Tough stand needed to curb online venom

As rightly pointed out by Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah, who is presiding over a widely reported rape trial, disrespectful online comments on victims would only discourage others in similar circumstances from stepping forward (Judge criticises netizens for rape victim remarks; Sept 14).

While we can allow free expression and speech, there is a need to manage comments properly, otherwise vile statements posted by online bullies on the Internet or social media platforms will make us feel unsafe and insecure.

Given the anonymity enabled by the Internet, online bullies become very bold and believe it is their right to hurl abusive and hurtful comments about people or things they dislike.

More often than not, these abusers do not use their real names or show their faces.

The damaging effects of disparaging online comments can cause psychological problems to people who are severely distressed.

I have noticed that when one commenter posts the first negative message, more negative comments will follow.

As there are thousands of nasty postings that include the use of vulgar language every day by people whose identities are unknown, there is no way all the "trolls" can be eliminated and the bullies prosecuted.

Given the anonymity enabled by the Internet, online bullies become very bold and believe it is their right to hurl abusive and hurtful comments about people or things they dislike.

To curb online venom, perhaps it is timely to review regulations and develop tech solutions to put a stop to those who take pleasure in damaging lives.

It may become necessary for online commenters to use their real names.

In the case of disrespectful postings on social media like Facebook, victims should report the matter to the administrators.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Tough stand needed to curb online venom'. Print Edition | Subscribe