"If you go on social media you see people write and speak about anything. They write what they like."
These were the concerns of internet and social media PhD scholar and lecturer Amilia Moremogolo Malebane, who spoke at a dialogue at the University of Johannesburg's Bunting campus on Friday, under the theme "Cyberbullying and rape culture at tertiary institutions".
The dialogue was hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in collaboration with the university's community engagement committee.
SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks explained that the purpose of the dialogue was to educate about and advocate for the right to freedom of the person, human dignity, privacy, bodily and psychological integrity at tertiary institutions.
He added that the dialogue was also a platform for engagement on the position of the right to privacy within the digital space.
"Within this context of this discussion is that we shouldn't forget that we have also lost one of our greatest academics to suicide, as a result of comments received on social media for a role played at university during Fees Must Fall," Brooks said, referring to the University of Cape Town's Professor Bongani Mayosi who died in July.
Social media use should be 'taught' at school
Feminist activist Mandisa Khanyile who was behind anti-gender-based violence campaign #TotalShutDown was also in attendance.
"There's a sense of safety that people have when they are behind the keyboard. They think that because they are behind the screens of their cellphones they can do and say whatever they want," she said.
She defined cyberbullying as "distributing information about someone, harassment and incitement of crimes, and frauds of different types".
She added there should be more seminars to encourage students to report bullying.
Malebane said it was also time that "social media" became a subject that is taught at schools to create awareness among those who were not familiar with it.
University of Johannesburg government stakeholder relations representative Lebohang Mokhomatha added that it was important that students knew that they are going to be listened to when they voiced their concerns regarding violence.
"The reason why we are having these conversations, especially from a community engagement perspective, is because some of the things we get from these dialogues, we will take out to our communities that we work with, she said.