Friday, 20 April 2012

Wrong boy targeted in online witch-hunt for noisy drummer

By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 19 Apr 2012

FOR the past few days, 17-year-old Kenneth Milana has been the subject of an intense Internet witch-hunt for something he did not do.

The Filipino teenager residing here had been identified by netizens as having disturbed his neighbours in Choa Chu Kang with noisy drumming.

His photos, age, educational background and details of his previous workplace were posted on several forums and websites.

But the netizens got the wrong person, a fact which was confirmed yesterday by the mother of the actual drummer. The family is also from the Philippines but its members are now Singapore citizens. The parents have one child, a 14-year-old boy who has a mild learning disability.

A neighbour and the area's Member of Parliament Alex Yam, both of whom have met the boy, confirmed that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Kenneth has tried to clear his name. In a post on an online forum which had identified him as the drummer, he said he had lodged a police report.

'I don't play drums, I don't live in CCK, I am not a guy with special needs! Whoever started this, the cops will handle this!' he added.

He also visited the family of the actual drummer. The mother said Kenneth had shown up on Tuesday night, demanding to know why he was being mistaken for her son. Kenneth did not respond to e-mail queries from The Straits Times.

The matter began on Sunday when a website posted the complaints of a Choa Chu Kang resident who accused her teenage Filipino neighbour of disturbing the neighbourhood with noisy drumming.

The story went viral online, with several netizens questioning Mr Yam about it on his Facebook page. He responded, saying the boy has special needs, and that grassroots teams have been trying to mediate the issue for the past few weeks.

The website and online forum subsequently identified Kenneth as the boy.

Yesterday, Mr Yam said: 'It is unfortunate that there is this unofficial witch-hunt, and the case has got to a stage where innocent people are being sucked in.'

Social media expert Marko Skoric from Nanyang Technological University noted that this form of online naming and shaming has been on the rise in Singapore in recent years, following in the footsteps of countries like China and South Korea.

'With new technological tools like Facebook and Twitter now, it has become much easier and cheaper to target individuals. Now it's so easy to find out information about anyone and post it online on the spur of the moment,' he added.

Blogger and political observer Siew Kum Hong linked this incident to two factors: the 'growing undercurrent' of anti-foreigner sentiment; and the fact that 'in controlled societies like China, and to a much lesser extent Singapore', citizens may well turn to such exercises as a way to express their feelings.

He disagrees with this approach. 'The punishment is likely to be excessive compared to the alleged 'crime'. Another reason is the risk of mistaken identity, or worse, someone with an axe to grind against an individual deliberately naming that individual falsely,' he said.

Mr Adrian Tan, a lawyer with Drew and Napier, said that if a person has been wrongly accused of an anti-social act, he would have legal basis for a defamation suit.

'Possible defendants would not just include the anonymous commenters who defamed him, but also the publishers of the websites,' he added.

No comments:

Post a Comment