Beware of Cyberbullying

The net world was stunned by the recent news about Tyler Clementi, an 18 year old student who jumped to his death from a bridge after discovering his sexual encounter with another man had been streamed live to other students by a roommate at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Clementi’s roomate Dharun Ravi with Molly Wei used a webcam to watch Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man in their dorm room. The said video was made available on the web for everyone to view as well. Clementi appears to have found out about the webcast afterward and had filed a complaint with the resident assistant. Both Ravi and Wei have since been charged with serious criminal charges, including invasion of privacy. A bill is already being drafted in New Jersey to stiffen criminal penalties for cyber harassment

What happen to Clementi is a case of cyber harassment or more popularly known as cyber bullying.

Cyber-bullying or online bullying is the use of electronic information and communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, mobile phones, pagers and defamatory websites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks or other means, and it may constitute a computer crime..

There was a survey study of 264 students from three junior high schools was conducted. The results show that close to half of the students were bully victims and about one in four had been cyber-bullied. Over half of the students reported that they knew someone being cyberbullied. Almost half of the cyberbullies used electronic means to harass others more than three times.

The majority of the cyber-bully victims and bystanders did not report the incidents to adults. When gender was considered, significant differences were identified in terms of bullying and cyberbullying. Males were more likely to be bullies and cyberbullies than their female counterparts. In addition, female cyberbully victims were more likely to inform adults than their male counterparts.

So is there a current law that can protect us from cyberbullying? The one that comes the closest is Sec. 33 Penalties of E-Commerce Act:

SEC. 33. Penalties. – The following Acts shall be penalized by fine and/or imprisonment, as follows:

a.Hacking or cracking which refers to unauthorized access into or interference in a computer system/server or information and communication system; or any access in order to corrupt, alter, steal, or destroy using a computer or other similar information and communication devices, without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the computer or information and communications system, including theintroduction of computer viruses and the like, resulting in the corruption,destruction, alteration, theft or loss of electronic data messages or electronic document shall be punished by a minimum fine of one hundredthousand pesos (P100,000.00) and a maximum commensurate to thedamage incurred and a mandatory imprisonment of six (6) months tothree (3) years.

I also talked to a lawyer and he said perhaps the anti-wiretapping law can also be used for this kind of activity. But the lawyer said indeed a more specific law addressing cyber crimes is needed, the soonest time possible, for online crimes are steadily increasing.

To this I agree, a lot of online crimes are happening and most of them are not reported, mostly because victims feels its useless to report them – we don’t have enough law to prosecute the criminals plus reporting it will even put the victims into shame. Why do you think Clementi committed suicide?

This is something serious and I sincerely hope our government will take a closer look at this.

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