The virtual world is often crowded with more or less aggression and hate. Social media comment sections, news media, YouTube, blogs or any platform where mass people can voice their opinion freely are seen to be heated with exchange of hate. This hate derives itself from sometimes non-existent reasons.
And the common thread is the presence of thousands of nameless and faceless IDs in the virtual landscape, who perpetuate this aggression.
Also many of the social media people are neither faceless nor nameless, but still show aggression.
So, the question is, would these people be so aggressive or intolerant in real life? Do people feel safer with their identity remaining hidden or perhaps feel that they are within a safety net in the online world and cannot be caught as they are far away from the person they are insulting?
Anonymity leading to cybercrime
Anonymity is actually a complex thing; it can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has helped political activists and whistle blowers of big corporations express their opinion with relative safety; on the other hand it has led to an increase in cybercrimes with advancement of information and communication technologies (ICT).
Anonymity is also a tool of free speech. Again, it sometimes alienates an individual’s personality and makes him/her do more bad than good.
It has become a common practice to become anonymous by hiding identity. A study on anonymity in social media carried out by Kaiping Zhang and Rene FKizilcec of the department of communication at Stanford University found anonymous sharing to be a popular choice (59 per cent of shares), especially for controversial content which is 3.2 times more likely to be shared anonymously.
Perpetrators prone to anonymous texting?
And this does not limit itself to only content sharing. Nowadays sending a text while remaining hidden makes people more prone to commit cybercrimes. Arka Rahman, a second-year student at IBA, Dhaka University recently experienced a similar ordeal.
“I once went with the trend of opening a Kubool account (a messaging platform that allows others to send texts anonymously) just for fun, and, indeed I got loads of wonderful and heartening texts. But then, I got a few from the same person that went on to describe how the sender would sexually harass a close friend,” he said. Arka added, the sender was obviously known to him and thus gathered courage to send such text taking advantage of being anonymous.
Care is the solution
What could be the root cause of this nature? Roufun Naher, a teacher of educational and counselling psychology at DU, has an answer: “Building one’s moral character in his/her childhood.”
“We need to put inside a child's head that ‘no matter what, I will not harm myself or anyone else; no matter what opportunity I get.’ If the child can properly understand and live by this thought, s/he will not engage in anything that harms another individual,” she noted.
Otherwise, she pointed out, “They will grow up thinking that the whole world is basically a system of rewards and punishments. You do something bad, you get punished. But if you manage to get away with doing something bad, you don't get punished. And this, I think, greatly influences the social media sphere with all the bullying and hate speech. People just feel they can get away without being punished.”
In the 21st century, children get introduced to technology even before learning to walk or speak. Hence, it is of little doubt that the virtual world has an astounding impact on their psyche. The virtual world may become a crime zone in the near future, if it is not already.
So, installing moral and ethical values regarding internet usage is also a challenge of the future and may very well define how an individual behaves when s/he grows up.
Vigilant eyes of law enforcers
Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have also taken numerous steps with the aim of creating a safe cyberspace for everyone. Mohammad Walid Hossain, a deputy commissioner of media and public relations at Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said, “Many units of DMP and CID are already working to handle all these cybercrimes. If anyone faces any sort of cybercrime, I would request them to immediately contact the authorities. They can contact the closest Thana as soon as possible.”
He further said, “It is true that these crimes have increased recently. We are also doing our very best to address them. Till now, we have handled every case that has come to our attention.”
Ismot Hasnine Masrur E Khuda is a student at the University of Dhaka.