New laws to nip cyberbullying in the bud long time coming, says PBM

PARTI Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) has urged Putrajaya to enact new laws to eradicate cyberbullying, saying that the Government should not brush aside this growing problem especially among youths. 

This is in response to the recent suicide of a popular TikToker from Subang Jaya who is believed to have been driven to the act by cyberbullying. 

The mother of three who suffered from long-term depression was a dog rescuer and a huge fan of luxury handbags – both passions she shared on social media. However, just eight months into sharing such content on video-sharing app TikTok, life took a tragic turn. 

According to news reports, the 44-year-old woman was also constantly pounded with criticism and hate messages posted by her detractors. 

“The tragedy is a stark reminder that Malaysia needs specific laws to deal with cyberbullying. In this respect, PBM urges the Government to urgently enact laws to stamp out this menace,” said the party’s Young Women’s Wing chief, Muniraa Abu Bakar. 

Based on a UNICEF report, Malaysia ranked second in Asia for cyberbullying among youths in 2020. 

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) received 6,598 public complaints related to online harassment from 2020 to July 2021. 

“These statistics are startling. We believe they are only the tip of the iceberg as many cases go unreported. Besides the loss of lives, many youths had to endure distressful psychological and emotional trauma as a result of reckless online behaviour,” Muniraa noted. 

“The Government should not brush aside this growing problem as today’s youth is the nation’s future. They should not grow up in a toxic environment where they could be subject to vicious online harassment that could hamper their personal growth.” 

Muniraa stressed that existing laws such as the Penal Code are insufficient to put a lid on this problem and that the Government needs specific legislation to send a strong message that cyberbullying will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be harshly dealt with. 

She suggested that the Malaysian Government can take a lead from Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act (POHA). 

Enacted in 2014, the law was designed specifically to make cyber-bullying, stalking and online harassment within and out of the workplace a criminal offence. 

For example, under the Act, offenders who intentionally cause harassment, alarm or distress face a fine of up to S$5,000 and/or an imprisonment term of up to six months. These maximum penalties are doubled for repeat offenders. 

“Besides introducing new laws, the Government should also make available and accessible platforms for victims of cyberbullying to reach out for help,” Muniraa said. 

“These can be in the form of a dedicated round-the-clock national cyberbullying hotline manned by trained professionals.” 

She pointed out that victims should also be able to have easy access to counsellors for face-to-face sessions as well as being taught online etiquette and how to respond when harassed by online bullies. 

“These steps can help mitigate the severity of cyberbullying in the country and help Malaysian youths grow up in an environment conducive for their personal growth,” she added. – Aug 12, 2022 

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