I’ve been quiet about MDA’s recent move to legislate online content overseeing political news in Singapore cause I wanted my words to be out in print on the newspaper forums. I had hoped that the newspapers would actually carry my piece, but perhaps this was too idealistic of me. Regardless, here is the piece submitted to the forums.
MDA’s recent move to regulate the internet has drawn much flak from netizens, to the point where a group calling themselves Free Our Internet has organised a peaceful protest at Hong Lim Park come 8 June.
Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim explained that the reason for the new legislation is to ensure that Singaporean’s “read the right thing”. Senior Minister of State, Ms Indranee Rajah further elaborated that should a website or blog function in a fashion similar to a news provider and have a reach of 50 000 people, that website too has to apply for a license. All in all, the intention of the authorities seem to revolve around the idea of providing Singaporeans accurate information, among other things.
Politics aside, such a move severely hamstrings any potential discussion regarding social issues and policies, as many times the area of social policies overlap with politics. Additionally, the internet allows a venue for netizens to vent their frustrations. Increased legislation would only bottle up negative sentiment, and cause them to simmer, and potentially reach a flash point, elsewhere.
As such, the best course of action for the government is to rescind the licensing regime, or at least withhold from adding any additional websites to it. Also, the authorities should continue to engage netizens online and disprove any false information that surfaces. On May 9 2013, the SPF Facebook page posted a detailed comment, disclaiming a viral post of child-grabbing incident as a hoax. This is a brilliant example of how a government office engages netizens, while at the same time ensuring accurate information is broadcasted.
Ultimately the internet, and its offspring social media, brings with it the freedom of speech as well as the freedom to screech. The government, just like the many responsible netizens have, should learn to ignore those who screech and engage those who speak.