The vicious attacks against young actress Julia Barretto is a reflection of how, by way of malicious commission or omission, a post can become viral online, take a life of its own, and destroy lives of innocent people. The 22-year-old Julia, who has shown maturity and grit all throughout her unfortunate ordeal, has been dragged into the breakup of two showbiz colleagues—Bea Alonzo and Gerald Anderson.
Bea’s cryptic message hinting that she was betrayed by her ex-boyfriend after photos of Gerald and Julia surfaced online has seemingly goaded netizens into bashing Julia. Whatever sweetness could be inferred from the photos of Julia and Gerald was the result of their professional relationship as co-stars in the recent movie Between Maybes.
Gerald himself has denied that a third party caused his break up with Bea, admitting that their relationship became unhealthy after enduring one fight after the other, thus triggering the separation.
Julia has likewise broken her silence on the non-issue that has spawned malicious and libelous comments online. “Gerald is not my boyfriend now and he was never my boyfriend. Let us end this malicious rumor,” she said.
“There’s so many more important issues that need our attention. We should stop talking about this. I’m moving forward already, and I hope everybody else does also,” Julia added.
Julia, in settling the score on her alleged role in the Bea-Gerald split, is proof that in this fast-paced digital age where content without context is king, people need to be more discerning and responsible in the posts that they share and react to.
Netizens were only too quick to judge her because of baseless accusations. Being a Barretto, people were only too happy to pounce at the opportunity to bash her, even if she did not do anything wrong.
Closeness and friendship are par for the course for professional actors involved in any movie project. She was unfairly misjudged for being friendly to her leading man. The bigger picture here is the need to educate netizens to be more circumspect in making online allegations against anyone. Celebrities are not fair game just because they are public figures. Online posts that besmirch one’s reputation may constitute cyberlibel.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 punishes computer-related offenses such as computer forgery; fraud and identity theft; and content-related offenses, such as cybersex, child pornography and, most significantly, cyberlibel. Libel, in its traditional and digital form, is not Constitutionally-protected speech.
Cyberlibel, in fact, carries a higher penalty because of the use of information and communication technologies. In her own words, Julia noted how “a culture of hate” was unleashed with the intentional “liking” of harmless photos of her and Gerald. By not deliberately explaining the context of the photos, the act has “(put) malice into the minds of many, which resulted in the outrage of insults” against the young actress. Other victims of cyberbullying were not as composed as Julia—some needed medical intervention to get over the trauma, while others have taken extreme measures to escape from the vicious virality of bashers by taking their own lives. This culture of hate is not only deplorable, but under certain circumstances, criminal as well.