Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Post-riot discourse ‘shows online community capable of self-regulation’

SINGAPORE — The robust rejection on social media of the xenophobic vitriol that was spewed following the riot in Little India should give confidence to the Government and Singapore society that the online community is capable of regulating itself, said academic and political commentator Cherian George at a panel discussion on freedom of expression and democracy yesterday.

SINGAPORE — The robust rejection on social media of the xenophobic vitriol that was spewed following the riot in Little India should give confidence to the Government and Singapore society that the online community is capable of regulating itself, said academic and political commentator Cherian George at a panel discussion on freedom of expression and democracy yesterday.

“Here is the first big test of social media in precisely the kind of chaotic, fluid situation that could have spun out of control ... (and) the Singapore public emerged as strong as ever,” said Dr George at the discussion organised by human rights organisation Maruah.

“For every unthinking, silly, racist comment, we found no shortage of Singaporeans coming out to say, ‘Hold our horses, let’s not jump to conclusions’,” he added.

While some netizens took to social media to criticise those who sought to incite hatred or made racial slurs following the riot, other Singaporeans took the initiative to try to organise small events to make peace and reach out to the migrant worker community.

Dr George also said yesterday that in terms of media regulation, the Republic could learn from other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where independent councils that are not beholden to the Government, rather than the State, assume the role. These councils would operate like the courts, he added.

The issue of regulation on the Internet has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, following the Media Development Authority’s notification to two websites — current affairs and news site The Independent and socio-political site Breakfast Network (BN) — to register under class licensing rules or shut down.

Although the regulator had clarified that the move was not to control the content the websites put out, but to prevent the websites “from being controlled by, or coming under the influence of, foreign entities or funding, thus ensuring Singapore politics remain a matter for Singaporeans alone”, it prompted an outcry among netizens.

Another panellist P N Balji, who is part of the team behind The Independent, again raised questions yesterday on the MDA’s intent in requiring registration and why only two websites have been singled out.

Referring to how the MDA sent a second, different set of registration forms three months after notifying the website to register, Mr Balji asked if the regulator was “changing the rules on the run”.

“The forms came three months later. Something must have happened (in that period),” he said.

The MDA had earlier said the forms were “revised for greater clarity, including the MDA’s expectations regarding receipt of foreign funding”.

“The changes will allow registered sites to receive bona fide commercial revenue, foreign advertisers included. This is why more disclosures are necessary,” it added.

Other panellists at yesterday’s discussion included Asia Research Institute Research Fellow P J Thum, blogger and documentary filmmaker Martyn See and veteran lawyer G Raman.

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.