Harm done online can't be undone

Recent cases have shown that netizens can be relentless in pursuing and attacking their targets.

But what if these netizens get it wrong? Also, what should people do to clear their name?

International communications and social media expert Lars Voedisch said since it is "impossible" to undo and remove what has been reported online, legal action may be what a person needs to "clarify and redeem his reputation".

This needs to be done immediately, as "there might be implications in the future if the person doesn't put things right publicly", added Mr Voedisch, managing director of social media and public relations consultancy PRecious Communications. He said employers these days tend to do online searches on job candidates before hiring.

But Dr Michael Netzley, a media researcher and the academic director of executive development at Singapore Management University, does not think legal action is the solution.


"No lawsuit will change the embarrassment and no amount of money given will change what others might think of the person," said Dr Netley, who has researched digital media across Asia.

"Additionally, in many markets around the world, we simply do not have a clear body of case law to give us guidance on what a court might or might not decide. So taking legal action may have no clear outcome, be expensive and might not be able to repair the real damage."

Lawyer Choo Zheng Xi from Peter Low LLC said that while legal options are available, they will also be "costly".

He said: "The person can take legal action because the allegations are false and defamatory.

"Damages can be awarded to a person taking into account the gravity of the allegations made and the number of people the information has been disseminated to."

Meanwhile, Dr Netzley said that cyber-vigilantism remains troubling.

And while he does not "support laws or regulations that limit speech", he said netizens should act with restraint.

He added: "The reality is that social media is democratising. That means we all have greater ability to speak out, but with that comes greater responsibility for managing our own behaviour. People need to come to grips with this simple fact."