Soldier abuse furore confirms power of social media

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.

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