Handling online bullying and cyber-mobbing

Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution. However, there are mandatory and ethical limitations to freedom of speech. There are laws against defamation and libel, as well as community rules and standards implemented by social media sites to prevent the misuse and abuse of the freedom of speech.

Online bullying is prevalent in today's digital and social media space. Bullying occurs when individual(s) direct bad words, hate speech or invectives to offend, discredit, and dishonor an individual/party with an opposing view.

Under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), bullying may also refer to:
• Slander when an individual utters statements that are highly defamatory in character (Article 358, RPC)
• Intriguing Against Honor when an individually purposely attempts to blemish the honor or reputation of a person (Article 364, RPC)

It is often difficult to pin down individuals who commit online bullying as they often hide under pen names/aliases. These individuals are famously called "trolls" in internet slang. Trolls with the same belief system or working under the same client typically gather in a particular post or page to harass individuals with differing views in degrading and dehumanizing ways. This act is generally called “cyber-mobbing.”

Differing views and opinions are part of a healthy and vibrant democracy. Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution. However, there are mandatory and ethical limitations to freedom of speech. There are laws against defamation and libel, as well as community rules and standards implemented by social media sites to prevent the misuse and abuse of the freedom of speech.

Today, handling and countering dissent and criticism has become, more than ever, a need rather than an advantage for any social media user. It comes with the social media territory. All social media users must have a mindset that they can be bashed by anyone at any time.

For today's social media user, awareness is a key deterrent against online bullying. Social media users should be aware of existing laws and regulations governing free speech, and standards implemented by various social media platforms on content of personal posts. Knowledge of the law is one’s protection against abuse. 

In expressing an opinion, it is also important for a social media user to be aware that there will always be contrary/differing views. These criticisms may come in constructive or destructive forms. Nevertheless, being composed in language and behavior is indicative of one's social media ethics. Social media can be self-correcting, especially now that there is available technology to track or gauge the truthfulness and accuracy of a certain claim or argument.

Trolling and cyber-mobbing continues to flourish in the social media space. Some users will continue to violate community policies on speech, and will not stop from harassing individuals who offer different views on certain issues. What we can control is our conduct and demeanor in responding to online bullying and cyber-mobbing. 

We become part of the problem if we react violently to bullies and trolls. We become one of them, instead of becoming their opposite by doing so.

We have the power to disarm trolls and bullies through awareness, knowledge, openness, and groundedness in reality. Our responsible words and actions will always be our best weapons to counter bullying and cyber-mobbing.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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