Sticks and stones may break my bones but memes can never hurt me

China Jocson (The Philippine Star) - August 18, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I am a victim of a cyber bully and I know I am not alone.

My attacks began in 2010: several Facebook accounts using my name and photos had surfaced with the intention to ridicule, malign and put me to shame. The person responsible for the Facebook attacks came forward, admitting that her reason for doing so was anger and jealousy, brought about by my personal circumstances and affiliations. I couldn’t understand it, but I chose to let it go.

After a few months, Twitter became their platform of choice. And up to the writing of this article, cyber bullies have been actively tormenting me for almost three years and counting. Now it’s a different set of antagonists, but with the same reasons and intentions.

How I could be attacked is not hard to understand, especially for those who go through the experiences similar to mine. There are the usual elements — an anonymous account, a barrage of derogatory posts, tales they crafted and altered based on morsels of information they gathered from hearsay or other people; add some unflattering photos and the ingredients to their bullyrag seem complete. The frequency of their taunting tends to vary, but I notice it gets amplified when they see that I’m happy and carefree online.

And while blocking or ignoring these accounts would be the initial advice, a victim must, first and foremost, get over the frustration and the desire to counter-strike.

Reporting the bullying to your account managers can only take you so far. Twitter allows parody and dispute in its comments — this is stated in their terms and conditions — and unless the attacks involve child pornography, chances are, all these social media sites will turn a blind eye to incidents of abusive behavior.

So I sought the help of the Cybercrime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) through the division’s head, Director Ronald Aguto. And just like any other government agency, dealing with the NBI requires patience. The process is painstakingly long and, more often than not, it made me feel hopeless.

Agent Efren Abantao was assigned to work on my case. Without going much into details, for risk of jeopardizing their other operations, the bureau came up with entrapment methods to catch the culprits. They engaged the offending account holders, provoking the users with language and a tone proven to incite reactions; the fake accounts were then monitored for several months, including suspect accounts to align their activities. Several other methods were utilized coupled with diligence, which eventually led to the extraction of the location and account details of the perpetrators — this with the help of a subpoena issued to the network providers.

Knowing with certainty who the attackers are gave me a different sense of peace. No, I choose not to reveal their identities and will never call them out publicly; this would make me no different from them. I will not even file a case against them though I have sufficient evidence and an esteemed legal team led by Atty. Lorna Kapunan to defend me. Instead, I am grateful to have known who they are and I find solace in the fact that I’ve never done them wrong and their actions are brought about by their issues with people I happen to be connected with.

As with most bullies, their concerns lie deeper and often go beyond their victims.

For those with situations similar to mine, you can call the authorities; while this will not guarantee a definite conclusion for everyone, they can provide help. Do not empower your bullies; resist the urge to react in kind. Do not waste time refuting what they say; remember “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

My attackers are still at it, by the way: it is who they have chosen to become and it is all that they can do.

* * *

China Jocson is a political communications practitioner, a lifestyle journalist and a social entrepreneur. She was also a former broadcast journalist for a major news network.

* * *

Contact NBI Cybercrime Dicision at: 523-8231 loc. 3455 and 3454.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with