Stop Cyberbullying Day 2021: Our celebrities deserve better
A staggering 80 percent of cyberbullying victims in Bangladesh are women, the majority of whom are aged between 14 and 22.
A large number of cybercriminals fall between the ages of 16 and 17.
These statistics were brought to light by Additional Deputy Police Commissioner Nazmul Alam, from the Cyber Crime Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, in a webinar titled "Safe Cyber Space for Women" organised by Article 19 Bangladesh on December 9, 2020.
In the seven months since the Police Cyber Support for Woman (PCSW) wing of the Police Headquarters was launched, it received at least 15,000 complaints related to such cybercrimes, reports The Daily Star.
For people acclimated to the social media environment in Bangladesh, this is hardly a 'revelation'. Especially people who seem like an 'anomaly' to mass sentiment face vehement online abuse from people on the internet – the brunt of which Bangladesh's celebrities, influencers and public figures take.
The recent incident regarding Pori Moni is a perfect example of how eager many netizens are to blame and jump to conclusions, with the 29-year old film star saying she was subjected to harassment, attempted rape and murder.
Before details about the incident, place, and perpetrators were even revealed, the actress was subjected to victim blaming in the worst possible way, with many questioning her integrity and character.
Even her pleas for justice could not melt the hearts of extremely judgemental crowd -- set out to 'prove' that she was not telling the truth.
Rampant 'whataboutism' was also seen in the comments, while other injustices were brought up in order to justify trivializing the depravity of the situation.
Pori Moni boasts more than 10 million followers on social media, and was featured on Forbes Asia's '100 Digital Stars' list in December last year for it, ironically only a day before the aforementioned "Safe Cyber Space for Women" webinar took place.
There seems to be a latent angst towards celebrities – the urge to 'correct', lecture, and even abuse them, by the very people who 'follow' them. For this particular bunch, simply 'unfollowing' is not an option.
An even more vile section of that fanbase made its presence felt on Mother's Day this year, when some people flooded actor Chanchal Chowdhury's picture with his mother with disturbing comments regarding his religion.
On the same day, actress Ashna Habib Bhabna also faced an onslaught from her followers on a picture with her mother.
The collective incidents started a movement among celebrities of Bangladesh, one long overdue in the context of our social media environment. #stopcyberbullying and #hokprotibad trended all day, with one of Bhabna's perpetrators having to apologise publicly after she had complained to the Cyber Security and Crime Division.
When contacted after that, Bhabna had promised that she would no longer keep quiet after being subjected to harassment of this sort.
This is the exact attitude that many celebrities have had to adopt, in order to make people realise that their actions online have consequences.
Police Headquarters (PHQ) announced in a leaflet that a dedicated hotline (+8801730336431) has been set up, where victims can find help in taking action against abusive posts, comments, or pictures. PHQ advised the victims to take screenshots of the comments, as well as links to their respective posts.
It goes without saying, however, that these atrocities will only stop when people realise that what they write has the ability to deeply impact another human being, with public figures being no exception. Simply extending them the courtesy, as one would in a face-to-face situation, would help avoid many distasteful incidents.
Today is Stop Cyberbullying day 2021, a perfect time to pledge to be kinder, do better, and protect what is left of our already floundering entertainment industry during this global pandemic. The internet gives us nearly limitless power, and it is the responsibility of each and every netizen to refrain from using it to hurt and bully someone.