Dear bloggers, Where is your “self-regulation”?



February 5th, 2009

This article is an edited version of Lui’s answer to a Parliamentary question on 4 February. Lui is the Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts.

We have not done any studies to assess the level of maturity and consistency of local netizens in entering a self-regulated regime. However, for Members of the House who have surfed the Internet, you would have observed that while there are some serious and objective postings, there is also a prevalence of noises, rumours and distortions in cyberspace. As AIMS has noted, while there were reasoned and critical views, there was also “a great deal of unhelpful commentary and discussions online”.

In fact, it would be quite apparent that the Internet is not an effective self-regulated regime as some may have touted it to be. Rumours and lies are prevalent in cyberspace. Flaming and cyber bullying are not uncommon. Unfortunately, this is the downside of the Internet, given the borderless nature of cyberspace and the cloak of anonymity that comes with it.

[When Yio Chu Kang Member of Parliament Seng Han Thong was set on fire last month] there were a small number of comments sympathetic to him, expressing condolences … praising him for the work that he has done. [But] the vast majority of the comments were unhelpful … a significant number were unkind … a small number were downright outrageous. It was disappointing.

I do not think the community itself has done enough to rebut some of these unhelpful comments delivered by fellow netizens. It is a squandered opportunity for a higher degree of self-regulation. It would have been an example of the genesis, of the first steps, towards a more responsible, greater, self-regulatory regime. But many of those responses were not rebutted or answered, and I think it is not healthy for some of this to remain on the Net unchallenged, unquestioned and unanswered.

To develop a responsible cyberspace, all parties need to play their role responsibly. On its part, the Government had in the past set up the Parents Advisory Group for the Internet (PAGi) and National Internet Advisory Committee (NIAC) to promote a culture of cyber wellness, especially among our young and their parents. Today, the Media Development Authority (MDA) works with the Internet and Media Advisory Committee (INMAC), the industry as well as NGOs such as the Touch Community to foster cyber wellness among our young people.  In response to AIMS, the Government will set up an Inter-Ministry Taskforce on Cyber Wellness to coordinate national efforts and develop strategies and programmes on cyber wellness.

Significantly, netizens themselves have a major and critical role to play in developing a responsible cyberspace. Individual bloggers ought to be responsible and accountable in their postings. Website proprietors and the online contributors must be responsible and prompt in moderating the sites to ensure credibility, objectivity and balance in the content posted. Netizens can and should do more to establish and enforce the norms of acceptable online behaviour.

As the Government moves towards engagement in cyberspace, we hoped that the online community, as well as those in the real world, will contribute constructive and meaningful ideas and comments to help strengthen Singapore and better prepare us for the rigours of global competition.

Sources: MICA, Today, The Straits Times

Postscript, from Lui’s Parliamentary answers on 6 February:

I would also like to take this opportunity to address some comments on my reply to Ms Penny Low about self-regulation on the Internet.

They seem to have misconstrued my remarks as “a desire for more regulation on the Internet”. Let me say clearly that I am not advocating this position. In fact, self-regulation is what some bloggers themselves have asked for. In responding to the AIMS committee, a group had proposed for community moderation to replace the Government’s promised lighter-touch regulatory approach. It is for the online community to decide if there should be self-regulation or not. Likewise, it is for them to deliberate on how online postings could be self-regulated or moderated.

The Government will continue with its promised lighter touch regulatory approach, and will engage netizens in a constructive and beneficial way.

Source: MICA

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