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Have you been a victim of cyber-harassment?

By Annelle Tayao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last updated 22:51:00 10/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines--Some time between Friendster and Facebook, there was Multiply. Its most refreshing feature: You could post anything and everything you wanted, but restrict the content specifically to contacts of your choice. It?s a feature Patrick Sicat failed to use-and has probably become the biggest regret of his life so far.

His blog, titled ?The difference between two Universities,? has received a lot of negative attention from the Multiply community, specifically, UP Diliman students. So much attention, in fact, that he has already closed the account containing the blog.

A transferee from DLSU Manila, Patrick, in his blog, complains about his recent change of campus. At first it sounds like the typical I?m-a-new-student-finding-it-hard-to-fit-in-and-so-I-hate-you-all kind of angst. After the first paragraph, however, things start to become interesting.

From UP?s non-air-conditioned classrooms to ?disgusting chairs and hundred-year-old paint? to the ?nerdy students,? Patrick itemized just how better his previous university is. But what triggered the anger of most UP students was an insult to UP?s symbol of pride?the Oblation. Patrick wrote, ??the statue that upholds a bold representation of what it means to be a jackass?,? and in doing so, set off a mob that carried no torches or pitchforks?just a whole lot of cyber-hate.

Bullying

What happened to Patrick is a case of cyber-harassment, and it can seriously affect the person being targeted. According to the website stopcyberbullying.org, cyber-harassment is much like cyberbullying, ?when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones??except that it occurs between adults.

The harassment came in comments?some just mild taunts (?Take care, Patrick?), others quite threatening (?Hindi mo pa nae-encounter ang term na ?HIT?? Pwes alamin mo before other UP students introduce this word to you the hard way?), and others even trying to fuel more the anger of the bullying crowd by pretending their comments were from Patrick (?Sorry, sorry, sorry, For f***?s sake!?) Patrick posted his blog on July 23?the comments only stopped almost two weeks later, and by that time, it had also been reposted over and over again. One Multiply site, aptly called University Jackass, even served as the central hub for bashing Patrick and his blog.

Unless you are on the receiving end of cyber-harassment, you don?t really feel that what?s happening. As a UP alumna, I, too, was hooked by all the comments, excited at how the next threat would be phrased. A hundred (more or less, I lost count) comments later, however, the tables started to turn?some people were asking for the haters to just stop and let Patrick live a normal life again.

They weren?t exactly on Patrick?s side; they just felt that the guy had suffered enough. He even posted his public apology on University Jackass: ?My sincerest apology to my fellow UP students. Do take pardon for what I have posted at Multiply. This is just a blog, a stereotyped thought that ran through my mind. Later on should I find that not only am I insulting the students from UP, but also myself. I take full responsibility of the shame that has been placed against me. I ask of you to pls delete the reposted blog entry that I have made. I have learned my lesson... I was just randomly typing this blog and that I didn?t know that all of you would take this blog seriously?this is where I was wrong? I assure you that I will not do this again and would write something that would place the name of our school in vain. I admit that I have committed a mistake and I would gladly appreciate your consideration of forgiving me.?

But Patrick is lucky. Last year a teenage girl in the US killed herself after being bullied by just one woman via MySpace?and that was just one person. In Patrick?s case, the online community, fortunately, realized early enough that they were wasting time throwing around all that anger. I myself couldn?t add more violent remarks against Patrick. For me, he?s just a guy who had a bad day, decided to blog and forgot to restrict the entry to his contacts.

The mob had served its purpose, and Patrick seemed to have learned his lesson?a lesson we can all benefit from: Freedom of speech is your constitutional right, but with it comes responsibility. It?s easy to accidentally expose what you had no intention of exposing on the Internet, so be careful?and remember that like everything else on the Web, that privacy button is just one click away.

     


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