Greetings and happy Youth Day, a day set aside to remember the brave participants of The Soweto Uprising of 1976, a day we are reminded that our peace and comforts came at a price. I continue today with tech and how when it is misused can violate the next person.
Humans have the freedom to say, write or print what they want, but this right must never violate anyone else’s right or break the law in any way.
Technology allows us to be linked more easily, more readily and quicker than ever before. However, this means that the bullies we previously left at school or work are now in our pockets, riding with us to our safe spaces. The abuse of it leads to things like cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. It can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. I find it important to highlight the different forms it can take.
There is also the creation of deep fake content. Deep Fake content usually starts as genuine content then altered to seem legitimate and real but depicts something that never happened. For example, photos or video clips where faces are swopped from the original person to an intended target. Increasingly, due to the popularity and sophistication of free apps, deep fakes are harder to spot and easier to make.
Cyberbullying is often more intense than traditional bullying. This is because, bullies are braver when they can hide behind the safety of a screen. In addition to this, they are also completely removed from their victim’s reaction. Thus, they seldom can see the vulnerability of their victim and the harmful reality of their behaviour. Consequently, victims are not obviously noticed, and bullies can remain anonymous.
According to a worldwide Vodafone survey, South Africa has a cyberbullying rate of 24% which places it at number four in the world. Combine this statistics and societal risk factors and simply sharing a video is pushing someone to the edge, sometimes it is depression and for others suicide. The unfortunate thing is that cyberbullying is not a phase your grow out of and many adults are still victims.
South Africa does not have specific legislation that deals with cyberbullying, but perpetrators can be charged for assault, extortion, criminal defamation and Crimen injuria (defined as unlawful, intentional and serious violation of dignity or privacy of another person). If you are ever a victim of cyberbullying, know that it can be made a legal case and save as much evidence as you can.
For the rest of us who think this is beyond us, keep in mind that sharing and even consuming harmful content helps videos go viral. Most apps allow you to report posts, do so as soon as you can. Always be kind online.