Soldier abuse furore confirms power of social media

Soldier abuse furore confirms power of social media

Summary: When a New Zealand film-maker made some inflammatory comments on social media, little did she know that her words would lead to death threats.


If ever there was any doubt over the power of social media, consider the reaction to the online comments of Barbara Sumner-Burstyn.

She posted severe criticism of dead Kiwi soldier Jacinda Baker on Facebook.

To say the comments were incendiary, coming so soon after the deaths of Jacinda Baker and her comrades — and as they were being buried — is putting it mildly.

Blogs found her comments, as did the papers and TV.

A Facebook campaign demanded the government confiscate Burstyn's New Zealand passport — she is currently living and working in Toronto. It attracted more than 20,000 supporters. There were death threats, too, as she was bombarded with criticism on social media.

This week, breakfast TV also looked at the uproar, wondering whether it did prove the need for some form of control of social media behaviour. Commentators said that making threats is already covered by existing law, as is defamation and libel. Like I said earlier this month, extra laws on cyberbullying are not needed.

Whatever we decide about laws, if ever Barbara Sumner-Burstyn wanted to attract attention to herself, she could not have done it in a more public way.

Last year, we saw how a Burger King staffer almost got the sack for criticising her employer on Facebook.

As has often been said, there is no privacy on Facebook, despite what settings you use.

People will always discover your comments somehow.

Regardless of whether or not Barbara Sumner-Burstyn ever feels safe to return to New Zealand, it could be difficult for her to procure employment. The whole country, including the Prime Minister, is now aware of her beliefs and are making their own judgements — all because of social media.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Legal, Privacy, Security, New Zealand, Australia

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • She is just a typical leftist

    And I wish her nothing bbut the worst :) May she rot..but unfortunatly other liberals will rally behind her and probably give her another government grant to make some worthless film about pudding and transgender turtles.

    RIP Jacinda Baker and all the fallen soldiers fighting the backward sub human taliban
  • p.s

    Barbara Sumner-Burstyn is a despicable tw*t, and if you know of her whereabouts, post it online..I like the idea of giving her no peace until she offs herself.
  • Holy Cow

    I followed the links and followed the writer's comments. Justifiably, she is the most hated woman in NZ. I suggest she be shipped off to a Taliban camp so she can enjoy the fruits of her convictions.
    • Only if...

      ...we can ship you off to Gitmo where you'll enjoy exactly as much free speech as you're willing to grant to others.
      John L. Ries
      • free speech every time..thats me

        but freedom of speech only represents protection from governmental sanction against you for your speech..private punishment up to and including loss of employment opportunities and hounding is 100% acceptable to the left when the speech involves one of their sacred cows (think cglobal warming scepticism) and i never take a tactic my enemy is willing to use , off the table to be used on them.there are no moral victories in this life, so in the words of sir paul , say live and let die..
        • Sorry, but...

          ...I was merely turning the tables on you (and exercising my free speech rights in the process). I've long thought how a law could be enacted that would deny civil rights to any person who advocates their denial to others (ie. those who advocate the railroading of others would automatically forfeit all right to trial for any offense of which they might be accused in the future), but at this point, I don't think it's workable).
          John L. Ries
  • Poor Charlotte Dawson!!

    The funniest story of the week concerns celebrity Charlotte Dawson, who is now recovering in a Sydney Hospital from a "twitter attack from hundreds of trolls."
    While it too confirms the power of social media, imagine how many of us would have known what a twitter attack was a few years ago, and trolls were something that lived under bridges!
    Darren Greenwood