By Hubert Vaz
Don’t cower from cyberbullies on the internet. Report them, advise experts
The modern social bane of cyberbullying will take centre stage at a seminar – Together Against Cyberbullying – aimed at cautioning social media users against cyberbullies, as well as warning cyberbullies about the dangerous ground they tread for fun or fraud.
Organised by Knowledge Oman and supported by the Ministry of Education, the seminar will be held on October 15 at the Public Authority and Civil Aviation’s Training Centre.
Talking about this serious issue in Oman, Badr al Qassabi, spokesman, Knowledge Oman, said, “We have noticed that cyberbullying is becoming more and more prevalent in our society with social media dominating our lives. There are only few studies tackling this issue in the local and regional context. It is especially prevalent amongst youths, causing breaking down of relationships and personalities and preventing them from reaching their full potential.”
He said that the phenomenon might be relatively new in Oman’s context as it is associated with the Internet, but however, noted that the rate at which cyberbullying is taking place globally is alarming.
He cited a recent study which says that up to 60 per cent children have been involved in cyberbullying activities in countries like China, Australia, Greece, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UK, either as the initiator or the victim.
Calling on people in Oman to develop a responsible use of social media, Qassabi stressed that it was important for Internet users across all age groups to avoid responding to/communicating with strangers or sharing personal data and information.
Parental control was also paramount in protecting children in Oman from falling victim, he said, adding that parents need to themselves set a good example of how to use social media responsibly so that children learn the right way.
When asked what should an individual facing cyberbullying do, Qassabi said out that some organisations, including schools, have already put in place counter-measures by creating peer support groups, anonymous reporting procedures, emotional and psychological support systems etc.
“It is important to seek support,” he said, calling on Oman’s youngsters and adults to attend the awareness session organised by Knowledge Oman to know about ways to avoid and combat cyberbullying in the right manner.
He also drew attention to the fact that ‘cybercrime’ is an important issue these days and that Oman CERT is the authority that tackles it in coordination with authorities like the ROP and Public Prosecution.
He pointed out that a recent study in Oman classified cyberbullying as – direct and indirect. Direct can be through written, verbal or visual means, while indirect cyberbullying is done by impersonating other people’s identities, Qassabi explained.
The consequences, however, can be severe for the victim, from depression, suicidal tendencies, aggressiveness to decreased social and mental performance. On the other hand, the perpetrators of cyber crime would be liable to stringent punishment.
About the legal action cyberbullies face, he pointed out that Article 18 of the Cyber Crime Law in Oman enlists imprisonment of one month to three years and a fine of RO1,000 to RO3,000 on any person who uses the informational network or information technology facilities to threaten or extort an individual.
He also cautioned citizens not to hesitate in reporting any act of cyberbullying on the provided hotline number or via e-mail to the Information Technology Authority (ITA) to initiate necessary action.
Dr Salim al Ruzaiqi, CEO, ITA, has on the ITA website called upon those being blackmailed to report the matter as well as to stop all communication with the blackmailer immediately, even when exposed to extreme pressures.
He also cautions against making money transactions, counter- threats or clashing with the cyberbully in any way to protect oneself, but instead advices retaining e-mail communication as evidence to nab the culprit.
Together Against Cyberbullying
The seminar on Octobr 15 – Together Against Cyberbullying – will examine cyberbullying as a crime and the legal and social implications for both perpetrators and victims.
Fahad al Kindi, a lawyer and former head at the Public Prosecution, will be the keynote speaker while the chief guest, Sheikh Abdullah al Rawahy of CloudAcropolis, will talk on cybersecurity.
There will also be a panel discussion hosted by Dr Amal Ambusaidi with expert speakers from the field of cybersecurity, law and public prosecution, including Eng Haitham Hilal
al Hajri, executive cybersecurity specialist, Major Ghassan al Zadjali from the Royal Oman Police, Hassan al Ajmi, an expert in Cyber Crime and Crises Management and Saud bin Saleh al Mawali, Public Prosecutor.
‘Joint efforts on’
When asked how serious was the problem of cyberbullying in Oman, Fahad al Kindi, keynote speaker at the upcoming seminar, told TheWeek, that it was a global problem as a result of moving to the virtual world of the Internet.
“Oman is part of the world and hence it is also affected,” Kindi said adding, “Joint efforts are already in place with collaboration between many authorities like TRA, ITA, ROP, Public Prosecution, Ministry of Education and others.” He said continuous change in cyberbullying methods and implications require increased levels of collaboration and awareness campaigns.
Kindi said the upcoming seminar complements other existing efforts and will, no doubt, boost the movement towards a more responsible use of social media.
“It’s a positive initiative from Knowledge Oman, and I am thankful and pleased to see such non-profit organisations engaging in such issues at a deeper levels for the sake of community well-being.”
Report the crime
Report cases of blackmailing or any other cybersecurity incidents on Oman CERT’s
(7:30 am to 14:30pm) or email:firstname.lastname@example.org