Dawson abuse polarises online community

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 20:22 31/08/2012
Charlotte Dawson
ABUSED ON TWITTER: Charlotte Dawson

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As Charlotte Dawson recuperates in the psychiatric ward at St Vincent’s Hospital, the Sydney-based former New Zealand TV celebrity’s Twitter torment continues to polarise the online community as police are urged to uncover the architects of abuse.

Dawson, who has a history of depression, was hospitalised earlier yesterday after a supporter called "Kerry" alerted emergency services when becoming concerned at the 46-year-old’s mental state while they were communicating online at 2am.

"I saw the most disgusting filth ever," the Victoria-based mother said.

"Two examples that made me cry were one saying he was going to dig up her deceased mother and do terrible things. The second sent pics of dead bloody bodies of babies. How the hell is this okay?"

Dawson was taken into care by ambulance officers shortly after tweeting: "Hope this ends the misery" and "You win x."

However, she did leave a few hours later for an an interview with 60 Minutes before returning to the hospital.

New South Wales Police Minister Mike Gallacher, who has asked police trace the origin of the invective, said the people responsible should be "dragged out of their mother's basement and put before a court".

He believed the comments transmitted to Dawson were actionable under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act, which can punish use of a "carriage service" to menace, harass or offend with a maximum three-year jail term.

Dawson was inundated with abusive messages after she named a Monash University staff member – New Zealander Tanya Heti – as the woman who encouraged her to "go hang yourself" in a tweet that culminated in the institution suspending an employee who is ironically responsible for mentoring students.

Once Heti had been suspended many Twitter users set up fake accounts for the purpose of joining the campaign against Dawson.

Her Wikipedia page was edited 44 times yesterday as Dawson's supporters erased abusive alterations.

Although she has received massive support, Dawson’s determination to react to the abuse has been described as inflammatory and greeted with scepticism.

Online community manager and social media consultant Laurel Papworth told the Sydney Morning Herald that by responding to and retweeting attacks - and even calling Heti’s boss to complain - the Australia's Next Top Model judge gave her enemies the oxygen they craved.

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"By simply retweeting every negative tweet that comes along you're training your community, to get Charlotte's attention, be mean to her... I don't think you should reward trolls with that sort of attention... She got herself into a corner."

On her blog site Papworth also pointed out that Dawson was also guilty of publishing unsavoury tweets about people including a scathing attack on a critic of her fashion-designing pal Alex Perry.

In Dawson’s estimation the woman was a "sad attention whore", a "Westie scrag", a "suburban fattie" and a "sad ugly moll."

By indulging in name calling Dawson had left herself open to abuse, said Papworth, who noted:

"People who only put out inspirational quotes don't get those kinds of attacks."

Despite her own history of caustic comments, Dawson is a valued ambassador for The Community Brave Foundation – an Australian organisation dedicated to eradicating online bullying, homophobia, transphobia and youth suicide.

Foundation chairman Rami Mandow was among her staunchest defenders.

"You (Papworth) state that Charlotte is notorious for bullying women. I don’t know this side of Charlotte. From my online conversations with her, from viewing her twitter account, from the work she has helped us with – I can vouch for her character and her work," he said.

But blogger Milorad Ivovic was far from sympathetic.

"She actively encouraged trolls to "bring it on". After that, I'd be surprised if people didn’t abuse her, frankly.

"Of course this generated a lot of publicity for her. (she’s) always following her comments with 'it's all in my book' making it fairly transparent that this beat-up of how she is treated online is intended to help her book sales."

"Air Kiss and Tell" – the story of her suffering sexual abuse as a young girl, battle with depression and failed marriage is due for release in October.

- Stuff

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