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Scottish teachers face “emotional damage” from online abuse

18 October 2010

Teaching union the Education Institute of Scotland (EIS) has revealed it receives around 60 complaints a year from teachers suffering some form of online bullying or abuse from students, The Herald reports today.

The union claims teachers have become “fair game” for such abuse and has called for social networking sites to be made more accountable for the user generated content they host.

Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the EIS told the paper that in many cases, derogatory material published in open online spaces “does a lot of emotional damage” and that a change in the law was required, to “make liability rest with the site holders”.

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 is set to give police new powers to charge individuals who make threats via email, text messages or online. The EIS has pledged its support to any teachers wishing to pursue a complaint under the new legislation.

Determining legal liability for comments posted online has always been notoriously difficult, with sites arguing that the sheer volume of content makes active moderation impossible. Many newspaper comment boards have attempted to circumvent this problem by stating clear terms of use and allowing users to flag potentially problematic comments for swift review.

The union’s next step has been to commission independent research into the true extent of the problem, which it claims will be the first such study conducted.

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