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Cyber bullying: A growing menace

13 Jan 2019 at 07:57hrs | Views
It is common nowadays for those that use social media platforms to wake up and discover unusual posts on their accounts.

Some of the posts might be nasty, disrespectful and abusive, creating great distress to the affected media platform users.

Posts that describe other social media platform users as "morons," "fools" and "stupid," are, on a daily basis, sent to unsuspecting users.

Tsitsi Masiyiwa and her husband, Strive, the founder of the telecommunication firm, Econet, are among the millions, if not billions of people the world over who are constantly harassed and abused on social media platforms.

It seems the Masiyiwa family has become a recent target of the cyber bullying also known as trolling.

It is an act in which a perpetrator uses digital media to intimidate, harass and mock another person.

After much ridicule and bullying on the social media platform Twitter, Tsitsi, who later on discontinued the family's Twitter account wrote:

"Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes."

The online onslaught against the Masiyiwa family, is, however, not an isolated case.

Cyber bullying is common in people from all cultural, religious, racial and social backgrounds.

Apart from Twitter, social media platform users are being harassed on such platforms as Facebook and Instagram among others.

But is cyber bullying really something to write home about?

Anesu Muponda, a communications and media consultant, said cyber bullying is a trivial issue that one can easily deal with.

"Unless, of course, if physical threats are made, cyber bullying, to me, is an issue that one can easily deal with. I expect anyone who is old enough to be on social media to be able to fight back, to press the ignore button or to simply block the bully," Muponda said.

Professor Enoch Mudavanhu, a media practitioner and communications guru thinks differently.

"People are using the cyber space to fleece others whilst others are using it to torment others. Unfortunately, these bad practices are going to be with us for a long time because technology is progressing even further," Prof Mudavanhu said.

He advised those who are hooked onto the cyber space to be wary of people they interact with.

Taking advantage of the anonymity, some social media players threaten others with death and sexual abuse whilst others often stalk their victims.

Experts say cyber bullying can result in victims being depressed or suicidal.

The posting of humiliating photos, videos, or the spread of rumours are other forms of online bullying.

Unfair comments can be a form of cyber bullying.

Another form of social media bullying is trolling which is when cyber bullies create discord on the internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an on-line community.

Owners of online media platforms have been criticised for their failure to effectively deal with cyber bullying.

Dick Costolo, the Twitter CEO, was at one time forced to issue an apology regarding his company's failure to protect users from bullying.

The fact that some social media participants use pseudo  names makes it easier for cyber bullies to attack innocent people. Some online social media accounts are also hacked.

In Zimbabwe, efforts are being made to combat cyber bulling with the legislature coming up with the Computer-Crime and Cybercrime Bill.

The bill, which now awaits presidential assent seek to do away with cyber related crimes.

Professor Mudavanhu said the regulation of social media in Zimbabwe requires a well defined act of law which will iron out the nitty-gritties surrounding bullying and terrorism.

"Putting regulatory frameworks without educating the society about the positive and potential use of social media for commercial and communication purposes will see further transgressions of the social media laws," said Prof Mudavanhu.

Source - zimpapers
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