DISLIKE CYBERBULLYING: LEGAL TALK                                                       

Written by: Chua Chin Leong, Social Worker 

Conducted by: 

MR JOSEPHUS TAN, PRO BONO CRIMINAL LAWYER LL.B. (Hons),University of Southampton

Josephus, who completed pupillage under Singapore’s renowned criminal lawyer, the late Mr Subhas Anandan, is today a specialist criminal defence litigator in his own right. He is an appointed Lead Counsel under the Supreme Court's Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (LASCO) and volunteers actively with the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) and the Community Legal Clinic operated by the Law Society of Singapore. In 2010, he was awarded the CLAS Gold Award by the Law Society of Singapore in recognition of his prolific pro bono contributions.

Follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/josephus.tan.5 

In this information age, with our real lives so much intertwined with cyberspace, chances are you’re a social media user in one way or another. Like it or not, you will find it hard to dodge the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email, SMS, blogs and websites, as we consume more and more content, and interact with people and friends online.

Herein lies the danger. With the ease with which to re-share postings or make comments on social media, how many people actually pause to think about the comments they make online? Do these comments take the form of ridicule, harassment or insult? The last thing you want to happen to find out that the contents of your online posting amounts to an act of defamation.

What is Defamation?

According to the Law Society of Singapore,defamation is said to have occurred when it involves injury to one’s reputation as a result of defamatory material published. Therefore it is important to verify the source and or truth of one’s information. This is because the truth cannot be used as a basis for defamation, the same goes for the opinions of a person’s actions, and well-meaning comments/warnings about someone, to name a few examples.

Sharing Photos Online

Take precaution when sharing a private photo of someone without his/her permission even if it was you who had taken the photo. You may be sued for breach of confidence. When in doubt, always check with the person for permission before posting the photo. Those who choose to share photos received are equally liable in the eyes of the law.

Protection from Harassment Act (POHA)1

According to the Ministry of Law Singapore online portal, POHA has been broadened and strengthened in its scope in response to growing online harassment. Civil remedies and criminal sanctions are now availableto better protect people from harassment and related anti-social behaviour. More details can be found at www.mlaw.gov.sg.

A Word of Caution

Josephus’ parting words for the youths in the audience: that while the Protection from Harassment Act serves to protect people from harassment, anything that is posted online is etched forever in cyberspace. What is fun and cool at this moment in time, could come back to haunt the individual later in the future and result in serious consequences.For example, employers are increasingly turning to searches on social media to suss out a candidate’s background. Youths need to take responsibility for their actions and protect themselves now and in the future.


1.       Protection from Harassment Act 2014 now in force (2015, January 15). Ministry of Law Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/minlaw/en/news/press-releases/protection-from-harassment-act-in-force.html