Remember internet can be tool for both good and bad

Remember internet can be tool for both good and bad

Recent store protest highlights flaws in our online world

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About 1,000 people massed outside Dolce & Gabbana's store in Tsim Sha Tsui to protest its photo ban.
About 1,000 people massed outside Dolce & Gabbana's store in Tsim Sha Tsui to protest its photo ban.
Photo: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP
It certainly came as a shock to the operators of Hong Kong's Dolce & Gabbana store when nearly 1,000 Hongkongers, each holding a camera - professional or one in a smartphone - gathered outside the Canton Road shop on January 8. They were protesting D&G's ridiculous policy of banning local people taking photos outside the store.

But, whether or not it was justified, this unprecedented protest against fashion tyranny also showed up some flaws in internet use.

The protest was originally prompted by a video on YouTube showing Hongkongers being told not to take photos in front of the D&G shop and the hostile attitude of a staff member who discriminated against local people in favour of mainlanders.

Because of the video, this news quickly spread on the internet and within three days, more than 14,000 people had seen it and voiced their anger. The page asking people to gather in front of the store to take phones attracted more than 20,000 people saying they "liked" it. This reaction illustrates the strong co-coordinating power wielded by the internet and shows how it can have great political influence.

But, while it can encourage socio-participation, the internet can also be easily manipulated by those seeking to gain support from the public.

In the D&G incident, certain parties tried to blame the Communist Party for the store's supposed favouring of mainlanders, when obviously it had nothing to do with it.

However, no one regulates online input, so it is easy for people to deliberately spread false information to put them in a better light. Moreover, the internet has undoubtedly facilitated the act of cyber-bullying.

In this case, a female staff member working for D&G was openly criticised by hundreds of netizens in an online forum, because she criticised Hongkongers for being stupid.

She was verbally attacked by forum readers and her privacy was infringed when information about her appeared on various platforms, including photos of her in a bikini.

I am not saying which party is right or wrong; just that the internet can be held accountable for providing an easy platform for people to bully others.

So for all the benefits the internet offers in facilitating socio-participation and helping fight injustice, it is important to remember to use it wisely. Although it is unethical for D&G staff to discriminate against Hongkongers, I hope people stay calm and use the internet appropriately to express their opinions.

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