SUPPLIED Samoan author Lani Wendt Young claims police have ignored her complaints about a torrent of online abuse.

SUPPLIED
Samoan author Lani Wendt Young claims police have ignored her complaints about a torrent of online abuse.

By Matt Stewart

After being targeted by an ongoing avalanche of online abuse Samoan writer Lani Wendt Young claims police told her there was nothing to be done and that “even the FBI can’t make Facebook do anything”.

Young, who lives in Auckland and Samoa, is the author of nine books including the young adult series Telesa.

​She has taken to Twitter to express her concern about a torrent of cyberbullying including threats to rape her, harm her children and family, chop her into pieces and burn her house down.

She also claims to have gone into a New Zealand police station with a folder of more than 800 screen shots detailing the abuse she received on Facebook.

Wendt Young said the first officer she spoke to suggested she simply change her name on Facebook and then said “what do you expect us to do about it? Even the FBI can’t make Facebook do anything”.

She also claims when giving her advice on internet safety police suggested she stop writing about topics that made online abusers angry and to stop “calling out” her abusers by not naming them or showing their messages to police because it would only incite them further.

While not addressing Wendt Young’s specific criticisms, a police a spokeswoman said anyone who made a complaint to police had a right to privacy.

“There are always challenges in investigating online offending and the introduction of more technology and mobile applications means this is continually changing.”

However, under the Harmful Digital Communications act police had a number of avenues to prosecute, which had triggered a clear increase in prosecutions since the act was introduced.

“We are seeing more and more people coming forward and making a complaint to police in regards to this type of offending,” she said.

Speaking from Samoa on Saturday, Wendt Young said her understanding of the act was that it was most effective when an abuser was known, such as an ex-partner.

But in her case, the abuse had been from a ‘pack’ “where many different people pile on with abuse in response to a defamatory/abusive post made by an anonymous writer/blogger”.

She said the abuse began after she testified before the National Commission of Inquiry into Family Violence in Samoa last year.

Her testimony was about being a survivor of child sexual abuse and recommendations for how to prevent it in Samoa.

She also wrote articles expressing her sadness and anger about her church’s policy on not blessing or baptising children with gay parents or in a same sex marriage.

“There was lots of hate after that.”

In January she criticised the tactics of an anonymous Facebook page that ‘exposed’ people in government “by accusing them of affairs, murder, arson, paedophilia, and generally shaming them and their children”.

“They retaliated by writing several posts about me and my family. The followers got into it with threats and harassment and they haven’t really stopped since.”

“I had hoped that because so many of them are using their real profiles, police would be able to track them and stop them, or at least issue them with a warning or something.”

She had also hoped police would be able to get Facebook to either take down the abusive pages, or reveal the abusers’ identities so she could then file a complaint against them.

“But I was told this isn’t possible. Not under the current legislation, and not in my situation anyway.”

* People are urged to contact police immediately if they believe they, or someone they know, are a victim. Netsafe offers a free service for people in New Zealand to help with online bullying, harassment and abuse – it is available seven days a week on 0508 NETSAFE (058 638 723).

Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/

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