Friday, 1 June 2012

You are guilty until you prove yourself innocent in cyberspace, right?

Write or not, you can be wrong!

It is absolutely right that we be held responsible for what we post and say in cyberspace. But only if we indeed are the ones who wrote and posted it. 

SOME years ago, a nephew – a freshie in college then – walked over to me with his phone and pointed out an app he had. It was all in Russian, so it was pretty much Greek to me.

“Watch this,” he said, and fiddled with the keys. Seconds later, my phone rang. It was my wife.

But the wife was sitting across the table, all innocent-like and with her handphone safely ensconced in one of those tie-string cloth bags – inside her handbag (why they do that with handphones, I will never understand).

So, I stared at the nephew. He grinned. It was an app, he said, that could tap into any phone nearby and make a call out, using that number. You got to chat and someone else got the bill.

Cyber fun: This file picture shows a group of people patronising a cybercafe in Petaling Jaya. Someone could very easily walk into a place like this, hack into a person’s account and do something nasty.
 
“Do you want it? I can bluetooth it over to your phone,” he asked, oh so generously.

No thanks, I said, I can pay my bills without having to land someone else with the burden.

That was years ago and with a phone that’s nowhere as canggih as the ones to be found these days. These days, I am told, kids can do just about anything with their phones and computers or tablets.

Which is why the story of the new Evidence Act is quite scary for people like me. You see, anything posted on, say, your Facebook account is now your responsibility (as it should be, if you really did post it) and the real scary part is: you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

I’m no wonderkid and I am still trying to figure out what all this means but the doctrine of being guilty until proven innocent just doesn’t sit right.

Sure, some friends tell me that IP addresses are infallible and unique but these days, tech guys can do just about anything.

And what if some guy goes into a cybercafé, hacks into my computer and does some nasty stuff. Do I take the fall?

I mean, I’m the guy who grew up with stuff like The Net, where Sandra Bullock’s character has her identity stolen and loses just about everything. Of course, in the movie, she’s this IT-savvy girl-genius who manages to outdo the bad guys. But this is the real world. The bad guys often win!

And even Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (she needs no introduction) had to make clear a few days ago that some imposter (im-poster, how apt) was posting stuff in her name.

Sure, there’s a need to regulate what’s being said in social media these days. I tell you, it’s a real rancorous country out there these days.

We’ve had a yellow rally, a red rally, big guys with beef burgers, bigger guys going bottoms up (with warm water please, no isotonic drinks. Someone should tell them that bottoms up is best done with the hard stuff), even punch-ups and egg-throwing fests.

And all that rancour is turning into a lot of venom and seditious, defamatory stuff that’s being spewed anonymously on the Net.

It doesn’t have to be all politics, either.

There was this model who was rubbed the wrong way, quite literally, by some guy in a cybercafe. And a few other guys had heckled her and made catcalls in Tamil.

If she is expecting catcalls in Hindi, Urdu, Telegu or Malayalam from Indian-looking guys in Malaysia, she has a long wait coming.

Most Indian-looking guys here speak Tamil and many do make cat-calls at pretty, young Indian-looking woman.

I don’t know where this woman’s ancestors came from in India but since the guys spoke in Tamil, she decided she hated the Tamils and went on a hate-spree on Facebook.

Of course, that angered other Tamils, whose only crime was trolling the Net. And they went after her with a real vengeance.

The poor woman had to apologise in a newspaper, saying she meant to scold only those guys who had hurt her.

That is the problem with the social media. It’s one thing to grumble to friends about others, but another altogether to go about hate-mongering on the Net.

This model is not alone. Some years ago, another woman – a snatch theft victim, I think – also went on a racist rant after her ordeal.

She, too, received several angry retorts before being forced to apologise.

So, it is important that we stop to think about what we want to write in cyberspace.

And I believe it is absolutely right that we be held responsible for what we post and say. But only if we indeed are the ones who wrote and posted it. But guilty until proven innocent? I’ll definitely take a rain check on that.

> The law comes into effect June 1, 2012 but the writer hopes that lawmakers will take another look at it, although he has no solutions to offer. It’s over to the techies, really.


Why Not? By D. RAJ

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