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A Thin Line between Citizen Journalism and Cyberbullying

Posted by: | February 23, 2012 | 3 Comments |

One day during a bus trip to Orchad, I saw this young lady, appeared to be in her 20’s, sitting in the reserved seat of a packed train ride. Obviously, there were a lot of people looked at her mockingly because there was a rather-old man in his 50s, standing in front of her, who was definitely more eligible to get that seat. She shrugged off those mocking eyeballs by keeping herself busy to the iPhone on her hand, furiously browsing this website called STOMP (I happened to have a sharp eye!). Though  I totally disapproved her ignorant attitude, I was more amazed by the website she browsed through. What makes her so engaged in this STOMP?

I have seen it somewhere, I have read it somewhere, but this is the first time after some time this website, named STOMP, came back to my memory. Yes! It’s that same website that has been buzzing all around during last year General Election 2011 and even the recent Train Breakdowns. When I reached back home, I spent some minutes (actually hours maybe) exploring what this website is all about and it was amazing. The extent of its contents, the number of comments, and even the variety of news it has inside can easily beat the content of several established newspaper in Singapore.

STOMP is an online citizen journalism platform where anyone can take photos and post news directly without the need of screening from editors or even linguist, the usual SOP in any normal newspaper. It is no wonder that some of the news posted are rather raunchy. You may also find some grammatical errors along the way, it’s not that difficult to spot one.

What’s interesting is that STOMP allows its users, mainly Singaporean, to connects, engages, and interacts with each other through posting comments and replies. It also claimed to have won numerous accolades to further increase its credibility. Yet, as I read through some of the older postings about General Election as well as the recent SMRT Saga, I become more and more horrified with the sarcastic and rather rude comments that users posted in response to these news.

In an entry about public transport problems in Singapore, one can find a full list of “scornful” comments calling the ex-SMRT CEO, Mdm Saw Phaik Hwa, to quit her job. Reflecting on such post: were these rude comments based on objective intentions or were they made based on angers and frustration? I would personally believe that it was the latter of the two options. Worse still, these  comments went viral all around Singapore, creating a real public pressure which eventually may contribute to the official resignation of the CEO herself last December 2011. Was it wise? I would not comment on that issue here but for sure, I see the same rude comments that others posted about me online, I would feel very uneasy.

In another entry calling Singapore taxi operators to remove the ad containing Jack Neo, a prominent Singapore movie maker who recently mired in extra-marital affair scandal, we can also find similar rude comments using Chinese abusive language. Again the question I would ask would be: isn’t he the movie maker that has brought Singapore movie industry to earn many accolades in the international world? Have these users ever reflected on what this Jack Neo guy has achieved for Singapore when posted those insulting comments ? As such, would it be appropriate to judge him based on one negative incident in his life and called him in those insulting remarks? I would also wonder what Jack Neo himself will feel if he read through those comments about him (I would rather believe he actually read them all).

Using these entries in STOMP as example, it appears that the line between citizen journalism and cyber-bullying has been blurred. Would you call those scornful remarks posted as an act of citizen journalism or would you call it cyber-bullying? I personally would vote for the second option because these comments are made in deliberate, sometimes repeated, and hostile manner. It fits the definition of cyber-bullying as these postings were made using internet and other related technological platform to potentially harm their targets, whom in these case are prominent figures like Jack Neo and Mdm Saw.

In my personal opinion, it will never be morally right to curse or insult others in front of the public. Here in STOMP these “anonymous” users, called themselves Citizen Journalists, roamed around freely postings these insulting comments. We can call it freedom of speech but once our comments have the potential to hurt others’ feeling, it would constitute to bullying.

The real question here would be did those users realizes that they may commit an act of cyberbullying when they posted those remarks? And considering these postings were quite some time ago and I can still even read it up to now, has our society created a culture of acceptance to cyber-bullying, cloaked in the name of citizen journalism?

under: The Beginning

3 Comments

  1. By: Yeo Jeong Houn on February 25, 2012 at 9:25 am      Reply

    Nice read again Dennis!

    However, I just want to share a few words with you just like what I did for your previous post

    You defined those comments, actions and vulgar words as cyberbullying. In the first place, I am a little doubtful if it really is cyberbullying.

    In my opinion, cyberbullying is the action of bullying a person on cyberspace. And if you don’t mind, the definition of bully (v) is as follows

    Bully (verb) : use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force.

    Hence, are the netizens really using superior strength to intimidate another person?

    Because I feel that ex-CEO of SMRT does have responsibility for the issue. If not, who is responsible? When an organization commits such a serious act/mistake, the person who is overseeing the whole issue should be responsible I feel.

    Also, Jack Neo, he may have done the best of the best things but the nature of act he committed betrayed those who respects him. At the same time, a person who was involved in such a scandal may potentially leave bad reputation for Singapore movie industry as well.

    Hence, why are those cyberbullying?

    Ultimately, I do agree that the act of swearing is not a nice thing but what they truly mean is justified in my opinion. And the issue here should be on cyber-manners, not cyberbullying I feel!

    • By: Dennis.Surya on March 2, 2012 at 5:17 am      Reply

      hi Jeong Houn,

      thanks for your comments again, indeed you bought up the very basic issue that I had a dillemma on when I wrote this post up. But, a simple wiki and googling actually defines cyber-bullying as something like this: Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner.

      So based on this definition, I moved on to write this piece as I personally consider those users who posted up those scornful remarks actually “deliberately try to harm the reputation of their targets” and they have done so in a “hostile manner” by labelling their targets in rather rude swearing languages and sometimes if you notice further, it’s the same few users that give these heated comments which shows that their act is not only deliberate but also “repeated”.

      Perhaps, they are just the users who do not have civil cyber manners, but their intention is clear that they intend to harm the reputation of these celebrities. I know these celebrities have done wrongs, but the same question I asked in my post, is it appropriate to punish them in this manner? by harming their reputation even further? I believe they have earned their consequences fairly.

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