EDITORIAL: Cyber safety policy has to be clear

LUKE Jackson sat in front of an independent tribunal panel this week and defended himself against a charge of breaching the AFL Victoria cyber safety policy.

His few words on Facebook late on a Saturday about rival club Russells Creek had landed him in trouble. The Deakin University president knew he had done wrong.

Yet here he was, beside advocate Wayne Promnitz, pleading not guilty - a stance which seemingly belied the evidence in the hands of investigator Roy Baker.

The reasoning became clear as the evening wore on. Jackson, like many footballers before him, had found a loophole in the wording of the charge.

In this case, the online comment was a reference from the movie Anchorman, was supposedly written in jest and was general in nature, rather than targeted.

Without knowing his jovial intentions, the language used seemed harsh. The words were inappropriate, particularly coming from a club president.

But what should have been a straight-forward hearing was complicated by the wording of the cyber safety policy - and because of this AFL Victoria has a problem.

Few would disagree that such a policy is warranted in a modern world where much communication happens online - via email, Facebook or Twitter.

But the actual document itself is vague. There are few specifics and certainly none of the detail that covers other reportable offences in the handbook.

Most pertinently, the policy is written as if there should be a specific victim, an individual who takes offence to comments directed at them.

As written, breaches include "teasing, intimidating, racially vilifying or threatening another person". Those last two words caused much debate on Wednesday night.

AFL Victoria deserves praise for its stance on attempting to crack down on players and officials continuing on-field scuffles in the online world.

But the policy needs clarity to give tribunals guidance when they have to decide on such issues. The minimum two-match penalty is also too stringent and inflexible.

Jackson did a stupid thing while on a trip away five weeks ago and deserved punishment, something he even acknowledged at the hearing.

But the amount of time the tribunal deliberated on its verdict - all because of the loophole - proved there are issues with what's written.


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