The enactment of dedicated legislation against online harassment has been authorized by the Singaporean Parliament, thereby equipping web users in Singapore with a novel mechanism to safeguard themselves against instances of online abuse.
The utilization of the internet for anti-social purposes, such as engaging in online harassment, perpetrating sexual harassment within professional settings, engaging in stalker behaviors, and harassing young individuals, has recently been deemed unlawful. Individuals convicted of engaging in illegal online stalking may face a monetary penalty of up to SGD $5,000 (USD $3933/ GBP £2385/ INR ₹3,04,718) or a maximum prison sentence of 12 months. Individuals who commit multiple offenses may be subject to a maximum monetary penalty of SGD $10,000 (USD $7866/ GBP £4770/ INR ₹6,09,437) and a potential jail sentence of up to two years.
In the context of Singapore, it is important to note that harassment is currently recognized as a criminal offense. However, it is worth mentioning that the existing legislation, namely the Miscellaneous Offenses (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, lacks clarity when it comes to addressing instances of online harassment. The recent legislation has been positively received due to its provision of enhanced safeguards for the general populace of internet users in Singapore, including individuals of all ages, particularly children. The scope of the statute has been expanded to encompass certain public sector employees, including individuals employed in the railway and hospital sectors.
Individuals who have experienced cyberbullying or cyber-harassment now have the opportunity to seek Protection Orders, which legally require perpetrators to cease their harmful actions and remove any offensive content that contributed to online harassment.
Hri Kumar, Deputy Attorney-General of Singapore as well as a Member of Parliament, contends that the legal system is equitable in its endeavor to hold individuals responsible for their cyber transgressions. If it is accepted that an individual should be held responsible for inflicting harm upon another through the use of harsh remarks and false assertions in the offline realm, it is pertinent to question why this same individual should be exempt from accountability when engaging in such behavior online and under the guise of anonymity. Kumar has expressed apprehension regarding the successful enforcement of the legislation owing to the lack of explicit directives pertaining to unidentified perpetrators.
The new legislation has garnered support from more Members of Parliament, namely Pritam Singh and Zaqy Mohammad. However, both individuals have voiced apprehensions regarding the potential misuse of the law to impede the responsible exercise of free speech by prominent individuals, including bloggers, government critics, and journalists.
The Ministry of Law in Singapore has just presented a bill to parliament, aiming to establish legal measures against individuals engaged in the harmful practice of cyberbullying. The primary objective of the measure is to establish legal recognition for instances of harassment occurring within the domain of online.
Furthermore, the cyberbullying bill aims to offer victims of this form of harassment avenues for self-protection and legal remedies against their perpetrators. One of the available options is the capacity to request a Protection Order, which has a resemblance to a restraining order commonly seen in the United States.
As to the legislation pertaining to cyberbullying in Singapore, the subsequent activities are deemed as constituting instances of cyberbullying within the jurisdiction:
Although commonly associated with children and teenagers, cyberbullying is also addressed in the proposed measure, encompassing instances occurring in the workplace when employers may exhibit reluctance to intervene. The legislation will additionally implement provisions aimed at assisting Singaporean individuals who encounter instances of bullying beyond the borders of their nation.
The formulation of this bill is attributed to collaborative endeavors including prominent organizations including AWARE, the Singapore Children’s Society, and the Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth. In previous instances, each of these collectives has rendered assistance to individuals who have been subjected to cyberbullying.
Is the implementation of a bill of this nature seen as essential within the context of Singapore? Based on the findings of polls conducted by corporations such as Microsoft, the response is overwhelmingly affirmative. According to a poll conducted by Microsoft in 2012, it was determined that this particular country has a prominent position globally in terms of cyberbullying, a matter that does not warrant any sense of pride. With the exception of the United States, Singapore is widely recognized as a prominent hub for cyberbullying.
Singapore has seen a rapid adoption of Internet usage, as evidenced by the active online presence of over 80% of its population. And to what location do they proceed upon logging in? Among these users, Facebook emerges as the preeminent website in terms of popularity, wherein the ease of engaging in derogatory behavior and various forms of harassment on social media platforms is notable.
According to a recent survey conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness & Sports, a significant majority of the participants, all of whom were of school age, reported instances of cyberbullying, accounting for around two-thirds of the respondents. For a significant proportion of these youngsters, cyberbullying served as an amplification of the existing physical trauma they were already encountering within the school environment.
Consider the instance involving JeraldinePhneah, who fell prey to cyberbullying in the preceding year subsequent to publishing a blog article concerning immigrants in Singapore. Although the blogger did not explicitly express or insinuate any negative sentiments against immigrants, a particular subset of readers misinterpreted her blog post and initiated a series of hostile criticisms against her on the social media platform, Facebook. Lim Jialiang, a fellow student at NTU, together with his acquaintances, did not solely target Jeraldine based on their perception of her statements. She was subjected to personal attacks through the introduction of sexist remarks on both her blog and Facebook.
During that period, Jeraldine had limited legal options available to her. The individual showed a reluctance to adopt a reactionary stance and consciously abstained from promoting a reciprocally adverse approach among her readers in addressing instances of cyberbullying. However, she proactively contacted instructors at her university in order to engage in a conversation with the young man, whom she had not previously encountered. The outcome was not particularly motivating. There was a minimal amount of mediation that took place, and no disciplinary measures were implemented in response to the boy’s actions. Nevertheless, Jialiang did extend an apology to Jeraldine. Upon experiencing immediate relief, the individual swiftly discerned the insincerity of the apology, as Jialiang and his associates persisted in defaming her on the social media platform, Facebook.
If the aforementioned legislation had been in effect during the period in which these incidents occurred, Jeraldine would have been supported by the law. The individual in question had the option to pursue a Protection Order against Jialiang and his associates, potentially holding him accountable within the confines of the legal framework.
Undoubtedly, Jeraldine’s narrative represents but one among a multitude of accounts, distinguished by its peculiarity due to the absence of any prior acquaintance with the wrongdoer. In numerous instances, instances of cyberbullying manifest within the context of pre-existing offline relationships. Bullying is observed to transition from traditional settings such as work or school to online platforms like Facebook or other forms of digital communication.
According to a report by The Straits Times, there is an account of a young girl who experienced prolonged periods of verbal taunting and online abuse through several blogs for a duration exceeding six months. The duration of the cyberbullying persisted for a period exceeding six months, and it was not until the student resorted to feigning an illness as a means to remain in school that her mother became cognizant of the full magnitude of the maltreatment.
According to a report by Channel News Asia, an adult female individual was subjected to cyberbullying approximately two years ago. The individual in question would regularly get communications in the form of phone calls, text messages, and social media notifications from an individual who referred to themselves as an “admirer.” This person would assert knowledge of the individual’s whereabouts and activities at all times. Despite taking measures to alter her phone number and contact details in order to resolve the issue of bullying, the woman continues to harbor concerns for her personal safety.
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