Enact law to stop online vigilantism

The recent altercation between a cyclist and lorry driver in Pasir Ris has garnered wide attention, and the matter is still under investigation (Lorry driver, cyclist arrested after Pasir Ris road altercation; Dec 25, 2018).

Road safety is always a cause for concern but equally worrying is how some people are increasingly taking matters into their own hands to "ensure justice" through online vigilantism.

The court of public opinion seems to have decided the fate of the cyclist and lorry driver even before investigations have concluded. Netizens were exposing information about the cyclist and even harassing him.

Such mob-justice behaviour should not be condoned as it is a sheer disregard of the rule of law.

The police and judiciary are staffed with professionals trained to investigate and make proper judgments of wrongdoings and we should let them do their job.

In fact, online vigilantism can go awry, as it did in this case. Netizens wrongly identified another person as the cyclist and he was harassed to the extent that a police report had to be made.

Sometimes, netizens who are quick to judge may not get the full picture and make premature and wrong conclusions, which is unfair to the parties involved. Perhaps it would be wise to have a law against such online practices, which is a form of harassment.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'Enact law to stop online vigilantism'. Print Edition | Subscribe