The internet certainly provides a bonanza for useless no-names who get a kick out of being very, very nasty to people more successful than they will ever be.

The trolls went for TV host Charlotte Dawson this week, tweeting all kinds of horrible rubbish they would never have the guts say to her face. She ended up in hospital.

That irrepressible populist Tony Abbott leapt on the story, calling for tougher laws against online abuse. “I don’t believe in censoring the internet but we do have to have reasonable protections,” he declared. Manners were certainly on Abbott’s mind this week — he also offered us this gem, in relation to Liberal headkicker Grahame Morris calling Leigh Sales “a cow”:

“I think we should have, as far as is humanly possible, a civil discourse in this country and this gentleman in question has apologised.”

Abbott’s thought-bubble is typical over-reach. A free, open internet is not something to be tampered with lightly. There is much to lose from well-intentioned efforts to “civilise” the net.

So we’re not going to run any of the nasty tweets Dawson received, and we’re not linking to the stories that do. There might be better ways to dissuade — or ignore — the trolls than using a legal sledgehammer. We’d like a more “civil discourse” too, and we’re open to your ideas on how to get there.


As we dispatched Crikey, US presidential challenger Mitt Romney was launching into the speech of his life at the Republican National Convention. Guy Rundle is in the Tampa Bay Times Forum and will pen his thoughts for the website this afternoon. Stay tuned.