As technology progresses, so do the creative uses for platforms and tools accessible to the public. Although often designed for social enjoyment and connection, more often we are seeing these tools used as a weapon for harassment – especially for those in the public eye, who are already subject to negative commentary.
This is exactly the case with Bronco’s ex-coach, Anthony Seibold, who was recently the target of an organised personal cyber-attack, currently under investigation. Already in the public eye in relation to his high-paid role, recent reports identify the attack as a calculated move by contacts close to the coach.
In this instance, Seibold took the correct precautions in alerting the club and authorities – a decision that can daunt people due to the emotional and financial toll. Often deterring many Australians from taking this route. In addition to appropriate legal action, which in this case was supported by the club, there are proactive considerations to ensure instances of harassment are responded to in the correct way.
First and foremost, we need to push for legislation governing online behaviour to fall in line with what we all understand and accept in relation to our offline behaviour. We grow up knowing that we can’t walk down the street and assault someone or that it’s not acceptable to bully other kids in the playground yet for some reason a percentage of the population think its acceptable to act in this manner online.
Second, we need to increase our investment in education initiatives around acceptable online behaviour. And not just for kids either. Plenty of adults need to be educated on what constitutes acceptable online behaviour. For some reason, often adults think it’s perfectly acceptable to bully other people online, yet they would never think of doing this face to face.
So, whilst enhancing legislation and education are very important steps, perhaps the most important step is creating an environment where people feel safe and supported to speak up. Whether this be in the playground at school, at their work or online.
All organisation’s need to recognise the importance of creating safe speak up environments so they can get early visibility before they become larger issues, just like the Seibold case has become. This applies to our education system and our workplaces. A lot of Core Integrity’s current work with our corporate and sporting clients is focused on creating opportunities for their people to speak up safely whilst building capability within the organisation to respond to those issues in the right way.
Credit must go to Anthony Seibold in standing up for himself, and to a lesser extent to the Brisbane Broncos for supporting him through what can only be described as a hellish period. It’s rare that we see people stand up and take action against cyber-bullying and defamation that occurs online.
Inflammatory online commentary and defamatory comments can have huge impacts on one’s mental health and reputation. We see the damage that cyber-bullying can do to children and now we are seeing it take a toll on our high-profile business, sports and media personalities.
Whilst it can be difficult, we need to encourage and support those who do take a stand so we can make it easier for others to follow suit. It’s only by coming together as a society and supporting one another that we can hope to drive positive and lasting change. Importantly its time we all rallied to push for harsher criminal penalties for those found guilty of cyber-bullying.
The bravery to stand up and identify instances of poor behaviour is tremendously difficult, and something Seibold had the courage to do. I know firsthand from the work we do across Australia’s most recognised sporting organisations, the high standard and pressure that comes with those playing and working in those codes.
When we work with any organisation we take a holistic approach to identify ways to help them proactively and reactively, but also to build capability within the organisation so they are equipped to deal with the wide range of issues that arise.