More and more reports of threats of violence, rape and murder have emerged in Malaysia, especially with social media being the go-to medium for communication among young adults. AUDREY VIJAINDREN speaks to experts about the dangers of cyberharassment and whether current laws are sufficient to protect victims.

UP to August, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) received 21,580 complaints, of which 4,947 were on new media.

The complaints included false or misleading content; obscene, indecent, offensive or menacing content; and hacking, Internet scams, identity theft, fraud and harassment.

According to the United Nations, 73 per cent of women and girls have been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence.

As Malaysia has no laws on cyberthreats and other harmful cyberbehaviour, PeopleACT feels it is necessary to determine if there is a need for legal provisions to tackle this growing problem.

PeopleACT (People Against Cyber Threats/Harassment) is an initiative by the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR).

PeopleACT’s advocacy campaign against cyberharassment conducted a national survey from June to December last year involving 522 respondents.

The survey had two purposes:

LEARN about respondents’ online behaviour, how they understand online violence and how online violence affects them;

IDENTIFY candidates for an extended qualitative study on online violence in Malaysia.

“The campaign serves as a consultation document to gather views from stakeholders on whether laws in Malaysia are sufficient to tackle the problem of cyberharassment and other harmful cyberbehaviour.

“It reviews Malaysian legislation that’s relevant to cyberharassment and other harmful cyberbehaviour and laws in other jurisdictions,” says Long Seh Lih, the chief executive officer of MCCHR and a member of PeopleACT.

Initiatives by MCMC and the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia, a content regulating forum, on this issue aimed to not only ensure safety for all Netizens, but also to educate them on the importance of responsible content creation and online sharing etiquette, says an MCMC spokesman.

“For example, the Klik Dengan Bijak programme by MCMC was implemented to educate children, youth, parents and caregivers on the importance of safety, security and responsibility while using the Internet.

“Additionally, engagements by the commission with strategic partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund, Malaysian Youth Council, Scouts Association of Malaysia and ministries, such as the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, are a clear testament to the commission’s commitment to ensuring a positive environment on the Internet.”

“It is MCMC’s belief that these actions are necessary because once content is created and posted online, it’s easily accessible by anyone and prone to abuse.

“It’s crucial for every Netizen to exercise caution and practise positive values when online. Caregivers should monitor children’s Internet use and remind them to be wary of making friends online.

“If there’s any abuse and misuse of the Internet by irresponsible parties, Netizens should report such crimes to the authorities, such as MCMC, so that action can be taken.”

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye believes this issue is urgent.

“The government must expedite its plan to introduce new legislation to curb cybercrime due to the surge in complaints every year.”

Citing CyberSecurity Malaysia’s statistics, he says there were 300 cyberharassment cases in 2012, 512 in 2013, 550 in 2014, 442 in 2015 and 529 last year.

Cyberbullying among students is more serious, with 250 cases in 2012, 389 in 2013, 291 in 2014, 256 in 2015 and 338 last year.

In total, 1,524 cyberbullying cases were recorded in the past five years.

“I believe the real situation is worse as most cases are not reported due to a lack of awareness,” says Lee.

He says CyberSecurity Malaysia has categorised cyberbullying under cyberharassment.

“According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, cyberharassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviours.

“It’s commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour that is threatening or disturbing.

“A survey by Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and Telenor Group last year revealed that one in four students had experienced cyberbullying.

“About 37 per cent of school students also admitted that they had encountered or were involved in cyberbullying.”

A global study published in the 2016 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report: Family Edition reveals that only 10 per cent of Malaysian parents reported that their child was cyberbullied although 40 per cent of them believed their children were more likely to be bullied online than at a playground.

“I’m sure cyberbullying is more serious than what has been reported as many victims chose to suffer in silence for various reasons,” says Lee.

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