Monday, September 17, 2012

Can internet "trolls" be regulated?

I have copped plenty of abuse online but I just regard it as an amusing comment on the inadequacy of the abuser.  Why DO people take the stuff seriously?  Maybe if you've got a weak ego ....

I do answer abuse with abuse sometimes but mostly I ignore it and that is the last I hear of it

Threats of physical harm are quite a different matter from abuse,  however.  Most threats  are probably empty but all should be prosecuted in my view, as doing so could prevent  real harm -- JR

"Trolling is extremely fun," explained one, identified to the Herald only as Apples212.  "I've been trolling my whole life, ever since I can remember. It's extremely relaxing, as all you really have to do is put the 'bait' out there, sit back and wait for someone to bite. I do it because it's fun, and sometimes it's necessary.

"Trolling always makes me feel calm and relaxed, it is one of the best feelings I've ever done [sic]."

The use of the word "troll" for those stirring up trouble in cyberspace goes back nearly 20 years, and was originally derived from the fishing term for trailing bait from a line.

In recent weeks it has been all over the mainstream media, courtesy of much-publicised Twitter attacks on the minor celebrity Charlotte Dawson, and the rugby league footballer and Wests Tigers captain, Robbie Farah.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, rushed to Farah's defence, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney sallied forth with a front-page declaration of war against trolls, and the federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, declared a temporary cessation of hostilities with News Limited, the Telegraph's parent company, to congratulate the paper on its "worthwhile initiative".

Roxon promised to consult with state colleagues to see "what other action, if any, can be taken to improve the law in this area".

But lawyers, social media experts, ethicists and even the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, agree that trying to formulate, and then apply, new black-and-white law in this area is almost certainly doomed to fail.

"If you regulate for specific technologies, different ones will proliferate and your technologically specific policy or legislation will be useless," says associate professor David Rolph, a media law specialist at the University of Sydney.

Rolph and others point out that laws against racial vilification, defamation, harassment or menacing behaviour already exist and could be invoked by those willing to take civil action or press for prosecution. But in practice those laws are not well suited to social media and their application in cyberspace has been little-tested in the courts.

One recent exception is a case in Victoria earlier this year, where Michael Trkulja successfully sued Yahoo!7 for defamation and won himself nearly $250,000, after arguing that the search engine was linking his name unfairly with the Melbourne underworld.

More here

Social media on trial over racism

Socialism has been at least as deadly as racism (See Stalin, Mao etc.).  Why not ban socialism too?

AUSTRALIA'S Race Discrimination Commissioner wants an urgent national summit to address the harm being caused by hateful and racist comments on internet blogs and social media sites.

"I'm quite upset by what has been happening in the past three weeks," Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said yesterday after complaints prompted Facebook on Friday to restrict Australian access to a new page called 'Are Abos Scum?'

A Facebook spokeswoman said while it did not share the distasteful views, and the page did not violate the company's terms, local access had been restricted "out of respect for local laws".

Ms Szoke said she also was disturbed by "really horrific" online anti-Jewish pages.

She said the problem of hateful online meme pages seemed to be getting out of hand and she would take "a more direct approach" to the problem next week.

"This has now reached a point where we really have to look seriously at what the full options of management of this issue might be and I think it's a multiple approach," she said.

Last night Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said Facebook and YouTube could not disclaim all responsibility for the way their platforms were used.

He said there needed to be a multi-faceted effort by governments, the media and internet service providers to deal with racist material on the internet.


Many aspiring teachers are dummies

STUDENTS who struggle with reading, writing and arithmetic are being accepted into university courses to train to become teachers.

A national scorecard has revealed students with university admission ranks well below 50 - low by Australian standards - are gaining entry to teaching courses.

The Good Universities Guide says the standard ranges from as high as 90 for entry into Sydney University to as low as 46.5 for the Melbourne Institute of Technology.

In Queensland, teacher admission ranks range from 56 at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane to 77.75 in order to enter a primary school teaching course at the University of Queensland.

But some students are gaining entry with even lower scores under special entry schemes that offer "bonus points" for disadvantage, such as living in regional areas.
What do you think? Does the admission rank matter? Tell us in the comments section below.

The national snapshot underlines the shock findings that almost half of aspiring primary school teachers tested in Queensland in a recent trial struggled with literacy and numeracy questions Year 7 students should be able to answer.

Queensland is struggling to lift the performance of its students in literacy and numeracy testing, with latest results released on Friday ranking Queensland students third-last nationally.

The average Queensland student to sit the NAPLAN tests this year scored below the national average in every category.

All states are moving to enforce tougher standards, with the Gillard Government pushing for reforms to ensure only school leavers ranked in the top 30 per cent for literacy and numeracy can apply.

Professor Stephen Dinham, chairman of teacher education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, said while some courses demanded very high standards, others did not.

"If you are not confident in mathematics, you can't teach mathematics," he said. " We've really got to draw teachers from the top quarter of the school-leaving population.

"If you're taking kids with a score of 40, it's a worry. I'd be saying don't go below 75."

However, Australian Catholic University spokesman Julian Leeser said high marks did not necessarily guarantee a good teacher.

"You can have students with very high scores who are not good teachers. They lack empathy. Teaching is about relationship building," he said.


Private schools add value

Literacy gaps  and socio-economic status

As a result of the Gonski report and the recent budget cuts to NSW schools, the relative quality and importance of non-government schools to education in Australia has again been questioned.

The most recent issue of the journal Australian Economic Papers has an article by Paul Miller and Derby Voon comparing the performance of government and non-government schools in the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy) tests.

The objective of Miller and Voon’s analysis was to determine the extent to which differences in performance between school sectors can be attributed to the different characteristics of their students, including socio-economic status and gender. Their article builds upon other published research papers that use data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The majority of these studies find that socio-economic status does not completely explain school sector differences.

Miller and Voon estimate and compare the contribution of socio-economic status to NAPLAN performance in the different sectors. They find that for Year 3 students, the main effect of socio-economic status is similar in each sector and in each aspect of the NAPLAN tests (approximate r2 = 0.3, a figure that corresponds with the strength of the relationship found between socio-economic status and student performance over the last several decades). The picture changes in high school, however. Among Year 9 students, the impact of socio-economic status is significantly higher in independent schools than in Catholic or government schools.

Overall, the results support the findings of Gary Marks’ studies – the superior test results of non-government schools cannot be fully accounted for by the higher average socio-economic status of their students. There is a ‘moderate value-added effect’ of a school sector once student intake characteristics are controlled.

One limitation of Miller and Voon’s study is that it does not account for the prior ability levels of students. It is well known that literacy gaps exist between students of differing socio-economic status when they begin school. It is therefore likely that students in schools with a lower average socio-economic status have started school with lower literacy levels than their more advantaged counterparts. A similar study comparing the growth in scores between NAPLAN tests in years 3 to 5 and years 7 to 9 would be instructive.


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