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Opinion

Catfishing should be a crime

There will be more of these testimonies and accusations for as long as dating apps exist.

Paolo Capino

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There are predators who victimize children or minors and there are people who find their prey online on unsuspecting victims for emotional satisfaction. These two deviant behaviors have one similar outcome — lifetime psychological or physical damage to their victims.

Internet pedophilia can be synonymous to what is a relatively new phenomenon, catfishing. Catfishing belongs to the domain of online dating, and it usually starts out with a person who will manipulate an individual who is typically lonely and emotionally unstable.

The issue of catfishing was a top discussion on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook last week after a transwoman wrote a scathing thread against two individuals whom she said exploited her insecurities and vulnerabilities.

The transwoman from Cebu with the Twitter handle Jzan Tero (@JzanVern) alleged that she matched on Tinder with a male model initially named Bill Iver Reyes who was living in Makati.

The odd events started when they were supposed to meet in Cebu, but he did not show up. According to Tero, she then received a text message from a certain Sam Morales explaining why Bill had to return to Manila. She suspected that Bill was a “poser” until he sent a video to her denying that he had a fake identity.

Despite this, their relationship grew, and she thought she had fallen in love with the person on the other end of the video. Like other relationships, they would have fights. Tero said Morales would always be there to patch things up with Bill.

She eventually finds out bill’s real name but their communication and relationship continued. Tero said she traveled to Manila and had an intimate moment with whom she said was Bilko Argana.

Tero said Argana admitted that it was Morales who she had been texting and chatting with over the past eight months. Tero alleged that Morales explained to her that the deception took place because Morales was bullied by gays and targeting transpeople “became an addiction.” You can read Tero’s long thread on Twitter by simply searching her handle name.

There will be more of these testimonies and accusations for as long as dating apps exist. There should be legislation where “catfishing” should be categorized as an actual crime or cybercrime.

Anthropologist Krystal D’Costa explains in her Scientific American Blog back in 2014 why there are victims. “We tend to forget that we see what others want us to see when it comes to crafting an identity. A catfish banks on this shortsightedness and shapes his or her profile(s) to serve us exactly what we want. They’re emphatic, they’re sympathetic, and they’re like-minded. The manipulation is so subtle that we don’t realize the ways in which the “click that is the hallmark of a relationship is being orchestrated.”

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