By Tan Weizhen
A NEW group called Action Against Cyber Bullying has been initiated by a concerned parent.
Former counsellor Gilbert Goh, 47, has launched a new website - www.dontcyberbully.com - that will offer free counselling, advice and tips on how victims can resolve the problems of cyber-bullying.
Mr Goh said the idea for the new site came after The Straits Times published a story last month on the increasingly vicious methods being used by cyber bullies to harass their victims.
Among the new methods are the use of social networks, YouTube videos and multimedia messaging to spread hate messages or rumours about individuals. In some cases, fake, unflattering social network profiles are created by bullies wanting to ruin reputations of their targets.
The government-backed Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society committee has also proposed initiatives to stop cyber-bullying as part of its plans to curb Web dangers.
'If cyber-bullying turns criminal, (hopefully), the police can step in to help the victims,' said Mr Goh, who is also a blogger on the socio-political website The Online Citizen.
According to the law, cyber- bullying becomes a criminal offence when bullies harass victims with 'the intention of causing them alarm or distress, using threatening, abusive words or in writing'. This carries a maximum fine of $5,000, under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
Mr Bryan Tan of Keystone Law Corporation said victims can seek civil recourse, but only if they can prove they suffered material losses.
In Parliament last month, in response to a query by Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC), Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said there are no plans to enact laws for cyber-bullying, as offenders can be punished under existing laws. But he said his ministry would 'monitor the situation'.
Mr Goh, father of a 14-year-old girl, said he was motivated by concern for impressionable teens. He hopes to get other organisations involved, including schools, parents and young people aged between seven and 18 years old. 'Involving teens is important as they know what is happening. They are better placed to advise what can be done.'
Teachers feel that such an integrated initiative might work, given the common perception that Singaporean teenagers 'lack courage' to drive out such bullies. 'I think teens here are too dependent, and lack courage and initiative, so having such a drive would bring them together to wipe out bullies online,' said junior college teacher Tan Jiaqi, 27, who has been teaching for four years.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on 4 Feb, 2009.