Of cyberbullying, toxicity of hate online, and how it overwhelms everyone

By RK Indumathini

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 – A recent clubhouse discussion organised by the Content Forum, titled “Cyberbullying: They Asked For It”, saw just about all participants agreeing on one thing about cyberbullying and the toxicity of hate expressions on online – it overwhelms and affects just about everyone involved.

They also agreed that something needs to be done and a good start would be to have open conversations that can iron out at least some of the creases.

Featuring guests Ain Husniza, Hunny Madu, and Hafiz Hatim, the session was a no-holds-barred conversation about dealing with online toxicity.

All three guests shared that the pile-on of hatred and negative comments from hundreds of strangers online can be overwhelming.

Commenting on the nature of ‘cancel culture’ for instance, Hafiz said that it was not right for people to gang up on someone for one mistake on social media, going to the extent of demanding that they be fired.

“Sometimes people don’t understand the full context of a matter, but they’ll just jump on the bandwagon. And I’m thinking: do we really want someone to get fired because of a TikTok video they made?” he added.

Meanwhile, celebrity TV host Hunny Madu spoke about the pressure public figures face in trying to maintain a dual identity, expressing that this was especially so for women. While remarking that some celebrities may choose to minimise judgement from the public by holding back their personality on social media, Hunny found it best to be herself. 

Student advocate Aim, who chose to publicly speak up against a rape joke made by her teacher, said she had to deal with unsavoury comments.

“A Facebook group of more than 100,000 teachers, discussed my case once it went viral – the comments really shocked me. They were body-shaming me, making comments about my body. It really shone a light on how some Malaysians are acting online.

“Everybody has the right to use the internet and feel safe while using the internet. But I have experienced more abuse online than I have ever done in real life. The internet is becoming more and more integral to our lives and we need a better approach to this problem rather than invalidating victims by telling them to just shut down the computer,” she said. 

Speaking from his perspective as a father, radio announcer Hafiz joked that he would never let his daughter have social media if he could but that would not be fair or feasible.

“Frankly, the best thing I can do is monitor what she watches, guide and educate her. It boils down to parents sharing with their children about the potential threats that are out there. It’s all about our relationship with our kids and how open we are with them about all this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Content Forum’s Executive Director Mediha Mahmood said: “By having these open conversations, we’re hoping to encourage more people to give their feedback, ideas, and opinions about these revisions.”

All these would be relevant to Content Forum’s proposals for mitigating online abuse.

“On our end, we want to gather as much feedback as possible because the more input we get, the more likely the Content Code will reflect the standards of Malaysian society, which is the measurement used for us to determine the best practices in the Code. At the end of the day, this is a joint community effort, and our way of creating safer and inclusive digital spaces.” 

The discussion is part of an on-going series by the Content Forum, to create awareness over its current public consultation for proposed revisions of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (Content Code). Drawn up by the Content Forum and introduced in 2004, the Content Code is a set of guidelines which outline best practices and ethical standards for content creation and curation. 

For more information on the Content Code and to give your feedback, go to: https://contentforum.my/publicconsultation/