Ugly witch hunts and a 'scary' beauty hack

Online vigilantism gone wrong and DIY teeth-straightening gadgets raise concerns


Armchair detectives have once again turned up in droves and accused innocent people of wrongdoing. The cause of the great social media manhunt was a video of a couple being rude to an elderly man at the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 hawker centre.

In the minute-long clip, which has been viewed over three million times, a woman is seen arguing with an elderly man over a table.

Shortly after, her companion - a smartly dressed man - barges into the older man from behind and a confrontation ensues.

Within seconds, another stranger enters the fray. This time, a man in a black T-shirt is seen trying to defuse the situation, and manages to convince the elderly man to move to another seat.

After a video of a couple bullying an elderly man went viral, some netizens wrongly identified the pair as UOB employees, forcing the bank to deny the accusations and upsetting a student who was named as the woman in the video. PHOTO: YOUTUBE/ MANNY QUEST

Given the nature of the video, it didn't take long for it to go viral.

There were many calls from Facebook users to identify, or CSI (so named after popular crime drama Crime Scene Investigation) the wrongdoers.


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Aside from ascertaining their identities, some Internet users volunteered to file police reports and sponsor legal fees for a lawsuit.

Amid the witch hunt, a Facebook user decided he had seen enough of the grainy video to determine who the rude couple were.

"That ah lian's (otherwise known as an uncouth woman) name is Cherry Tan and both of them works (sic) in UOB Toa Payoh branch. That rude guy is her superior. Let's make them famous. Hope karma falls upon them," he said.

Karma was indeed repaid, but to the wrong parties.

Many netizens rushed to United Overseas Bank's Facebook page and demanded that justice be served. Some threatened to close their accounts with the local bank if no immediate action was taken.

So severe was the backlash that the bank responded to the social media crisis within the same day the video went viral and denied that the couple were their staff.

"We need to be fair to the innocent and therefore respectfully request that any unsubstantiated allegations not be posted," it said in a Facebook post.

But perhaps the person who suffered the most was Ms Tan.

The 22-year-old student released a statement to clarify that she was not involved in the case, and that her boyfriend was away in Taiwan.

She said the incident had not only hurt her but also distressed her family and friends.

Meanwhile, the man who wrongly identified Ms Tan apologised for not verifying his information. He said he had gleaned it from another online discussion.

The danger here is that there are real-world ramifications for the victims of such online hunts.

First, a short video clip might not give viewers the full picture of what exactly transpired.

Second, those identified wrongly do not always have suitable resources at their disposal for suitable recourse.

Last week, two other incidents made their rounds on the Internet.

Netizens claimed that a man hurt by a car explosion in Bukit Batok was a scam artist, and promptly posted pictures of his identification card online. Then a man seemingly flaunting his wealth to a taxi driver in a viral video was outed as the owner of a famous chicken rice franchise. This was followed, once again, by calls for boycotts and arrests.

Perhaps, netizens should instead allow the authorities to act at their own pace. Netizens can also respond with constructive comments to encourage productive dialogues rather than seek vengeance.

And why not identify the man in the black T-shirt who stood up for the elderly man in the Toa Payoh incident? After all, surely he is more deserving of recognition.


Why would anyone want to have fake braces?

There is a growing trend among tweens in Canada that have orthodontists worried.

It mostly features young girls streaming videos on Instagram or YouTube on how to loop together the homemade teeth-straightening gadgets.

Essentially, all you need are colourful rubber bands, aluminium foil, paper clips, earring parts and a fishing line.

The tweens then wrap the contraption around their incisors and canines.

Vancouver orthodontist Colleen Adams tells The Vancouver Sun that the latest trend is "scary". "Teeth actually move quite readily. That's the problem. You have to move them with force systems designed to move them the way you want," she says.

The American Association of Orthodontists recently reported that nearly 13 per cent of its members are seeing patients who have tried these DIY teeth straightening gadgets as well as other methods such as biting on pencils, making fake retainers and pushing teeth with fingers.

Such home treatments might potentially cause irreparable damage to the person's teeth and mouth.

Other problems could include gumline problems or issues with the root tips of the teeth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Ugly witch hunts and a 'scary' beauty hack'. Print Edition | Subscribe