Internet use and safety

April 16, 2018

At the break of school, a young 13-year-old returns home with joy. He dumps his bag on his bed and rushes to play. The field of play is endless and here he chooses to be anyone he wishes to be. His competitors are the same, the characters or pseudonyms they employ are never reflective of their real identity. The field of play is confined to a virtual world, which the young boy is able to view through a computer monitor. 

In this day and age, the mention of playing a game no longer identifies with physically playing with other children on a lush green field alone. The term could be broadened to include computer games which some play on a professional basis. This is made possible through an increased access to internet services. 

With a growing number of internet users in the country on a daily basis, more services that traditionally required physical presence for exchange are now available online. 

The internet has been largely accepted as beneficial having narrowed geographical constraints in the field of communication. E-commerce, buying products or services online, has transformed the marketplace. Now consumers with a connected device and a payment method can buy anything from music to groceries; book transport and accommodation; or buy tickets to events with a click of a button. 

Fiji’s 2017 census recorded a total number of 884,887 people living in 191,910 households across the country. As of March 2017, data released by Internet World Stats indicated that there were more than 421 000 internet users in Fiji. By June 2017 they established that there were 380,000 Facebook users in Fiji. 

The data reveals a staggering number of local people rely on the internet for information. It also depicts how much of people’s personal information is readily available on the World Wide Web through social media platforms like Facebook. This is a vast difference from more than a decade

This year, the Council is marking the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) with the theme “Cyberbullying and Fake News.  To mark the occasion, the Council is hosting an inter-tertiary debate on the topic “Should Cyberspace be regulated to combat fake news and cyber bullying?” 

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have offered access and opportunity to millions of connected users to share stories, images, points of view and other information. While social media has facilitated communication, interaction and interconnectedness, it has also brought some negative impacts on society. Cyberbullying and the spread of fake news are two negative by-products of the internet particularly social media.  These two issues are becoming major social problems in modern society, particularly as internet use increases and social media becomes a major source of information for a large number of people. 

As consumers, we have the right to purchase or subscribe to internet plans but we must be accountable for how we use it. Social media has become a hub for cyberbullying. As an individual however, people have a choice to speak up about cyberbullying when coming across this on social media. 

All individuals on the internet ultimately create content and therefore are responsible for how they interact with other digital users. People are also responsible for protecting themselves against abusive digital relationships. There are moments when emotional and mental aspects of internet engagements affect people in real life. For this reason, it is always crucial to be sensible while online. 

Applying more tact on social media when engaging with a person or company means you care enough not to harm the person or the company’s reputation. 

There is a need to understand whether consumer is being protected from cyberbullying and fake news. Fiji still need to develop the digital rights and responsibilities for the digital users to safeguard the consumers when it comes to wrong use of digital network that causes embarrassment, harassment and providing wrong information to defame someone. 

The role and responsibility of internet providers and website owners/operators are important. As providers of the network and online spaces where content is created and shared, they have a greater responsibility to be protect users and also take action against their customers who use the internet for malicious purposes. 

Every internet user has the right to use the tool in a manner they see fit but they must do so in a reasonable and responsible manner.