ONCE upon a time the most offensive person on South Australian radio was former FiveAA announcer Bob Francis, mainly because he had a penchant for calling people “dickbrains” and for once threatening to run over city councillor Anne Moran in his gopher.

But last week even Big Bad Bob was officially outdone by another suburban shock jock, Kilburn man John Alexander Kiss, who was sentenced to nine months’ jail after he abused people on CB radio.

For anyone under the age of 35: CB radio, or “citizens band” radio, is a system of short-distance communications between individuals that operates over 40 channels, separate from your usual radio networks.

It’s sort of like a bunch of interconnected walkie-talkies, where only one person can transmit at a time and everyone has to wait until they take their finger off the button before they can reply.

This tends to make the network open to abuse by people who won’t shut up, as many users discovered in 2013 when Kiss took to the airwaves to berate, harangue and threaten them.

Under the alias “Mr Throat Punch”, Kiss “abused and intimidated people using indecent language”, named people and accused them of being paedophiles and invited other users to come to his house so he could kill them, the judge said in his sentencing remarks last week.

Again, for those under 35: Doesn’t this sound like a normal day on Twitter?

Every day on the internet scores of Australians — disproportionately women, it’s worth mentioning — are subjected to hate speech, abuse and threats of killing and rape via social media.

In a high-profile example last month 23-year old Sydneysider Olivia Melville was mercilessly attacked by strangers on Facebook when another user, Chris Hall, posted a snapshot of her online dating profile with a disparaging remark.

His post went viral as more and more users piled on, branding Melville a “slut” and a “c***” and threatening to kill and rape her and her mother.

Melbourne feminist Coralie Alison copped similar abuse in July after angering fans of American rapper Tyler the Creator, who wrongly tweeted that she had been responsible for the cancellation of his Australian tour.

For days Alison was flooded with tweets telling her to “cut your throat with a rusty razor blade and pour bleach in the wound”, “go drink bleach and rub your vagina with a cheese grater”, “take a bath with your toaster” and “suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge”. And they’re just the tweets I can reprint in the paper.

It seems funny that in 2015 someone can be arrested for harassing people over such an ancient piece of technology as a CB radio, while tens of thousands get away with sending rape and death threats via the internet every day of the week.

Disappointingly, that seems to be the way our laws work.

In Kiss’s case it wasn’t actually his abusive behaviour that landed him a jail sentence (he walked from court on a good behaviour bond); that was just the catalyst for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to start investigating him.

Ultimately it was the fact that he didn’t have a license to own or operate his radio devices — both breaches of the Federal Radiocommunications Act — that landed him in trouble.

If only victims of online abuse had similar recourse.

As anyone who’s tried to have abusive tweets or Facebook messages dealt with by the police will know, it’s a difficult process that most often ends in the phrase “sorry, but there’s not much we can do”.

The idea of an “internet license” to sting trolls with is clearly preposterous, but it’s obvious we need strong new laws to combat the insidious growing trend of cyber abuse. Maybe then victims will have a chance at getting justice.


Originally published in The Advertiser, September 12, 2015. Click here to read the original article.