How 'bawang' Facebook ruined a retro pop star's second chance at life
14 min read

How 'bawang' Facebook ruined a retro pop star's second chance at life

Othman Hamzah is a pop singer who was down on his luck nearly two decades ago. He is now trying to rebuild his life, but Facebook mob justice has derailed his attempt.
How 'bawang' Facebook ruined a retro pop star's second chance at life

Born in Singapore, Othman Hamzah broke into the Malay pop music scene in the late 1970s when he was just in his late teens.

Over the next two decades, he would make his name there and in Malaysia with folk and pop songs such as "Musliha", his cover version of "Gadis Melayu", and the Aidilfitri staple "Gembira Bersama di Hari Raya".

But much like many other young pop stars, Othman found it hard to monetise his talent to take care of his family as he got older.

After short stints in many jobs, he took a chance in advertising by writing jingles – but debt and personal expenses caught up with him. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to embezzling SG$50,000 (RM113,000 then) from his own firm's money.

The Singapore court sentenced him to 16 months in prison, and he was released after eight months for good conduct.  Rebuilding his life started when he moved his family to Malaysia, paid off all his dues, and the dark period was safely in their rearview mirror.

Following some years of marketing in the real estate industry, he joined a venture with property developers as their face – capitalising on his past popularity.

Othman in front of a showhouse – Photo courtesy of Othman Hamzah

His business was prospering for three years until his partner got into financial troubles of his own. This was where Othman's second nightmare began.

It was 2018. Facebook was at its peak, and the social media giant just changed its algorithm making each users' content more focused on their social circles. But critics say it has also rewarded outrage and divisive content while promoting misinformation.

Othman became the target of several Facebook pages' smear campaigns, including one believed to be started by 11 clients whose homes were left incomplete by his previous venture. The issue went viral, driven by his popularity, but also fueled by mob justice.

Three years later, Othman is still reeling from the after-effects of this social media outrage. And it has spilt over to his activist daughter Shafiqah.

BBNU talked with them, combed over police reports, and went over Facebook for a story on how they got to this point after the jump, for subscribers only. 👇

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