K Ragavan

Kicker: Accountability

Social interaction online has same rules as regular communication

Bad etiquette online doesn’t just happen when you’re anonymous. Even if someone is speaking to a known person or a family member online, they end up typing things they wouldn’t say face-to-face. Most people don’t think too much about the consequences, they just want to express themselves. With anonymity online, many also have an opportunity to get away with whatever they want to say – even if it hurts another person’s feelings or comes out sounding sexist.

I don’t think there is enough being done to educate young people about social etiquette. I have been exposed to computers since I was three years old, as my father was in the IT industry. But I was trained constantly on what to do and how to behave online. Schools are giving students tablets and encouraging them to use it for research and assignments, but are they teaching them how to be safe on the internet? I think not. Parents too, need to be tech-savvy. I’m in the IT industry and I refuse to give my children smartphones because I firmly believe they are not toys. There is too much access to undesirable information, and people who could take advantage of their vulnerable nature. Similarly, parents are responsible for teaching their children to be respectful individuals, who are not sexist or abusive online.

With the rise in technology, there needs to be some form of education on social etiquette in cyberspace. For instance, my previous employer asked us to sign a form on core values – it stated that as we were employees of the company, we represented them outside the office, too and must behave appropriately. When signing, it gave us a sense of responsibility and accountability. The same sort of philosophy should be applied when people are dealing with others online.

From Mr Malcolm Fernandes

CEO of an electronics store in Abu Dhabi

Kicker: Safety

Women must protect themselves from being targeted

Some time ago, I read that a girl went missing after she went to meet someone she met online. There were a few more such cases reported. These cases have placed a question mark on being anonymous or hiding one’s identity on social media. What are the intentions behind this? Why are women the main target of cybercrimes?

The rise in internet users has caused an alarming rise in cybercrimes. Digital media gives people an opportunity to extend their reach to the entire world, both professionally and personally. Social media gives women the tools to share their success or problems, or their stories with the world. Ironically, on the other hand, it has made the lives of many women insecure, with the rise in cybercrimes.

Harassment, trolling, cyber-stalking and defamation are a few of the crimes committed against women in the digital world. Mostly, these offences are committed with a revenge mentality or just to play a prank. The nature of social media is such that you can easily, or with minimal effort, obtain personal information about people you don’t really even know. Generally, most websites allow users to post comments anonymously. Even on websites where you need to enter your name and other personal details, people can falsify their identity. Once it is faked, then with the help of technology, one can become almost untraceable. This boosts the confidence of cybercriminals. Studies show that many women prefer not to report these crimes, fearing social repercussions.

It will take time to protect ourselves in this ever-changing world of social media. Until then, we need to be careful about what information we place in the public domain, as well as to whom we disclose this information. Not trusting strangers is the main key to safety. Most importantly, I think people should not hesitate to report cybercrimes to law-enforcing agencies.

From Ms Prachiti Talathi Gandhi

Works with the Emirates Literature Foundation in Dubai

Kicker: Morality

Education is key to curbing bad behaviour

Today, gender abuse and cybercrimes are increasing, and this is mainly true for teenagers and students, who are constantly on the internet and exposed to its many influences. They are attracted to the content available online, but are often tempted to commit mistakes. On the one hand, social media is playing a vital role in society, but on the other hand, a lot of miscreants commit cybercrimes, with unsuspecting people falling into their trap and some even losing their lives. This is mainly due to the lack of education, because the system is not encouraging the adoption of a moral code to encourage students to be more responsible in cyberspace. Educational curricula should be modified to teach students moral behaviour, and to let them know there are serious consequences to doing something right or wrong – even online.

By doing this, cybercrime statistics might come down to a certain extent. Apart from this, it is the duty of parents to spend some time daily with their children, and lead by example when it comes to good behaviour. Good moral behaviour also develops when one associates with good friends. Children from morally aware, educated families would behave better and have a better understanding of the world around them. Apart from India, other countries are also facing the problem of gender abuse. In Britain, for instance, there is much outrage from women on the impact of hate speech by people on social media. People gain or lose respect by the way they behave, and this is a reality both online and offline.

From Mr K. Ragavan

Retired executive based in Bengaluru, India

Kicker: Exceptions

System is not at fault, individuals are

If we take the entire gamut of the education system, there is generally more emphasis on academics rather than on shaping the character or personality of an individual. While agreeing with this fact, we must understand that hate speeches are circumstantial and not necessarily gender specific. Often, it’s quoted that the Western education system is much more modern and developed than the Indian system. But is irresponsible hate speech restricted to any part of the world? In this regard, I would strongly argue that stringent legal actions are the only way to tackle the irresponsibility of those who promote hate speech.

If we realise that this practice of targeted attacks is a systemic error, then we would see all people under this system evolving as haters. Since this is not happening, then it just goes to show that it is a more individualistic drive. The reason for lack of accountability is probably the only reason needed to define this phenomenon. At most, we could couple it with the fact that if people are given any leeway, they would have the motive to attempt to push someone else’s buttons or behave badly. As long as people are not booked for such acts, such incidents will continue. Morality is a virtue that can be given as a directive at the school level. To understand the real value of leading a moral life, one needs to have a conducive environment and background. Hence, a revamp of the education system alone will not suffice in stopping such offences. Major legal steps, coupled with punitive actions, must be endorsed to create accountability for people on social media, who could possibly defame any person or institution. Educational institutions can only do so much to chisel out a good individual. To curb any kind of offence, what is allowed and what is not must be clearly laid out by legal entities around the world. But as things stand, we can clearly see that it is not the educational system that is responsible, but individuals who spark such offences.

From Ms Arya Geetha Sasikumar

Student based in Trivandrum, India