PETALING JAYA – The death of a teenage Malaysian girl, who is said to have taken her own life after a poll she ran on Instagram encouraged her to do so, could lead to changes to the law to better tackle cyber bullying and online suicide attempts, local media reported.
The news reports of her death sent shockwaves through the country and overseas, as politicians and social activists expressed concern over the mental health of young people, as well as the effects of social media on them.
Foreign media outlets also reported the story of the 16-year-old girl in Sarawak who reportedly jumped to her death on Monday (May 13), hours after 69 per cent of respondents to her Instagram poll encouraged her to kill herself.
Prior to her death, the teenager uploaded a post with the heading “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L” on Instagram Stories. D and L were largely taken to mean “die” and “live”.
Her Instagram account has since been flooded with messages of condolence.
The Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 might be need to be amended, the Malay Mail quoted Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo as saying.
He said he has asked the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to work with the police and get the facts on the case.
“I feel we have to be very, very careful when it comes to matters like this. I think it’s a serious matter where social media is being used in a manner which can endanger the lives of certain people,” he told reporters after meeting Pos Malaysia staff at the National Mail Centre in Shah Alam for a Ramadan supper late on Wednesday.
“Having said that, I think at the same time, we also want to look at how the CMA Act could perhaps be tweaked to deal with problems like this,” he added.
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Malaysian Psychiatric Association patron Lee Lam Thye said on Wednesday that an awareness campaign on mental health and an alert system to identify suicidal postings on social media must be developed.
“The government must train more counsellors and psychologists to help those suffering from depression and other mental problems,” The Star quoted him as saying.
Tan Sri Lee said there was a gap of about five hours from the time of the teen’s posting until her suicidal act, and that there was no alert system in place for intervention.
Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh also found it disturbing that so many of the teenager’s Instagram followers had supported her desire to take her own life.
Those who had voted for her to die could be seen as having abetted the suicide, he said, citing a United States court that found a woman guilty of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging a victim to commit suicide.