Dubai: Dubai-based influencer Achu Oommen has opened up about how she faced cyber-bullying following her father’s passing away back home in India.
The daughter of Oommen Chandy, two-time chief minister of the south Indian state of Kerala and a member of the state’s legislative assembly, claimed she was targeted by cyber bullies when her brother stood for a by-election to the assembly in August after her father’s death in July.
A mother of three schoolgoing children in Dubai, Achu revealed the distressing experience of facing the cyberattack and how she handled it in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. She was speaking in view of the Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a global effort observed in October to help everyone stay safe and protected when using technology.
“My father’s passing was a huge loss for us. Personally, I was very attached to my dad. So it was the biggest loss for me,” Achu recalled.
What ensued was not just an unprecedented farewell that was bestowed on a public personality by the masses in the state. The grieving family of Achu also found themselves in the thick of public life.
“It all happened too fast,” said Achu, who faced a vicious cyberattack despite her making it clear that she was not in politics. “Cyber bullies took photos and videos from my Instagram handle and propagated false narratives attacking me and my late father,” she said.
At first, she said she believed it to be a misunderstanding and decided to ignore it. However, as the attacks intensified, she wanted to address the issue.
“I decided to come out with a Facebook post explaining that this is part of my job. I’m a content creator, and this is what I do. And the pictures they had used were from my social media handles which I’ve been advertising.”
Despite her clarifications, the attacks continued.
“I had to meet the press and I made it very clear that I have never misused my father’s name. And I’ve always led my life with utmost honesty. But then it escalated to the level of cyber lynching. It was as if they knew the truth, but they just wanted to attack me.”
“They presented my photographs as if they had captured my photographs secretly when in fact they were taking out the photos which I had been advertising on my Instagram page and never locked at any point in time.”
Achu’s husband and Dubai-based entrepreneur Leejo Philip also put out a Facebook post clarifying that Achu had wholehearted support from him and their children and her achievements reflected her tireless dedication and creativity. “Coming from a business-oriented lineage, I have upheld that heritage which empowers me to fully provide for my family without external support,” he wrote.
“But that was not enough,” said Achu. “They were at it like a mission. That’s when I noticed that most of these attacks were from fake accounts. I also understood that some of the accounts belonged to very responsible people.”
Taking legal action
Achu filed a case with the cyber police, the local police station and the state’s Women’s Commission. She said her motivation for doing so was threefold: to protect her father’s legacy, to defend her husband’s family’s business reputation, and to stand up for women who may not have the means or courage to face such attacks.
Achu, who said no legal action has been taken yet, pointed to the need for stricter regulations regarding social media accounts to prevent cyberattacks.
She urged others facing cyberbullying not to let it affect their self-worth and advised them to be mindful in responding to negativity.
Despite the ordeal, Achu expressed gratitude for the staunch support of her family and social media followers. Professionally, Achu said, she found a silver lining in the experience as her followers increased significantly during the days of cyberbullying. As she looks ahead, Achu plans to restart her content creation journey, hoping that her story can shed light on the issue of cyberbullying and inspire others, especially women, to stand up against online harassment.