No-holds-barred dialogue shines horrifying spotlight on online bullying and its aftermath

In this digital age, none of us are strangers to cyberbullying. At what scale does online harassment occur, how does it affect the people on the receiving end, and what might be possible solutions to the problem?

This was the subject of a recent Clubhouse discussion organised by the Content Forum, titled “Cyberbullying: They Asked For It”.

Student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, singer and host Hani Farhana Hatim – better known as Hunny Madu – and radio announcer Hafiz Hatim took part in the no-holds-barred conversation about dealing with online toxicity.

Sharing her experience of online gaming communities, Ain Husniza said children were particularly vulnerable to abuse – from both predatory adults, as well as their own peers.

“Children are innocent; they go online thinking that they just want to make friends, but there are people who will take advantage of that. I’ve received unsolicited pictures myself… and I’ve had friends as young as 11 being asked to send their own pictures to people,” she said.

Ain Husniza added that what her parents taught her at a young age about staying safe online, had prepared, and protected her from online harassment – up to a certain extent. However, even she was not prepared for the abuse that would be levelled against her when she chose to publicly speak out against a rape joke made by her teacher.

“I was shocked because people weren’t just attacking me over the issue itself… it was a character assassination – my personality, my body… just attacking me for being myself. There was a Facebook group with more than 100,000 teachers, discussing my case once it went viral – the comments really shocked me. They were body-shaming me, making comments about my body, and sexualising me. It really shone a light on how some Malaysians behaved online,” she said.

Hani Farhana spoke about the pressure public figures faced in trying to maintain a dual identity. This was especially so for women. While saying some celebrities may hold back their personality on social media, she found it best to be herself.

“I used to do a lot of hosting for TV, and I was hosting a serious talk show, so my image was always about respecting the market. But it wasn’t the real me, I felt like I had blinds over some aspects of my life. When I started working out, I realised I was comfortable with who I was – whatever I showed on Instagram is what you will get in real life,” she said.

“When I finally grasped that concept, I realised I had nothing to hide. Take me as I am, I don’t want to hide any more. I believe it’s about owning yourself, finding your power, and being comfortable with yourself, if you want to be a public figure.”

Speaking as a father, Hafiz joked that he would never let his daughter have social media if he could, but that would not be fair, nor feasible.

“Frankly, the best thing I can do is monitor what she watches, and guide, and educate her. It all boils down to parents sharing with their children about the potential threats that are out there. It’s all about our relationship with our kids, and how open we are with them about all this,” he said.

The discussion was part of an on-going series by the Content Forum, to create awareness over its current public consultation for proposed revisions to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code.

Drawn up by the Content Forum and introduced in 2004, the Content Code is a set of guidelines which outline best practices and ethical standards for content creation and curation.

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