’ unfamiliarity with online life.

I daresay I’ll have further thoughts in this, because this story certainly isn’t going away.

Yes, I know they spelt my name wrong. Yes, I know they said “social media commentator”.

Talking about freelancing and globalisation in Katoomba

Monday night’s discussion about freelancing in a globalised marketplace went rather well, I think, so I’ve decided to post the full audio.

The event was organised by Publish! Blue Mountains, and as I said previously the title was “Surviving and thriving as a freelancer in a globalised market”.

Radical changes will hit a freelancer’s world over the next two years or so as we move to a globalised marketplace. Firstly there is the rapid rise of internet-enabled outsourcing through sites like, allowing projects to be advertised globally and often awarded to the lowest bidder who may be in a country where $10 is a decent day’s wage.

Secondly, increasingly sophisticated and intelligent automated systems are now taking over many tasks that historically required human creative input. Just in the writing field alone, we already have US college sports coverage written completely by computer.

Where will this technology (and the marketplace driving it) take us? And what can we creatives do to ensure we’re not replaced by cut-price doppelgangers and robo-scribes?

Naturally things like and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (named after the original chess-playing robot hoax) and even 99designs came up.

We also drifted into the idea that Australians are the most spoiled people on the planet and we’re too used to our expensive lifestyles. Yet we also recognised that the Australian character provides something that’s worth paying for. And I threw in the idea that we shouldn’t try to imitate Silicon Valley because that was a unique collision of US defence money with Californian counterculture.

Other things mentioned were Seth Godin’s book Linchpin (others recommended him, but truth be told I’m not a fan myself), and my rant about crowdsourcing.

While some of it sounded a tad depressing, I think it ended up being quite positive. Either way, it was fun.

Here’s the full audio, starting off with the voice of Publish! Blue Mountains chairman Steve Krinks.

If you notice anything particularly fascinating while listening, do feel free to add it into the comments.

This audio is ©2012 Stilgherrian, since I recorded it and, heck, I led the discussion. But if you want to use this anywhere do feel free to ask because I’m usually quite generous in such matters.