Today is the last day of 2012 and what a huge year it has been for exposing the intentional hurt and harm that anonymous hate speech has been causing on the internet.

The phenomenon of anonymously and intentionally provoking an emotional response from others has become so common that there is now even a word for people who do this “trolls” and a whole language around it.

There have been zillions of articles on the internet and in the press exposing the atrocities and discussing these issues. Just type the word “troll” in Google and you will get 142,000,000 hits.

This riveting and inspiring TED talk by Anita Sarkeesian is a must watch to gain a deeper understanding. Anita was relentlessly attacked by gangs of anonymous men. The attacks included threats of rape, violence, sexual assault and death. They flooded her social media sites and posted pornographic images. In the talk she provides good insights into the behaviour of these men who called the whole thing a game.

A few weeks ago we posted this must read article Free Speech and Doxing Trolls which talks about Violentacrez who was a particularly prolific and disgusting troll and what happened when his identity was exposed.

SBS Insight aired an unusual show in October where they interviewed some trolls. Unusual because most trolls remain anonymous.

There have also been numerous reports of children committing suicide after being bullied (most anonymously) such as the case of 15 year old Amanda Todd whose bullying even continued after her death when nude autopsy photos leaked online.

A recent Cyberbullying report by KidsHelpline Australia found that 86% of participants between 10 and 16 years old had been impacted by cyberbullying in some way; including self-esteem, friendships, and grades.

In the majority of cases people have been using anonymity to get a thrill out of hurting others. Sometimes they gang up in groups and brag about who has caused the most harm, getting increased recognition and satisfaction with increased abuse, violence and reaction.

Whilst hurting others seems to be the most common agenda, people also use anonymity for other irresponsible and criminal reasons. Sometimes people do it to bring down a competitor, someone whose views they don’t agree with or just like in this case to get an upgrade on a hotel room.

In December 2012 Real Media Real Change held a public conference on cyber-harassment with presentations from a range of caring and professional speakers who donated their time and expertise. They provided us with a lot of practical and heartfelt information which we will be publishing on the RMRC website in the coming weeks.

Cyber-harassment  is an increasing phenomenon that affect us all, whether at school, in the workplace or in the general community. Unfortunately it is not going away of its own accord but appears to be increasing. This indicates that the culture of bullying (whether on or off-line) in our community needs to be addressed more seriously. The particular features of on-line bullying is the anonymity and the 24/7 nature of it.

It is a topic that we all (including government) need to address and take responsibility for. It is certainly a topic that Real Media Real Change will continue to cover in 2013.