Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Roy Ngerng, PM Lee and the Coup in Thailand

As I observe (and study) the unfolding saga of the coup in Thailand, I believe that the military Junta will find itself in an uphill struggle to gain complete control of the country. Unlike previous coups where information was centrally controlled and occupation of media centres allowed the military the ability to control information flow, the prevalence of social media has made it impossible (without draconian measures) to control what people are saying and to shape perceptions. In fact as social media begins to spread news of a citizenry opposed to the coup (whether true or not), such "news" is enough to trigger a movement against the military. Once again, the power of social media to defy censorship and be used to rally people is being demonstrated.

Without going into a discussion on the merits of the coup in Thailand, it is suffice to say that information spread on the Internet has the ability to influence large numbers of people. The danger comes when people are manipulated by those with ill-intent. False information, rumors, smear campaigns and outright deceit on social media platforms can rally people and literally topple legitimately elected governments.

As such, SG Social Media Guru is a firm believer in the responsible use of social media and it is our opinion that PM Lee Hsien Loong's decision to sue local blogger Roy Ngerng is an important line in the sand. If Roy's accusations are left unchecked and unchallenged, these unsubstantiated accusations can gain traction via social media and influence the perception of the less discerning citizenry. The concept of freedom of expression must be twined with the principle of accountability. One without the other will lead to anarchy.

Similar to a case of a person who deliberately shouts fire in a crowded room to cause a stampede is held accountable for his actions, users of social media should also be held accountable for what they say and do on social media. Without this line in the sand, a multi-racial society like Singapore is one step away from anarchy.
Social media is a powerful tool that users must use responsibly. If not, then it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that those who abuse it are punished. As the saying goes, "with great powers come great responsibility." 

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