Almanac Comment: Hashtag Call the Cops

I have posted previously about ignoring the low lives who trail along behind women’s footy like dags behind a sheep.  The latest episode this week involving Tayla Harris has driven the issue into new territory – and will (or should) have implications way beyond the AFLW.  And I’m glad it has.  I want to get past the language of ‘ inappropriate’ or ‘unacceptable’ or even ‘calling it out’ (as valuable as that can be).   The language used by the media, the AFL, and the well-meaning community when responding to these incidents, is full of understandable sympathy and outrage – but if that’s all we do then it is, in reality, an abrogation of our responsibility as a society to protect people, and particularly young women, from abuse and verbal assault as they are going about their lives.  Simply ‘calling it out’ identifies the extent of the problem, which is valuable, and it allows women (and men) to talk about this stuff.  But where the hell is the actual legal remedy, the accountability, as Tayla asked?


The elephant in the room here is the seeming impotence of our legal system to process these incidents, and bring perpetrators to account (aka justice).  Much of the discussion has been about culture and misogyny, which is very important context, but I haven’t seen any discussion in the media about the real underlying problem – the apparent failure of our legal system to enable the processing of incidents of abuse and assault when that occurs online.


Access to the legal system is a fundamental pillar of our sometimes shaky existence as a civilised democratic society.  Nobody is outside the law – not the internet, not social media, or individuals who post personal attacks – the legal system should be used to bring them to justice as would happen in any other circumstance.  These guys aren’t naughty ‘trolls’ or ‘keyboard warriors’, they are criminals who should be named and charged as such. I want to see a rapid shift from # call it out …  to …. # call the cops.


In Harris’ case, the twitter and media discussion has been dominated by the issue of whether Channel 7 or whoever should have posted,  not posted, reposted, or removed the image, or how the AFL and others can ‘moderate’ the socials more closely – but that’s completely missing the much bigger point – someone has been seriously and publicly abused in writing and deserves a legal remedy.


Verbal or written abuse which is threatening and seriously offensive, can be dealt with under existing law as a form of common assault, or harassment.  The problem is that we (women) are not bringing these charges in any but the most obvious cases (i.e. actual physical assault in a public place).  As we know, there are a range of reasons why women don’t bring charges – and if charges were laid every time a woman was abused or threatened we would need a much bigger crime investigation and police force – but so what ?  Bring it on.


The much quoted line that we can’t trace internet users is rubbish. The police expertise in this area is excellent – they can trace internet sources quickly and easily in most cases, especially where no covers are used.  But there must be a trigger for those police resources to be activated – that trigger is for someone to lay charges. There is also a much debated grey-ish area around whether you charge the individual or the ‘publisher’ of the material – and around whether a social media platform is defined as a ‘publisher’.  Let the legislators, prosecutors, and the courts do their job in that space – our responsibility as citizens is to support people to lay charges where a crime occurs or is alleged, and push our legal system to ensure the crime is identified, processed, and redress (accountability) is achieved where deserved.


Many have literally died in a ditch to ensure everyone’s fundamental right to legal process and justice in this country – so can someone answer Tayla’s question please ?  I think she deserves an answer.




  1. Dave Brown says

    Yeah, I don’t understand the intricacies of the laws, Verity, but even by their description of “using a carriage service to menace” it would suggest that laws designed for landline telephones are not up to dealing with the modern environment.

    I only saw a few of the comments, enough to be disgusted, but as you say, if sufficient will existed to take action, action could be taken. Tayla has a right to be safe in her workplace (and everywhere else for that matter) and be celebrated for such an act of athleticism.

  2. Admire your passion Verity, and those sleaze bags that trolled Tayla (or any strong women) deserve everything they get. But the law is a very blunt instrument. John Harms and the other editors of the Almanac do much more than other websites to vet and edit articles before they appear, but comments are real time and offending ones are only removed if they are brought to our attention.
    Publishers are much more likely to be sued/charged than individual writers and that is as likely to sweep up financially poor ones like the Almanac as rich ones like Facebook and Google/YouTube. One idiot commenter could literally bankrupt any publisher, and that would be an enormous deterrent to free speech (because of the financial imposition of real time checking of every comment).
    For every black and white “inappropriate” as in Tayla’s trolling, there are a thousand shades of grey.

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