People need to take responsibility, online and off

November 14, 2018 - 09:00

Social networks have become a mirror of Việt Nam’s mordern society.

Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
Viet Nam News

by Khoa Thư

It was an unforgettable night for Quỳnh Anh in Hà Nội when a simple Facebook post proved popular.

As she watched the post online it seemed to grow by the second. Comments, likes and angry emojis.

More than 8,200 people reacted, 3,300 commenting with angry icons.  

Over a night, her post was shared 4,000 times, organically, an enviable number to even the most influential of content creators in Việt Nam.

Quỳnh Anh is not a key opinion leader, KOL as it is commonly known. In fact, she is a pregnant woman expecting her first baby.

The famous, or infamous post – depending on how people digest it, is Anh’s explanation on why she would not sign a petition calling for a death penalty for a Japanese murderer who killed a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl.

And it was considered a taboo when the majority was pushing to have him face the highest punishment.

“What surprised me the most was the massive criticism. Public comments were just a tip of an iceberg. A lot of people bombarded my inbox with hurtful words. They simply swore at me without giving their own opinions,” she said.

Quỳnh Anh is obviously not the only one who has experienced online hate speech.

According to wearesocial, till January 2018, Việt Nam has 55 million active social media users, accounting for 57 per cent of its population. Facebook is the leading platform with occupies 61 per cent of the market share, followed by Youtube and Google+.

Social networks have become a mirror of Việt Nam’s mordern society.

Hà Nội Department of Information and Communication might think that something has to be done.

Recently, they published guidelines on exploiting information and behavious in cyber space advising people not to spread out fake news, criticise others or follow emerging uncultured trends and give a negative information disclosure, “bóc phốt” as the Vietnamese call it.

The guidance is welcomed by some people while others wonder about its credit.

Is negative information disclosure always negative? Does the authority’s intervene and instruct people how to use social media create positive impacts as it is expected?

Social networks are open spaces in which you shoulder all responsibility on what you write and share. It also means by publishing a post, you accept to embrace the consequences.

What makes social network loved by so many people is how information is reflected through different telescopes.

Activities called “criticism” or “negative information disclosure” need to be viewed and evaluated by social media users only. Sometimes, to disclose bad information about someone is to do good to others.

A Hanoian graphic designer working in Hội An Town who calls herself Thu Bồn told Việt Nam News about her experience of being harassed by a male co-worker.

Over and over again, when she could not tolerate the violation anymore, Thu Bồn posted a note on Facebook, implying about her situation. It was read by her boss who took action. He told her to stay away, waiting for him to come back from his business trip then everything would be resolved.

“If not Facebook, I don’t know how I can tell my boss about the problem. Sometimes, it is a real struggle to speak up,” she said.

“To me, social networks allow us to raise our opinions without prejudice. The more information is exchanged, the better as we have more reference. It also requires users to improve their capability of verifying information and restraining themselves from hasty reaction,” she added.

Even those behind social networks cannot predict how content will be created and shared as well as in which way these platforms will drive our lives to.

Therefore, instead of giving guidance on exploiting information and behaving on cyber space, policymakers should try their utmost to ensure people know and understand comprehensively their rights and responsibilities online. Cyber violations should also be handled appropriately to win citizens’ trust in the nation’s rule of law.

“The Government doesn’t have any responsibility. People have responsibility.”

Economist Milton Friedman’s opinion on the Government’s responsibility to the poor, I think, can also apply to netizens. Using social networks needs learning the way we learn to speak, to write and to raise our idea while knowing that we are being protected by law is of importance.

“Looking back, if there is a need to speak up my mind, even when the idea goes against the mass, I will. Since I think it might be still useful to others although receiving hateful words is a bit annoying,” Quỳnh Anh added.

Hans Landa, the antagonist in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds once said: “Facts can be so misleading, but rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”

Criticism, fake news, negative information disclosure, hate speech are parts of the game. So play it wisely and remember that you always embrace the right of exit. – VNS