WHEN the internet was up in arms over the SK Seri Pristina canteen/changing room saga last week, we saw the best and the worst in Malaysian social media users.
Even though it was subsequently revealed that the situation is probably a case of poorly-thought out administration as opposed to malicious religious discrimination, the authorities were pressured to act swiftly as a result of the concerns shown towards the school children who were subjected to such foolishness.
The canteen at the centre of the firestorm, supposedly under renovations since March, was opened again a few days after and renovations were completed almost overnight.
At the same time, the netizens' rage focused on the person whom many saw as being responsible for the state of affairs; the headmaster of SK Seri Pristina. Some have criticised him on their social media channels, which is fair enough, but many have found his Facebook account and vented their anger there.
Some even spread his personal details online, so much so that his family apparently had to deactivate the account and his daughter felt it necessary to plead for her father.
The SK Seri Pristina issue erupted on the back of another social media related controversy; the posting by ‘sex bloggers’ Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee.
We know that Alvivi were charged, denied bail at first and subsequently granted bail of RM30,000 each with certain conditions.
But their freedom may come at a price as media reports say that there have been many threats on social media levelled at them. Similarly, social media ‘vigilantes’ have shared their personal details and even such personal details as the identity card numbers of their relatives.
At the same time, this very publication published an article about obesity which did not sit well with many (this writer included). The writer of the piece had her FB page bombarded with comments, including many personal insults until she had to issue an apology.
Cast your mind back earlier this year when a minor was arrested in a petrol station in Malacca for allegedly molesting a grown woman.
His photos and personal details too were shared on social media, blatant violations of provisions of the Child Act at the hands of social media users.
The internet has allowed non-State parties and individuals to break the State’s monopoly on information. Now, the people are no longer mere recipients of information as before. Information can and will come from non-State parties and individuals.
This ‘democratisation’ of information empowered the people who now feel that they can move mountains by a few clicks of the mouse. ‘Clicktivism’ ... the use of social media and online methods to promote a cause has bred a whole generation of activists.
While this empowerment of the masses has in many ways resulted in positive change, it has also given rise to online mob vigilantism under the guise of ‘activism’.
In the name of ‘activism’, we feel the need to dispense ‘justice’ towards ‘wrongdoers’ personally, by going to their blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and making our views known.
We think that we are doing the right thing by harassing and insulting them personally, until that ‘triumphant’ moment when they have to deactivate or abandon their social media accounts.
It is one thing to express your views on the matter and yes, to even criticise the person, but it is a whole different thing to dish out our own brand of punishment on them.
We should engage with them or have a discourse without the need to resort to mobbing these individuals. If we are not happy with an article, write a counter article.
Or tweet about how you do not agree. If we are not happy with the administration of a school, we should pressure the authorities to act, instead of personally attacking the headmaster on his social media account.
There are many ways to show our dissatisfaction or disagreement on something without the need to debase ourselves with personal attacks and mob vigilantism.
So before we click ‘share’ and before we retweet something, let's think of the person who is the subject of our derision. Think about how we would feel if our own social media account is filled with insults and threats.
Think of how we would feel if our personal details, our IC number and address, and even the particulars of our family members are shared by strangers, some of whom have less than noble intentions.
Even an accused person in Court has rights, what more a person who ‘merely’ stands accused in the eyes of netizens. So let us stop this online mobbing.
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