Di Sebalik Wajah: The many faces of cyberbullies

Di Sebalik Wajah: The many faces of cyberbullies
Is this what your 'alter ego' looks like when online? Find out at www.disebalikwajah.com.my.
THE website is finally up. If you are a heavy internet and social media user, and want to know your online 'alter ego' (or to what extent the 'monster side' of you goes), then check out www.disebalikwajah.com.my.

Here, there are six types of individuals who seem like normal human beings but may transform into a vicious monster once they go online. Just give them a computer, tablet or mobile phone and an anonymous or fake online ID/account to hide behind, they could turn into someone horrendous, someone whom you'd wish you never knew.

These so-called people could be living within our circle, under our roofs, befriending us at school or at work. Or, they could even be us… a part of us we didn't realise existed.

This little campaign called "Di Sebalik Wajah" is the brainchild of the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMCF), a content-regulating body under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

CMCF chairman Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar, said the idea was mooted to create awareness on the importance of possessing and practicing ethical online behaviour.

"There are people who tend to become different people altogether when they are online. This is because anyone can create an anonymous or fake accounts on social media and chat messaging platforms, and just start attacking others.

"This can lead to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a whole different ballgame as compared with physical bullying because abusers tend to hide their identity online," Ahmad Izham told Astro AWANI's Market Talk.

He said victims of cyberbullying could suffer poor self-esteem, severe social anxiety and a deep level of depression. Some cases might even lead to death or suicide.

WHY CYBERBULLYING HAPPENS

"Some human beings, by nature, are just not very nice. But as we grow older, we learn how to behave properly in public. However, deep down, we may not like someone for something… dengki, the Malays call it," Ahmad Izham explains.

"If you were brought up well, you might be able to control that. But now, being able to hide behind a computer screen, you realise that your 'animal' can come out. You can do whatever you want to others and nobody will know it's you."
DATA – INCREASING OR DECREASING?

There have been various research done on the issue by different academics and government institutes.

A recent study by University Malaya Senior Lecturer and Data Scientist affiliated with the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, Dr Vimala Balakrishnan had revealed some shocking findings, Ahmad Izham said.

"Of the 400-odd respondents she studied aged between 17 and 36, 70 percent admitted to witnessing a cyberbullying incident happening, but none of them did anything about it.

"Another 44 percent admitted to being bullied while 35 percent admitted to having bullied somebody. That's about one in every three people! And those are the ones who admitted. What about those who did not admit?"

As for the CMCF, they base it on the public complaints they received. And the complainants' demographic is the same – young people who use social media heavily.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Firstly, it is about understanding and being aware that you are a victim, Ahmad Izham said.

"You may not be aware that you are being victimized. Or, if you are, you might choose to suffer in silence because that’s the most comfortable thing to do. Perhaps only when the situation gets out of hand that you may choose to lodge a report or take action.

"As an individual victim, the first thing you can do is block. That's self-regulation. Block your abuser's access to you, block the person from WhatsApp, block their calls, report the person to Facebook's administrator. If it's a police case, report them to the police. Report to CMCF and we'll help you as well," he said.

However, to have a certain content or website blocked by the government, it would need to be a matter of national security.

"If it's a civil matter, chances are it would be dealt with in accordance with the policies of the relevant authority (social media operators, police etc)," Ahmad Izham said.

THE CONTENT CODE

The MCMC is a regulatory body and the CMCF is an industry body to the commission. It is made up of stakeholders to content – advertisers, broadcasters, content makers, telcos as well as civic groups and educators.

The CMCF has a Content Code that spells out what people can or cannot do when they make, create, disseminate or look at content. It is a general rule for content making that is being promoted to both corporate users as well as members of the public.

"The content code is there because we promote self-regulation. In the digital world, there are too many channels being setup, too many social media stuff. You can't send everything to someone to monitor and say what's right and what's wrong. You have to monitor your own content, whether you're a kid, an adult or a broadcaster. But if you run afoul of the content code, then there will be consequences," Ahmad Izham said.

For any party that breaks the Content Code, the CMCF's complaints bureau could mete out summons of up to RM50,000.

RESPONSIBLE CONTENT SHARING

CMCF executive director Mohd Mustaffa Fazil Mohd Abdan said while everyone has a right to share content, it must be done in a responsible manner.

"One part is to ensure that whatever you choose to share is beneficial to all. You can do this by getting a second opinion to gain some constructive feedback before you share something. The other part is checking the authenticity of the content that you intend to share," he said.

He said it was not logically attainable for CMCF to scout online for those with unbecoming behaviour as the amount of content in cyberspace is massive and global in nature.

"But what's attainable is to be able to mould people's mind on how they react or engage with such content. We try to do that by raising awareness.

"We don't just bring our content code to industry players but students as well, from primary level to university. And the youngsters love it. We hope to propagate those messages throughout their lives, by the time they can make informed decisions and when they go online, they can be guided by these standards," said Mohd Mustaffa.

Ahmad Izham added: "Whatever you put on the internet, stays on the internet. Digital lives forever. So we have to tell people to behave themselves online.

"Whatever you won't do in real life, don’t do them online as well. Doing something just to get more 'likes' and followers is not right. We don't want for the internet to be state-controlled like North Korea where there's only one line of information."

So, which online alter ego do you possess – the 'cyber gangster', the 'sex maniac', the 'slander queen', the 'porn king' or the 'two-faced friend'?

Find out at www.disebalikwajah.com.my.