Photos: JERALDINE PHNEAH, ST
A recent case of cyberbullying has caught the attention of the online community, prompting debate on the definition of free speech as well as its boundaries – or lack thereof.
According a report in The New Paper, it began with a blog post penned by 22-year-old undergraduate Jeraldine Phneah, written after studying ahead for a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) course which she is enrolled for.
In her post, she made references to concepts including species survival and resource partitioning and attempted to extrapolate them, proffering suggestions on how the immigration issue here could be managed.
Her post was later taken by fellow NTU student Lim Jialiang and shared on his Facebook profile. Netizens began mocking Miss Phneah’s opinions on Mr Lim’s profile, with some comments soon spiralling into racist remarks and personal attacks involving her looks and intellect.
Miss Phneah says she initially tried to handle the situation on her own. “I commented on the thread and told him very nicely that I was very hurt by this incident. “However, he responded with indifference to my feelings and felt his actions were justified,” she says in an e-mail interview.
Following the incident, she wrote in another blog post that she felt “terrorized” as Mr Lim had “much more power in terms of friends on his side.”. Feeling victimised, she approached her school for help and as a result, two of his professors spoke to him, says Miss Phneah.
After that, Mr Lim apologised on Facebook. Intending to lay the matter to rest, she wrote a private note to him on the same platform to thank him. Little did she know that the move would prompt a fresh debate and bigger outcry as he re-posted her note, attracting a flood of comments from netizens who slammed her for going to the school for help.
Of particular interest was one which was purportedly by Mr Vincent Wijeysingha, who used to be part of the Singapore Democratic Party and is currently a social worker. His comments apparently were: “No, civil society is not easily offended, only some silly self-absorbed bloggers like Jeraldine Bimbo Popiah.”
He continued: “Yes, boys and girls, bimbo. B-I-M-B-O. The quality or function of being a totally self-absorbed twit with the intellectual capacity of a popiah and the social grace of a dengue mosquito. Bimbo. B-I-M-B-O”.
The comments attracted debates on whether there should be more thought to language used in discussions, and whether there was a balance between freedom of expression and what constituted cyberbullying.
Other netizens urged her to grow a thicker skin, as inviting criticism is simply par for the course when expressing an opinion online.
Images 1 to 6 show Jeraldine, while the rest of the gallery shows local blogger Xiaxue and Malaysian blogger Audrey Ooi, who have also been attacked online.