of racist jokes & online pseudonyms

To state the obvious, there's no such thing as being completely anonymous. No, not even me using the nick 'anonymous_x', I've got to admit. There are always ways to trace the online persona to his/her real-life identity.

Why bother, though? You may ask.

Just for the thrill of hunting & identifying, I guess. There are some of us who are truly having a lot of spare time to kill.

The latest case has 3 teenagers being investigated over "racially insensitive remarks" on Facebook. I wish them a very good luck. The investigation will be thorough & mentally taxing & these not-so-young youngsters might be swearing off the Internet on the end of their ordeal (whether proven guilty or not is another issue).

LIKE it or not, no number of online pseudonyms nor privacy controls can grant you true anonymity in the vast public space that is the Internet. And you can bet that what you say online can and will be used against you if the situation calls for it.

The Sunday arrest of three teenagers, aged 17 to 18, over racially insensitive remarks on Facebook demonstrates just that very fact.

The arrest came on the back of a report lodged by a netizen last Saturday. While investigations are underway, this we know for sure: The concept of online privacy is dubious, and that everyone is ethically responsible for what they do and say.

Netizens can create social- networking groups on an invitation-only basis, restrict access to their blogs, or join a forum under a nickname. But that doesn't mean messages posted can't be traced, as the police have shown.

There's nothing stopping someone who has access to an online message from easily capturing a screen grab of a webpage or taking a digital photograph of it, and then forwarding it to other people.

And we aren't even talking about what hackers can do yet, nor the prospect of Internet service providers giving details of a person's online activity to the authorities.

This latest case also brings to light the callous attitude many young Singaporeans have when expressing themselves online.

Apparently, the three youths had posted what were racial jokes, but which quickly unravelled to become racist.

Such is the quick-fire danger of Internet postings, yet concepts of action and consequence in cyberspace appear to still elude many.

Back in 2005, three young men were charged under the Sedition Act for making inflammatory remarks about Muslims and Malays online. Two got jail sentences, and one was put on probation.

Yet, in 2006, another young man nearly got himself into trouble under the same Act for putting up offensive cartoons of Jesus Christ on his blog. He received a police warning.

Now, we have three more youths who are none the wiser.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, a director at Keystone Law Corporation, said the ease with which people can instantly publish their views on the Internet, as compared to doing so through traditional media, can contribute to the undertone of racism and allow defamatory views to surface.

As a result, worrisome defamatory cases linked to social networking sites have started to appear.

So, kudos to the authorities for not taking these cases lightly. In the long term, more can be done to help the young understand the importance of Internet ethics.

Schools are already teaching students how to use the Internet responsibly.

And, while I applaud netizens who help to moderate online platforms and remain voices of reason, the ultimate solution lies in family upbringing.

Through my interaction with social workers, it's evident that parents play a vital role in inculcating their children with the right values, starting from a very young age.

So parents, familiarise yourself with your kids' Internet activity ? before it's too late.

From Asiaone, "Nothing online is ever private".

WHEN full-time national serviceman Prhabagaran joined a Facebook discussion on the things parents do to frighten their children into behaving, he expected to be amused.

Instead, he was offended to find remarks being made about Indians. He felt some of the comments were racist, and made a police report on Jan 31.

On Wednesday, police said three Chinese youths aged between 17 and 18 had been arrested for sedition and were out on bail while investigations continued.

They are believed to have been involved in the postings on the Facebook discussion site, which drew more than 2,000 members in two weeks.

An avid Facebook user, Mr Prhabagaran told The Straits Times that he found a Jan 29 post by someone calling himself Desmond Tan especially offensive for the things said about Indians. Mr Prhabagaran, who uses the moniker 'Prab Nathan' online, said: 'It started to hit me that what could have started as a joke had become mindless, point-blank racism.'

He and other members - including those with Chinese names - ticked off 'Desmond Tan' and others who had put up offensive posts, but to no avail.

From Straits Times, "Online joke turns nasty".

Update on 13/02: latest news has the police not going to charge the three teens arrested for racist facebook postings. Because they are immature 18-19 years old. Hmm....let's see if they have learnt their lessons when they're older. Can't be immature forever, can they?

POLICE have taken action against three teens arrested last week in connection with racist remarks that were posted on the social networking site Facebook.

They will not be charged, however.

The sternest punishment was given to the teen who started the Facebook group, which used a derogatory term referring to Indians as its name.

The youth, whose identity is unknown, will be placed on the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports' (MCYS) Guidance Programme.

The two others, Singapore Polytechnic students Sam Soo Siu Weng, 17 and Goh Jun Yi, 18 - who were the administrators of the Facebook group - have been cautioned.

In a statement on Friday night, police said the trio were not charged as they had acted out of immaturity, rather than malice.

From Straits Times, "3 youths won't be charged".

Police said the youth who started the Facebook group that stirred feelings of unhappiness and resentment against other races would be placed on a Guidance Programme.

And the two youths who acted as administrators of the site have been cautioned and will not have any record of criminal conviction.

Similarly, the other youth will not have any record of criminal conviction should he satisfactorily complete the Guidance Programme. But he may be warned after satisfactorily completing the programme.

The police said these actions were taken in consideration that the youths acted out of immaturity rather than malice and in consultation with the Attorney's General Chambers.

The boys have since apologised for their actions and the offensive online page and forum removed.

The police would like to remind the public that it takes a serious view of acts that can threaten the social harmony in Singapore. This includes those who do so hiding behind a shroud of anonymity afforded by the Internet.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Youths involved in Facebook racism incident to be given 2nd chance".


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