Cybertroopers stooping low with personal attacks and wild accusations

(The Star) – Ugly cybertroopers have gone on an overdrive with personal attacks and wild accusations as campaigning enters its final leg before polling this Sunday.

The “cyber overkill” has seen a sharp increase in the number of hate mail, doctored pictures and rumour-mongering to destroy candidates before voters head to the polls.

With just two days of campaigning left, accusations and name-calling using vulgar language abound as the fight for influence gets dirtier.

Some attacks have been inciting anger by flaring racial sentiments.

Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam regretted that personal attacks were replacing mature comment.

“Most discussions are on personalities and not on issues. Before we vote, we want to know what issues are being raised by both sides,” he said, warning that negative postings could result in a backlash.

Computer security specialist Dinesh Nair said people should verify the allegations they read online.

“Be sensible. There are lot of things being put online. Take it with a bag of salt and use your common sense. If something seems unreal, then most probably it is,” he added.

Syed Azidi Syed Abdul Aziz, who blogs as Kickdefella, noted that things had changed since he started his website.

Some examples of cyberspace rumour mongering/slander passed via email and text messages. Some examples of cyberspace rumour mongering/slander passed via email and text messages.

“Then, it was all about expressing ourselves,” he said. “Now it is about dictating to others what to believe, like in the case of Michelle Yeoh. If you allow those who attacked her to rule, they will become dictators.”

He said he himself had been attacked a lot for his views.

“If I keep reading everything they say (about me), it won’t be good for my health, heart and mind,” he added.

Umno Youth new media unit chairman Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz said Barisan Nasional had its own “cyber activists” with some 3,000 trained to disseminate information on the coalition’s programmes and achievements on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

“They are also tasked with countering opposition allegations.”

He said the opposition cybertroopers had gone overboard.

“For example, if a Barisan-friendly video is uploaded on YouTube, they would not just click the dislike button but also post hateful comments and even flag’ the video so that it is taken down.”

Also widely reported is the Red Bean Army’ whose aim was reportedly to “assassinate characters online”. Some have said it belonged to DAP.

But DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke denied this, claiming that the party did not even have cybertroopers.

According to party publicity chief Tony Pua, DAP only had an online team responsible for setting up its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described the claims made via SMSes that outsiders were being brought in to vote in the general election as “just absurd”.

“The allegations are part of a psychological warfare to make voters believe Pakatan Rakyat is winning,” he said after addressing a gathering at Taman Tas in Kuantan yesterday.

“Barisan is actually making a major leap in a lot of places and Pakatan, feeling pressured, is sending out such SMSes.”