Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chee Soon Juan Calls on PAP to Leave the Blogosphere Alone

I read with great interest the recent calls by Chee Soon Juan for the PAP to allow unrestricted freedom of speech in the blogosphere.

My personal view is that while the PAP should allow a certain latitude, I however fully support the PAP's decision to take legal actions against those who spread unsubstantiated rumors.

This is because, as I have said many times before in my blog, social networking websites like Friendster, Facebook and Twitter have changed the information environment. Bloggers can now reach out and influence as many individuals as professionally run news organizations. Herein lies the danger as unlike professional journalists who abide by a code of ethics, bloggers are unregulated and may be motivated by personal agendas. In addition, the homogeneity of these social communities, and sense of bond among "friends" with common interests, make these communities susceptible to being easily manipulated.

I cite the Greek Riot in 2008 as an example where the death of a student, at the hands of the police, need not have degenerated into nation-wide violent protests. The incident could have remained contained pending investigations by the appropriate authorities. Unfortunately, irresponsible citizens began spreading unsubstantiated accusations of police brutality on social networking sites. This fanned anti-police sentiments which eventually spiraled out of control. Many analysts are unanimous in their belief that social networking websites were the catalysts in the Greek riots of 2008.

Hence, while I believe that netizens have the right to express their views, the expression of these views must be done responsibly. The inciting of hate or violence is definitely not one freedom I support. In my opinion, any government or organization or individual is correct to take to task individuals who act irresponsibly.

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