It wasn't me, says S'porean accused of putting up racist post
He was just about to start work on the morning of July 29 when he received a Facebook message that shocked him.
"Eh, a******, u got problem is it?"
It was from a stranger and it was a message that left him confused, claimed Mr Kelvin Yip.
"I had no idea what it was about initially," the 30-year-old driving instructor told The New Paper.
"At first, I thought he got the wrong person, but the stranger then sent me a screen grab of a racist comment made by a person who had the same name as me."
While a check on Facebook revealed at least 50 other people sharing the same name, Mr Yip said he was targeted only after Malaysian netizens posted a picture of him and his girlfriend Miss Jolene Koh online, claiming he was the culprit.
He does not know why he is being targeted.
He claimed that the picture that was being circulated was taken from his Facebook page. It had been left for public viewing.
The Facebook rant, believed to have been made by a Malaysian on the morning of Hari Raya Aidilfitri on July 28, posted the man's unhappiness with the sound of the takbir raya (Raya recitals) made over the mosque speakers at 6.45am.
However, the person who made the post later apologised on Facebook for his remark and deleted the post.
But somehow, netizens blamed Mr Yip for the post and began circulating his picture, hoping he would be punished by the authorities.
Fearing he would be further targeted for "something I did not do," Mr Yip said he decided to report the matter to the authorities.
The police have confirmed that a report was made. Mr Yip is also seeking legal advice.
"It is a case of mistaken identity and someone took my picture from my public Facebook page and spread it online," claimed the bachelor, who lives in an Ang Mo Kio four-room flat with his parents.
"I am still shocked by this because I have absolutely nothing to do with this incident."
Mr Yip claimed he did not know who made the offending post. The other Kelvin Yip has since deleted his Facebook page.
But after at least 12 abusive messages from complete strangers on July 29, he has set his Facebook account to private.
Since then, he claimed that another 50 people have tried adding him on Facebook.
The incident, he said, has caused "distress" to his family and his girlfriend, especially since the couple's picture has been splashed across Malaysian dailies like Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian Malaysia.
All the articles have named him as the person responsible for the comments.
Malaysian politicians and several right wing groups have even stepped in and called for action.
According to The Rakyat Post, the country's Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had posted a screen shot of Mr Yip's picture and the alleged profanity-filled comments, adding: "This one should also be charged. Teach him a bit. Once and for all. Act strongly and swiftly upon anyone no matter their race."
Meanwhile, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar reportedly told Malaysian daily Utusan Malaysia they were investigating the incident with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
"We will not stay silent on this crime," he told the daily. Mr Yip learnt of all this after some colleagues returned from across the Causeway, bringing back copies of the articles for him to see.
The firestorm of bad press has left him shaken.
Still, he finds comfort in the support of his friends and family, who have rallied behind him despite threats of police action in Malaysia.
Mr Yip said: "My friends, family and even employers have been very supportive because they know I could not have done such a thing.
"My employers also advised me to make a police report when they learnt of the incident. I also needed to make the report since I felt like a wanted man in Malaysia.
"This is distressing and I do not think I will cross the Causeway until my name is cleared."
One of his colleagues, Mr Mohd Khirwan Mohd Khamin, told TNP that he "is very sure" Mr Yip is not responsible for those comments.
Said the 41-year-old: "I have known him for five years and I have never known him to say anything even remotely racist.
"All of his football mates and motorcycle buddies are Malays, and all of us think he is a very nice guy who has been wrongly accused. We are standing behind him and hope his name will be cleared as soon as possible."
This is distressing and I do not think I will cross the Causeway until my name is cleared.
- Driving instructor Kelvin Yip
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."