COMMENTARY – With racy photos and screenshots circulating the internet like wildfire and political temperaments are rising, many users are now concerned with the privacy of their conversations, texts and video chats while using the web.
The internet has remained one of the most inexpensive modes for modern communication. Its evolution has allowed us to reach to the further ends of the world, to forging secret and taboo relationships.
According to Internet live research, in 2016, it was estimated that there are 109,370 internet users in St. Lucia. With 58.7 % of population using the internet, the country still lacks effective cyber laws which can protect the rights of its citizens, including children and youth.
When technology changes, societies should devise ways to adapt to its pace. Nevertheless, cyberspace crosses all moral boundaries and forces us to reflect on its morality and even mortality. Cyberspace or the virtual world also creates moral, civil and criminal wrongs. It has now given a new way to express criminal tendencies.
Crime is no longer limited to space, time or a group of people. Due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, it is possible to engage into a variety of criminal activities with impunity and people with intelligence have been grossly misusing this aspect of the Internet to perpetuate criminal activities in cyberspace.
The reality is, you can become anyone or thing in cyberspace — from a dashing prince to a cruel villain. As such, many become comfortable to engage in dialogue or other forms of interactions in which they tend not to do in the physical world. They begin to explore various levels of their personality and characters which may be restricted in societies that are overly religious.
Those cyber and data protection laws are now being introduced like the malicious communication act or the computer misuse act, but such legislation does not ensure the safety nor the trust of users who engage in private and unconventional behaviours during cyber communications. Moral and political questions are posed about what types of cyber behaviours are acceptable and to be tolerated.
For instance while there are strict laws on child pornography, sharing and posting nudity in cyberspace where young children can gain access, is a matter of concern. The fact of the matter is that St. Lucia, like many developing societies, needs to address such issues when cyber laws are concerned.
Parents with young children and adolescents should engage in discussions on the safety of electronic devices and their interactions on cyber space. Citizens should be sensitized on the use of social media, cyber laws, privacy and the protection of their rights.
In 2015, the International Telecommunication Union estimated about 3.2 billion people, or almost half of the world’s population, would be online by the end of the year. Of them, about 2 billion would be from developing countries, including 89 million from least developed countries.
In the end, we can attest to various moral codes and behaviours which should guide our interactions in cyberspace, however, cyberspace ensures that as long as users do not violate the various online platforms or social media, their interactions are permissible.
It is entirely left to the society to educate its citizens on what types of behaviours are morally acceptable and legally permissible. Otherwise, we will continue to experience and in some case witness unwelcome objects or conversations.
Felicia Browne is a gender rights advocate in the Caribbean. She is a lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus and President of the Caribbean Mentorship Institute.