JULY 11 — Cyberbullying has emerged as a critical issue in Malaysia as recently highlighted by the tragic death of a 30-year-old social media influencer Rajeswary Appahu, known online as Esha, following severe online harassment. This incident has ignited public outrage and brought attention to the pervasive and damaging effects of online harassment.

In July 2022, a 44 year-old mother of three committed suicide at her home in USJ after being cyber-bullied in TikTok. While in 2019, a 16-year-old girl in Sarawak jumped to her death hours after 69 per cent of respondents in her Instagram poll encouraged her to kill herself. Until today the culprits have not been brought to justice.

Caused by cyberbullying and online slander by a group of internet users, these tragic cases raise questions and underscore the urgent need for robust anti-cyberbullying measures in Malaysia to prevent similar incidents from recurring.

The current situation in Malaysia

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1. There is a significant lack of cybersafety awareness and education, formal or informal, leaving citizens to navigate online safety through trial and error, often getting scammed before learning. Additionally, mainstream and online media fail can do better in promoting cybersafety education and advocacy.

2. Current cybersecurity agencies focus more on the cybersecurity of companies and organisations rather than on education and support systems for the online safety of citizens. This is seen through the recently passed Cybersecurity Act 2024 which aims to protect critical national infrastructure companies.

3. The absence of cybersafety legislation in Malaysia continues to be a significant loophole in our digital defence and security. This gap facilitates the rise of cybercrimes, scams, online predators, human trafficking, and other digital threats.

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4. Research funding for cybersafety awareness and education in local universities is not a main priority. Bigger portions of funding are allocated to other areas of research.

According to the author, there is a significant lack of cybersafety awareness and education, formal or informal, leaving citizens to navigate online safety through trial and error, often getting scammed before learning. Additionally, mainstream and online media fail can do better in promoting cybersafety education and advocacy. ― iStock pic
According to the author, there is a significant lack of cybersafety awareness and education, formal or informal, leaving citizens to navigate online safety through trial and error, often getting scammed before learning. Additionally, mainstream and online media fail can do better in promoting cybersafety education and advocacy. ― iStock pic

5. Relying solely on punitive laws to address this problem is neither effective nor sufficient to combat cyberbullying, online scams, and other forms of cybercrime.

If no action is taken to change the current approach and mindset of policymakers and digital citizens in Malaysia, we can expect a continued emergence of similar and varied cyberbullying cases.

Strategies in navigating future cybersecurity regulations

With that, the following are some suggestions that can be considered by relevant cybersecurity agencies in our country:

1. To set up a new agency that focuses on cybersafety, preferably a Cybersafety Commission, as currently practised in Australia.

2. A preventive law such as the Cyber Safety Act, should be introduced to mandate cybersafety awareness and education for all employees, businesses with online customers, and digital citizens in schools and communities.

3. University research fundings should aim to make cybersafety research as one of its priorities, focusing on both online safety for citizens and the regulation of generative AI technology that could harm human well-being.

4. To fund the creation of new media promoting cybersafety and digital wellness, incorporating both education and entertainment strategies to build high quality local content for awareness and education.

5. Cybersafety education to be introduced in schools, either in formal settings or as extra-curricular activities in the form of community services and online creative activities. These can be driven by students and facilitated by teachers and professional volunteers.

6. The establishment of Cybercrimes Victims Support Centre, including support for cyberbullying and scam victims, etc. that is professionally run and funded by the government with adequate budget support.

By sharing these observations and providing suggestions, it is hoped that local cybersecurity agencies such as the National Cybersecurity Committee can take a serious consideration of these matters for Malaysia to remain safe and secure in the digital realm, thereby fostering a prosperous Digital Malaysia.

* With more than 30 years of experience in the cyber security arena, Associate Professor Ts Datuk Husin Bin Jazri is currently the director of the Global Centre for Cyber Safety at Taylor’s University. The centre aims to provide a special focus on cyber safety as a convergence of cybersecurity and data privacy challenges faced by many.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

*** If you are lonely, distressed, or having negative thoughts, Befrienders offers free and confidential support 24 hours a day. A full list of Befrienders contact numbers and state operating hours is available here: www.befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia. There are also free hotlines for young people: Talian Kasih at 15999 (24/7); Talian BuddyBear at 1800-18-2327(BEAR)(daily 12pm-12am); Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); and Jakim’s Family, Social and Community Care Centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214).