The incidents below are summary of some of the real cases of online harassment documented by PeopleACT. The names of the survivor and perpetrator have been changed for confidentiality purposes.
The full report of the documentation will be published soon.
Incident 1: Hacking and identity theft led to death threats online
In 2010, Aminah co-created a blog that promoted discussions on religion in Malaysia. The blog attracted many anonymous users, especially one who persistently left comments insulting Islam, which became viral.
This said user then hacked into Aminah’s Facebook account and stole her identity to trick the public into thinking that she was the real person behind the comments. Since then, she received waves of harassments, threats and insults online, including the creation of a Facebook page that called for her killing. An online group who identified themselves as hackers upholding Islam and social justice fed information onto the page. The page purportedly gained 20,000 likes within a day.
Aminah also received a message from someone who claimed to be a doctor that said, “If you were my patient, I’ll inject you with poison.” She reported the incidents to Facebook but did not receive any feedback.
She believed she was stalked online after she received multiple messages on her Facebook from strangers who claimed they knew where she lived, worked and parked her car (they knew her car plate number). By then, she felt genuinely afraid for her life and lodged a police report.
In 2013, an anonymous letter detailing her online history was sent to her supervisor, asking whether someone as Islamophobic as her should be employed. Several anonymous emails were also sent to her workplace, containing screenshots of anti-Islamic comments made by the user who impersonated her and a sex video claiming to be her.
Aminah suffered rigorous interrogations by the religious authorities and Special Branch. It was the result of the Special Branch’s investigations that she was finally cleared of all allegations linking her to the actual offender.
Incident 2: The sexual harasser can be someone you know
Shirley has been receiving images with sexual content regularly via Whatsapp from a particular man she knows professionally. She would often respond to the messages by laughing it off and then deletes them immediately because they make her feel uncomfortable. Her discomfort reached to the extent where she could not even talk about it and blocks it off her mind.
She said that although she feels extremely uncomfortable receiving these messages, she is unable to tell the man to stop because it may affect their work relationship and he is in fact extremely professional in person. She admitted that it would be easier for her to tell the man off if he is a stranger.
Incident 3: Online bullying a cause for teenage suicide
In 2013, while Chong was in Form Six, he participated in a singing competition in school. Someone took a video of him, posted on their Facebook and tagged him. It attracted more than 70 comments mocking him about his singing and that he didn’t belong to the competition. When he asked for the bullying to stop, the hateful comments increased and some even private messaged him and threatened to bash him up.
When he reported this to the school authority, the teacher in charge brushed him off and no action was taken.
He reported the post to Facebook but his account was suspended for 14 days instead. While no reason was given by Facebook for this suspension, he suspected that someone else had lodged fake reports against him to Facebook. He then deactivated his account and created another one under a pseudonym until today.
The video of him was finally taken down from Facebook after his parents warned the person who posted the video up that a police report would be lodged.
Chong claimed that he suffered deep depression for more than a year. During this time, his studies deteriorated significantly. He was also alienated in class to a point where he became suicidal.
Incident 4: Sexual predators using the internet to “hunt”
In 2012, Kamala was only 17 years old when she met someone on Facebook who introduced himself as a 30-year-old heir from Mumbai working as an engineer in a company. Although she told the man that she was not interested in having a relationship at that time and wished to concentrate on her studies, he insisted on waiting for her. Subsequently, he told her that he was coming to Malaysia and wanted to meet her alone. He told her that he was living in a hotel close to her house. He had apparently contacted her friends via Facebook and asked them for her address.
Kamala became worried and immediately tried to discourage the man by telling him that they would never communicate again. He got upset and started calling her on the phone numerous times. One time when she did pick up the phone, he started revealing his sexual fantasies of her. This made her very uncomfortable and prompted her to block him on her phone contact list and Facebook.
Subsequently, Kamala discovered that he had started contacting her friends online. He flirted with them and asked them to meet secretly.
Kamala did not report this incident to anyone because she was afraid of how others might judge her, especially her parents. At that time, she thought her parents would be upset and restrict her from any online social activities but now, she wished she had gone to them for advice.
Incident 5: Blogger mom harassed online after posting a picture of her premature son
In 2013, a blogger shared a picture of her premature son on Instagram and received multiple hateful comments from two unknown women who said that her baby looked like an alien and that they would pray for his soul. Other comments they made were that the baby should be euthanised. One particular message said, “Don’t worry, we will support you financially but let us sell his organ to make money out of it! And we will just help to cremate him after. He doesn’t deserve to suffer to be old like you.”
The blogger later confronted the women on Facebook and deleted their comments from her Instagram. The women then removed the pictures of the blogger’s baby on their Instagram before finally deleting their own Instagram accounts.
Incident 6: Woman fearing for her and children’s life after being harassed by “jilted” man
Rosmah was threatened to death via Whatsapp voicemail after she refused to go on a date with a man who was formerly in the army. She also persistently received violent and vulgar text messages such as “Aku penggal kepala kau. Kepala anak sulung kau aku belah. Kau sundal. Anak kedua kau babi” and “Aku lapah kau. Jantung kau aku rentap” from the man. She was also told by the man that he had published pornographic photos of her which had been edited on social media and he was monitoring her movement outside her house.
The above incidents continued for about six months before she finally lodged a police report. However, the case was closed after she withdrew her report upon finding out that the man had asked his friends in the army to kill her. She quickly relocated her family and changed her phone number. Even then, she continued to receive anonymous phone calls which she suspected were coming from the man.
Incident 7: A road bully abused online after road rage incident went viral
Tania got into a road accident with an elderly man and proceeded to verbally abuse the man in public. The incident was recorded by an onlooker who uploaded it onto YouTube and Facebook. The man’s son then proceeded to share the video on Facebook and revealed Tania’s car registration number. The post went viral and triggered a public “witch-hunt” for her. Within 24 hours, netizens successfully identified her as the road bully.
Tania soon became public enemy number one where netizens rushed to leave hateful and violent comments on her social media accounts, including sharing her car registration number as widely as possible. She believed she was also stalked and threatened with violence online. She finally issued an apology on Facebook where she also pleaded the public to delete the video.