The Internet and specifically social media have radically changed the way we communicate. The liberty to access and contact anyone with a simple click has both positive and negative implications. This essay will explore the case of New Zealand expat and Australian television personality Charlotte Dawson’s recent cyber-bullying. I will utilise concepts such as Kantian Ethics and Social Contract Theory to address the issues of whether the bullies need to be punished. I aim to provide justification for whether or not legislative action against cyber bullying is in order.
New Zealand born Charlotte Dawson, judge for Australia’s Next Top Model has been shrouded in controversy ever since she published her book titled ‘Air Kiss and Tell’. In the book, she has severely criticized New Zealand, accusing it of being “small, nasty and vindictive”(NZ Herald, 2012). Her actions have obviously led to New Zealanders condemning the remarks and consequent hatred of the television personality. Dawson was hospitalized after she attempted suicide, apparently acting upon hate Tweets that fellow Twitter users sent her. She has taken active part several anti-bullying campaigns so it is ironic that she has landed herself in the very situation she condemns. She is renowned for her attention seeking antics, which have earned her the title of ‘survivor’ by a NZ Herald columnist who feels that she has hated her place of birth “partly because of her incessant desire to be in the public eye” (The Australian, 2012).
The central ethical issues include whether people may be allowed to express themselves freely online, even if it means that their opinion against an entire nation results in widespread condemnation. Are responses such as the ones Dawson received, justified? The most important issue I will discuss is whether laws need to be introduced to govern the vast cyber playground to avoid vulnerable individuals or groups from being harassed, intimidated or bullied.