MOE's general guidelines on online behaviour not helpful

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking action against questionable Instagram accounts.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking action against questionable Instagram accounts.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is laudable that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking action against questionable Instagram accounts. However, I find its spokesman's response lacking (MOE to take action against 'lewd' Instagram account targeting junior college girls, ST Online; Jan 14).

The spokesman said students ought to be "mindful of privacy settings", "refrain from revealing personal information online" and "be safe and discerning users of digital space".

Such motherhood statements are not helpful because they are merely general guidelines on how students should behave on social media. It does not help anyone to tackle the issue specifically.

What worries me, also, are the words used, like "safe and discerning" and "be mindful". They seem to imply that students are not doing their part to protect themselves online and reek of victim-blaming.

According to pictures published on Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao, the photos posted on the lewd account looked ordinary, with suggestive captions added to them.

The photos were already conservative, and it is not the girls' fault that their pictures - whether their accounts were made public or private - were exploited.

MOE must acknowledge that the exploitation was beyond the girls' control, and effort should go into sniffing out the perpetrator.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'MOE's general guidelines on online behaviour not helpful'. Print Edition | Subscribe