What is “private” in a digital world? (‘Amalayer’ and the world)


Mob, from http://www.concurringopinions.com

Gregory Paulo Llamoso‘s video of a young woman haranguing a guard at the Santolan LRT2 station went viral overnight. Less that 24 hours after he posted the video Tuesday  night (Nov. 13), more than 47,000 people had shared his video. More than 11,000 people had pressed the “like” icon.

Llamoso’s introductory note is straightforward:

CAUGHT ON MY CAMERA:
“RUDE Passenger Humiliate a Lady Guard”

I was about to leave Santolan LRT 2 Station sa may Marcos Highway kanina, but a loud voice caught my attention and all the people present there, ang lakas ng boses niya even she was small..Buti nalang the Lady Guard exhibited the right behavior. She did not fight back and she just kept cool and said her sorry. She didn’t even utter foul words against the bully passenger. I dont know the side of the story but some Bystander told me na sinita siya ng Lady Guard kasi mali ang pinasukan niyang way but the passengers behavior surprised me, sobrang degrading naman yung ginawa niya sa Lady Guard, her arrogance and misplaced sense is a living proof that being a true woman requires more than just privileged education and breeding, kaya parang siya ang walang pinag-aralan in that case..sayang hindi ko alam school niya., pinuntahan ko nalang yung Head ng security and suggested na dalhin sa office yung babaeng nagwawala hindi in public, nagkaroon tuloy ng Scandal dun na really an unacceptable behavior…”

The controversy has given rise to parallel arguments.

Thousands are jeering at the young woman, a coed at a Manila college. Critics mock what they see as speech affectations,  what they perceive as the warped logic of her videotaped statements and her general demeanor.

Many of the reactions are downright cruel, imputing moral faults other than the ones shown by Llamoso’s video. Videos have also come out, lampooning the young woman. A fake Twitter account, which many fell for, played out what many see as misplaced snobbery.

A second camp decries what they see as an invasion of privacy. This school thinks no one should post a video — or respond to one — of a private person in a meltdown situation. People have scorned news coverage of an “irrelevant” situation and an “irrelevant” person.

On his Facebook page, lawyer Mel Sta. Maria accuses Llamoso  of breaching the “Abuse of Right Doctrine”.

“For me, there is something wrong in the posting of that video. While anyone is free to take pictures or videos, he or she must nevertheless not abuse that right. This means the photographer or the videoer must not use it to hurt, embarass, or humiliate other people in the exercise of his or her right. If there is abuse, he or she can be held accountable for the injury to the one embarrassed. This is what we call in law the ABUSE OF RIGHT DOCTRINE. YOu might technically do something “legal” but you can still hurt people and may be held liable.

“True, the girl might have over-reacted in that incident and true, based only from the video, the security guard appears to be soft spoken, and probably, it is also true that the reaction of the girl might be wrong, but this does not give another the license to humiliate and embarass her to millions of people by posting the video ( especially if he has nothing to do with the incident). There is no such thing as the liberty to hurt people. BTW, the CYbercrime law is irrelevant in this case. You do not need that law to hold accountable an abuser of right.”

A third view sees the subject as fair game but notes the video lacked context and/or that all of us have, at one point or another, lost our tempers with gatekeepers. The difference, of course, being that in the past there would have been very few witnesses with the technical capability to record the incident. And a decade ago, most people would not have thought of sharing that video.

Fair Game

I’ll try to weave through the different strands on this very noisy national dialogue, starting with the issue of privacy and Sta Maria’s take on what he sees as legal but borderline abusive behavior.

The young woman committed no crime against the guard, That’s pretty clear. There were no physical blows. She is not a government official. She is a student. True, she may aspire to fame but that doesn’t automatically make her a public figure.

But those are not the only things to consider here.

There was an altercation that stemmed from her failure to subject belongings to an x-ray scan. She may or may not have suffered a bruise when the guard tried to delay her. Now, let’s view the setting.

LRT train wreck, Rizal Day Bombings, 2000

This was the LRT, which has had a horrifying brush with terrorism. Eleven persons were killed and 19 others were injured by a bomb planted in a train on the LRT1 on Dec. 30, 2000. There have been periodic bomb scares at LRT stations and authorities regularly launch anti-terror and rescue exercises.

LRTA security personnel are instructed to strictly implement the “No inspection, no entry” policy to ensure the safety of passengers, LRTA officer-in-charge Emerson Benitez said in a statement.

Security is not a matter to be dismissed. This was an x-ray process, not some ineffectual stirring with a barbecue stick. Ignore this precautionary measure at airports and you’ll be held by authorities. Even forgetting to turnover your cellphone will cause some hassle.  It’s not quite a crime, but it’s a pretty serious lapse that gives LRTA security the right to investigate you — or turn you back.

I’ve had clueless moments, especially on first time visits. When stopped, the proper thing is to give a sheepish smile, say sorry, turn back and follow the rules. Even if a guard raises his or her voice, I’ll take my lumps. This is a different case from some officious guy making things difficult for no good reason.

The videographer did not know about this when he took the video. Neither did the thousands who jeered in the hours after Gregory’s post went up.

Speaking to BMPM’s Anika Real, the former pediatric ICU nurse and aspiring singer said he heard other sarcastic comments — “Bravo! Bravo!” with clapping — from the young woman before deciding to take the video. He said an older man with a cup of coffee — perhaps a fellow commuter — tried to calm the young woman, to no avail. Later that night, he shared his video on his Facebook page, tagging friends: the tacit message being that they share this, too.

Now, Llamoso didn’t just take a video. He also took pains to alert the head of security so the incident could be resolved in a more private setting. The crowd gathering around the two women was beginning to be a security nightmare.

Llamoso is pretty clear about his motives:

“I don’t care how this incident started, nobody has the right to treat another person–especially one who’s merely performing a low-paying job just to put food on the table–this way.”

I understand where Sta. Maria is coming from. But I also understand why to Llamoso — and the many who share his views —  this was not just a private matter to be shrugged off.

Chris Lao, in his meltdown, ranted at the world at large, at abstract concepts like neglect. I felt then, and still feel, that he hurt no one. He may have been intemperate but in the context of road rage incidents, he was a boy scout.

What got the ire of most people in the LRT incident was the manner the subject screamed (no other word for it) at the security guard, the patronizing and condescending way she addressed the other woman.

For the many in humble positions who have been placed in a similar situation — think of sales people and waiters and millions of other frontline folk in service industries — this was not an irrelevant thing. The video spoke to untold slights, reminded them of instances when they had to take tongue-lashings in silence. To many people, THIS WAS PERSONAL.

But What About Us?

Angry mob, http://www.dreamyoga.com

I do not believe Llamaso meant to humiliate or mock the young woman. Even hearing her side,  I do not think the videographer was far off the mark.  (Kudos to Cesar Apolinario; we at BMPM tried but failed to get her.)

What raises concern is the cruelty heaped on the video subject. Criticism is acceptable but to call her names, to assume and imagine other moral faults, to mock her fragile dreams… that goes into bullying territory.

In proclaiming outrage of bullying behavior, people became  bullies, too. We became the enemy.

Did the media worsen this state of affairs?

I cannot speak for everyone. I think several websites and social media platforms tried to gatekeep against the most irresponsible responses. BMPM incurred the ire of some of those who posted when we took down some of the more outrageous comments. (We did not take down criticism of our coverage.)

Why We Do It

On Twitter, @unlawyer pointed out a similar case in Hongkong, where a young man berrated by a commuter after a request to lower his voice, took a video of the aggressor. While many attacked the perpetrator of verbal abuse, the videographer was also mocked for passively accepting the slurs hurled, including some that targeted his unknown and absent mother.

Llamoso, of course, was not party to the LRT incident but his video raises similar questions on “lifestyle, etiquette, civic awareness and media ethics”, as @unlawyer ponts out.

Based on an Australian government cyber-bulling template, the young woman at the LRT suffered harassment:

“tormenting someone with hateful and hurtful text messages, emails, posts and IMs that offend, humiliate or intimidate them.”

There is no doubt that cyber-bullying can have profound impact on a victim. From the same website, here are some of the effects of cyber- bullying: “anger, embarrassment, fear, poor performance at school, loss of confidence and self esteem, revenge cyber-bullying, self-harm, even suicide.”

At least half of these emotions have been felt, at one time or another, by many of the people who joined the Llamoso video fray. Unfortunately, many of us who regularly suffer in silence, intimidated by our antagonists, will strike out at someone we come to see as an epitome of our oppressors.

It is a very human instinct. It doesn’t make it right. That’s like shrugging off the abuse someone heaps today because he or she had been abused as a child.

@Pinoymommy voices the ambivalence many of us feel when she notes that “the bad effect is the bullying. But it’s good because bullies will keep their tempers or be cyberbullied.”

@mrsunlawyer and @Pinoymommy fret at how people, who are otherwise nice in face-to-face encounters, can become really mean on cyberspace. Both think the illusion of anonymity raises bravado among people and lessens their inhibition.

Many experts say the same thing. An advice column for teen victims of cyber-bullying explains:

“The detachment afforded by cyberspace makes bullies out of people who would never become involved in a real life incident. The Internet makes bullying more convenient and since the victim’s reaction remains unseen people who wouldn’t normally bully don’t take it as seriously.”

Cyber-space makes us feel more emotions faster — Maria Ressa gives fascinating lectures on how our emotions spread to friends around us, in degrees of separation, and in a more frenetic pace on the social media whirl.

At the same time, the illusion of physical distance can desensitize us to the effects our actions may have on others. I sometimes liken the effect to the cocoon that insulate those drone operators who whoop like cowboys as their bombs fall on right — or wrong — targets. You don’t see the gore up close and personal. You don’t see obvious signs of the harm you do. It’s almost like a video game — let’s try one more time and see if we can blast the SOB to kingdom come.

Cyber Mobs 

Social rifts, http://realtruth.org

Most websites on cyber-bullying focus on a more intimate scope — a bully at school taking a fight to the internet. The cases of Chris Lao and the LRT incident, however, are different. While not overtly political brawls, these cases have political and social underpinnings — even if some respondents don’t quite recognize their impulses.

When cyber-bullies come out by the thousands, we’re dealing with a cybermob, the digital equivalent of those old lynching parties or the more modern riots.

“Is the Cyber Mob a Threat to Freedom?” was the title of a cyber chat forum organized by Templeton Press at the launch of the essay collection, New Threats to Freedom.

The introduction by Adam Bellow warns that today’s threats may “appear in the guise of social and political progress.”

Forum notes say this: “According to Ron Rosenbaum and Lee Siegel, in their provocative contributions to the volume, the extraordinary advances made possible by the Internet have come at a sometimes worrisome cost. Rosenbaum focuses on how online anonymity has become a mask encouraging political discourse that is increasingly distorted by vitriol, abuse, and thuggishness. Siegel argues that the Internet has undermined long-established standards of excellence, promoting participation and popularity over talent and originality. Both writers warn against the growing influence of what Siegel calls “interactive mobs.”

I don’t share the depth of their pessimism or the apportioning of blame. Media, especially social media, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It reflects society. The vociferous, sometimes ugly exchanges we saw during the US Presidential campaign — and our own in 2010 — were rooted not so much in the ease by which we can hurl insults in cyberspace, as in the very real divides that exist in our respective populations.

Cyberspace didn’t create these feuds — even though it does fuel the exchange. Many factors feed on fear and anger — more so in real life than in cyber space.

It is the platform of expression that amplifies the roar of the mob. I don’t think cyber space substantially changes people. I believe that people will gradually learn to modify actions as they navigate the brave, new cyber universe.

No matter how addictive social media can be, most people reflect their own personalities on the Web, whether they post their true names and faces or some exotic avatar. The anger that people feel are rooted in very real experiences. We can shout all we want for a gentle, cyber media world — but the final shaping of this space will depend on how we deal with each other on the ground.

There, in the trenches where people bleed and die, and hunger, and nurse obvious and unseen wounds — that is where our social battles will be resolved.

We in the media will have to struggle more, wrestle with our ethical dilemmas. It won’t be easy. One can spend hours trying to explain nuances to a platform with more than 100,000 different voices. But the genie isn’t going back, so we gotta start talking straight with him.

15 thoughts on “What is “private” in a digital world? (‘Amalayer’ and the world)

  1. Pingback: What is “private” in a digital world? (‘Amalayer’ and the world) | indayvarona

  2. Lucky for her she was not arrested for public scandal, on that score I think she should be thankful, LOL.

    Some of the mobs este netizens reaction is shall we say over the top and I just don’t know if the media and the arts daw has something to do with it, hehehe. You know when you see lahing api at inaapi on a daily basis on the idiot box and even on the silver screen it somehow affects people and the tendency is to root for the perceived underdog.

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  3. amalayer was disorderly, she was throwing tantrum at nilabag niya ang peace and order sa LRT, she also disregard a lawful order of the lady guard. amalayer was making much ruckus and noise pollution that irritate people around. she was disrespectful of people’s right to peace and order while doing what it is they do.

    there was no sign ni LRT that said video taping in the vicinity is not allowed, or posting of such tapes constitutes a crime and therefore not allowed. if amalayer does not want bad publicity, she should not have called attention to herself by throwing tantrum in public. had amalayer apologized after her tirade, there might not have been adverse reaction.

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  4. proximity alone makes llamoso privy to amalayer’s action. llamoso was involved, he was witness. he was there in both body and soul, his moral sense and moral compass have been assaulted, naturally he was compelled to do something. good men should not keep quiet and let bad men have their way.

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  5. I agree with you,atsuko,i think that lady did a very stupid thing in that place,nk uniform pa man cia ng kanyang school.she made a mistake,of coarse the lady guard would remind her, but instead she acted as a smart ass.What she thinks of her? SMART ASS! akala nia sa sarili nia,napakarunong na nia.Nakakahiya cia! Un ginawa naman ni Llamoso ay nothing wrong naman.Parang freedom of the press naman un.

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  6. The real lesson here is, her action is what should be condoned, not her personally. That’s when bullying started. But then again, a lesson that we must always think rational before going into an outrage. We’ll never know who is videotapping our every action.

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  7. if gagawa ka ng eksena or mag eeskadalo ka sa mga pampublikong lugar well dapat prepare ka sa pwedeng maging balik nito sayu.. and maging responsable ka sa actions na ginawa mo.

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  8. This article is about cyberbullying and the consequences of the posts/comments/reactions of netizens and the media, and not about the LRT incident alone.

    We should all be responsible to what we post. We do have freedom of speech and expression, but they are not absolute. If what you say, do or post (for this matter), hurts another person, then you are liable to that person. Simple naman yun. Magagawa mo bang awayin yung LRT girl at ipagtanggol si ladyguard kung nandun ka? Hindi di ba. Tatahimik ka lang, manonood kase nagulat ka din at ang best thing to do is call management so they can settle things out. Yan ang tamang attitude. Pero yung i-post mo pa para mapanood ng iba at i-encourage mo pa ang iba na ishare yung video, parang malicious na. Who are we to judge the mistakes of others? And who are we to humiliate them in public, in this case, in the internet world.

    The internet is a vast world. And it is “too free”. There are no boundaries. If we cannot control or behave ourselves online, then the law should limit us.

    Kung ayaw mong mangyari sa anak mo o sa mga kapatid mo o sa magulang mo ang mga nangyayaring cyberbullying, ikaw na mismo ang pumigil sa sarili mo na manakit ng ibang tao online. “Ako ang simula ng pagbabago” di ba.

    Ang di ko maintindihan eh bakit pa nirereport ng media ang mga pangkukuyog na nangyayari sa internet. Yung kay chris lao, channel 2 ang nagsimula nun eh. ang babaw-babaw ginawang news. ngayon, nanews ng ABS sa website nila ang tungkol sa LRT incident. di ba adding fuel to the fire yun? media should be mindful of its responsibilities as well. Di porket kakagatin ng tao ay kailangan nilang ireport. Kailangan nilang maalala na hindi absolute ang freedom of the press, katulad ng freedom of speech and expression.

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  9. everyone of us were taught, since we were in preschool, to obey rules, AMALAYER disobeyed a lot of rules. rules surrounds us. her behavior brought her to become “popular(?)” (or unpopular) in a very appalling manner. people nowadays are very observant at the same time opinionated. it is just sad that a lot of bad things were said about her. she was called names. but looking at the brighter said, a lot of issues were raised; security issues, issues on how to conduct yourself during unfortunate events, cyber-bullying, respect and character. i guess we should all learn from this AMALAYER incident. i for one got a lot of moral lessons from this one.

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  10. —Siguro nga naging judgmental tayo base sa content ng video.
    DI mo masisisi kahit sinong tao lalo na pag may inaapi o napapahiya.
    We don’t know the whole story. Maaaring nagkamali ang ladyguard kaya naprovoke yung passenger. At kung bakit o paano sinita ni ladyguard yung babae, di natin alam.
    —kung sa akin man o sa pamilya ko nangyari yun, maaaring ganun din gagawin ko but not to the extent na ipagmayabang ko kung ano meron ako. Posibleng mag-iiskandalo ako by raising my voice, but still i’m going to choose the words i’m going to say, especially kung alam mong nasa public place ka.
    —Proper escalation sa management para maturuan ng lesson si ladyguard. Sadyang may mga tao ring sanay na nasusunod yung gusto nila kasi may kaya sila o lamang sila.
    —Siguro updated naman si “amalayer’ sa mga news at youtube videos. Dami na ring news na ganito regarding caught on cam, napapahiya dahil sa kagagawan nila. Kahit ako ayokong maiskandalo. That’s why i make sure na lahat ng sasabihin ko ay di magagamit laban sa akin. Walang perpektong tao sa mundo gaya ng sabi ni “amalayer” sa interview, both of them ay di perpekto.
    —Obvious naman na kampi ako sa ladyguard base sa video na nakita ko. Sabi ko nga, the way she treated the ladyguard in public, parang bumalik lang sa kanya yung ginawa nya. Again, we don’t know the whole story yet.
    —Para naman sa mga taong mahilig magcomment online, wag na tayong mandamay pa ng ibang tao, lalo na pamilya ni “amalayer”. The way she talks sa video at sa tv, siguro impluwensiya na rin ng mga kaibigan, or environment nya.
    —A simple quote from Oprah …………..”Always keep your words SOFT and SWEET…. Just in case you have to eat them, you can swallow it well…”.

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  11. being a goodman is not putting other person in a shameful position, if the one who captured that moment is a good man he should give peace and order of the situation not putting someones life in a mess,,, the young girl commit mistakes and it was on public, it was already watched by many people passed by,, the guy should think what will be the impact upon the young girls life if the video was shown in the webnet world…

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  12. well said and clear to me… BUT let us not firget that we are filipinos, in this article, all the sides of this incident was clearly laid down to the people … YES, THIS VIDEO WAS HYPED THROUGH SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES! now through this article, i really had a good vision of what had really transpired… FOR MY OWN OPINION AND THAT OF MY CLOSE FRIENDS, I WANT TO ASK 3, JUST 3 QUESTIONS TO PAULA JAIME SALVOSA, THE STUDENT OF LA CONSOLACION COLLEGE( I PITY THIS SCHOOL ), AND SINCE, I WATCHED MS. SALVOSA IN AN INTERVIEW IN CHANNEL 5, AND OBVIOUSLY, THIS COLLEGE STUDENT OF LA CONSOACION COLLEGE HAS A VERY POOR ENGLISH SKILLS PARTICULARLY HER GRAMMAR, I WANT TO ASK HER JUST 3 QUESTIONS IN TAGALOG SO SHE WILL ANSWER IN OUR OWN TONGUE ( i hope she knows what idioms are ) : UNA — MALAKI KA NA, YAN BA ANG KINALAKIHAN AT TURO NG MAGULANG MO SA IYO?
    : PANGALAWA– DALA MO ANG PANGALAN NG LA CONSOLACION COLLEGE, YAN DIN BANG ASAL NA GINAWA MO ANG NATUTUTUHAN MO SA A CONSOLACION COLLEGE? .
    : PANGATLO HIJA — TALAGA BANG GANYAN UGALI MO O SADYANG MAY BEHAVIORAL DISORDER KA NA NGAYON LANG LUMALABAS ANG SYMPTOMS.

    *** HIJA, ISA DIN AKONG INA, HINDI AKO PERPEKTONG INA, PERO MAIPAGMAMALAKI KO NA MAAYOS ANG ASAL NG AKING MGA APAT NA ANAK, HINDI KAMI MAYAMAN, SADYANG IGINAPANG NAMIN ANG PAG AARAL NG AMING APAT NA ANAK. ANUMAN ANG GAWIN MO NGAYON, MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOUR PARENTS, YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. YOUR PARENTS AND ESP. LA CONSOLACION COLLEGE ARE THE ONES ILL – AFFECTED. NAAAWA AKO SA MOMMY MO, ANUMAN ANG GAWIN MO NGAYON — NAPAHIYA MO NA SYA LALO NA SCHOOL MO! SANA NGA HINDI TOTOO NA KAYA MO GINAWA YAN AY DAHIL LAGI KA REJECTED SA AUDITIONS NG MYX VJ — OO AT INSTANT CELEBRITY KA BUT WHAT KIND OF CELEBRITY HIJA? HIJA, JUST A MOTHERLY ADVISE — TAPOS NA LAHAT, NAHUSGAHAN KA NA NG BAYAN , WAG KA NA MAGSALITA PA, MANAHIMIK KA, WAG KA NA PUMATOL ON ANYTHING ABOUT THE ISSUE, IT WILL DIE A NATURAL DEATH. LIVE A LOW PROFILE LIFE, STUDY WELL, MAKE YOUR PARENTS PROUD SOMEDAY, ALALAHANIN MO DIN HIJA, LA CONSOLACION IS NOT A HIGHLY REPUTABLE SCHOOL BUT ITS STILL A GOOD SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, DONT DO ANY FURTHER DAMAGE TO YOUR SCHOOL’s IMAGE. AND HIJA, THERE ARE LOTS OF PSYCHE THERAPY FOR ANGER MANAGEMENT, TRY TO CHECK THESE OUT! TAKE ALL THESE AS TRIALS, YOUR FAMILY N FRENDS ARE STILL WITH YOU! NOW BE HUMBLE AND IGNORE ALL ABOUT THE ISSUE!

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  13. The girl shouldnt be blame. we dont know what happen before the shouting incident took place. Video posted by Mr. gregory Llamoso (gay I think) is truly out of context. why should he put an incomplete video, what was his purposed in the first place? I listened to the interview of Paula Salvosa in TV5 and the student of LaCo sent him an email already stating not to release the video in Media but look at what he did?? He was asked what his purposed, he answered it so IMMATURELY: “nainis kasi ako sa sumisigaw?”. One of the reason i can think of is that LLAMOSO wnated to be famous? well, he is now but in a wrong note. For Paula, I should file a legal complain to LLAMOSO. He’s irresponsible and an attention whore.

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  14. Hi Inday, I’d like to use the black and white drawing ‘angry mob’ at the top of this post, for a talk I’m giving. I see you’ve credited http://www.concurringopinions.com for the pic but I can’t see it on their site. Could you please either let me know where it is on their site so I can ask them about it, or let me know what their requirements are for using the pic if you know that?
    My talk is next week so I’d appreciate a speedy response if at all possible, thank you 🙂

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