AT a time when people are dependent on social media and there is a lack of regulation and accountability on online platforms, it is no surprise that cyberbullying has become more rampant.
Cyberbullying is one of the most common forms of harassment faced by young people and can have a detrimental effect on their mental health, relationships and education.
People are starting out on social media at a younger age now. While many do thrive on the validation received from social media engagement, many young people also suffer from the brunt of nasty experiences on the same platform.
There is value in the advancements and improvements brought about by the online world, making it even more important that users are protected.
Malaysia currently relies on Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (improper use of network facilities) to ensure a safe online environment for users but existing regulations alone may not be sufficient.
Many Internet users may struggle to even identify what cyberbullying is, or they may be unaware of the regulations and ways to protect themselves.
Having specific laws in place to deal with cyberbullying is crucial to increase public awareness and effectively prosecute offenders.
The lack of a specific legal framework to deter cyberbullying is an issue that needs to be addressed with appropriate legislation, and there should be an ongoing review of the existing laws that govern and regulate the use of social media.
Given that we live in a world where digital technology has transformed how people communicate and interact, the government should review and improve the current legislative framework.
In Singapore, cyberbullying laws were implemented through the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) enacted in 2014. And in the United Kingdom, although there are no specific laws addressing cyberbullying, there are several legislations used to prosecute cases involving online communications.
Ireland has also enacted a new Act relating to harassment and harmful offline and online communications through the Harassment Harmful Communications and Related Offenses Act 2020 (HHCR) passed in February 2021.
A good legal framework, coupled with strict enforcement, would help discourage ongoing cyberbullying.
Other than legislation, society must also play a role in social well-being to prevent cyberbullying by cultivating good morality.
Government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and education and private sectors can help to implement strategies such as raising public awareness, and cultivating civic-mindedness through education about the types of online behaviour. Community efforts and support can also help eradicate cyberbullying in Malaysia.
It is challenging, but we are optimistic that our laws and policymakers can make this a reality. Having our own anti-cyberbullying laws can safeguard victims and other online users, and mete out appropriate punishments to the perpetrators.
DIHLVINDER KAUR GILL
Faculty of Business and Communications; and
LOW WIN LI
INTI International University