Online bullying at its worst

2018-06-26 11:45

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Cyber-bullying can destroy peoples and even lead to suicide, warn experts.

If caught, the perpetrators face prosecution and possible jail.

These warnings follow the emergence of several Facebook sites under the name “PMB Confessions” on which derogatory, sometimes untrue and always hurtful anonymous comments are posted about people. Victims are often high school pupils but recently even a local doctor fell foul of this site.

The perpetrators keep their identities hidden and its difficult to trace the post back to an individual.

On some posts seen by Weekend Witness, the culprits posted highly insulting and negative comments about people they identified by name, including information about their schools and the grades they are in.

Last week a medical doctor, Sphesihle Ngobese, confirmed to Weekend Witness that someone had posted “lies” about him on such a site. An unidentified woman claimed to be having an affair with the married doctor and warned schoolgirls who wear short skirts to stay away from him.

“I got messages from friends telling me that there were posts about me on a Facebook page called PMB Confessions Real Deal. I got an IT expert to help me trace the people behind the posts but we couldn’t,” the doctor said.

Ngobese said his wife was not happy and the post caused problems with some of his family members.

Despite him reporting the matter to Facebook several times, the page is still up and running.

“From what I’ve gathered, the page has been reported and closed several times and the people behind it create a new one with a slightly different name.

“I would appreciate it if anyone with more knowledge in this field can help me as the longer those messages are out there the bigger the damage to my reputation,” said Ngobese.

Zama Nxumalo warned parents on Facebook to ensure their children were not part of the PMB Confessions high school group. “Please don’t allow your kids to be in this group, this is where most of these fights around high schools begin. I fear suicides are next.”

Pietermaritzburg clinical psychologist Clive Willows said this is a form of bullying and should be illegal. “It affects the dignity and reputation of an individual.”

Russel Luck, technology attorney at Swift TechLaw, said verbal abuse and harassment has been happening for years but as sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter become increasingly popular, they are rapidly becoming havens for people who want to comment openly without damage to their reputations.

“The modern age has given rise to ‘Internet-trolling’ whereby perpetrators vexatiously attack others because they feel protected from the repercussions,” said Luck.

He said when someone’s character is attacked it can lead to a civil claim for damages. If the language involves hate speech or incites people to violence or racism, it is grounds for criminal charges. Perpetrators of online defamation take refuge in hidden identities making it difficult to lay charges against an individual, he said. However, it is possible to sometimes track down the perpetrators with the help of specialists.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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