Racist blogs in Singapore

A couple of racist blogs have been taken down by the authorities. The two blogs featured racist comments with vulgarities and negative remarks about Muslims in Singapore. They were apparently started by the same person, presumably a male student in Singapore.  One blog was created in August and the other earlier this month.

The two blogs were hosted on Google’s Blogger site, and were taken down for violating the host’s “terms of service”. 

This reminds me of the case of two racist bloggers who were caught about a year or two back. The case kind of became a landmark one as it highlighted one of the abuses of New Media at a time when blogging was starting to catch on in Singapore.  

While it’s true that New Media such as blogs can be abused and used to express negative and divisive sentiments, what struck me about the situation this time is how the blogosphere and cyberspace seems to have developed an in-built self-regulating mechanism. What do I mean by that?

The one who ‘blew the whistle’ in this case is trainee teacher Tanveer Khan who came across the blogs on Sept 9. Tanveer knew that what he read was wrong and would have a negative effect on its readers and the race relations in Singapore, and immediately emailed the Media Development Authority (MDA) to inform them of the existence of the blogs.

His actions resulted in the blogs being blocked on Sept 18 and 20. The authorities do not police the blogosphere but do take action when they receive any specific information that needs investigating. In addition, the blog hosts such as Blogger also take action against users and prohibit certain undesirable content from being hosted on its servers. More details on specific content that violates Blogger’s policies can be found at www.blogger.com/content.g.

Anyway, with watchful Web users like Mr Tanveer, coupled with the proposed changes to the Penal Code stating that a person convicted of causing racial and religious disharmony can be jailed up to three years or fined, or both, it looks like bloggers who wish to spout undersirable sentiments should exercise more restraint.



Singapore teacher Otto Fong comes out in his blog

Last Sunday, I took part in the Shape Run (5 km category)! It was my first foray into taking part in any kind of such runs. Half a year back, if someone had told me that I would be running 5 km, I would think the person mad. Half a year back, I could barely jog for 10 minutes, let alone 40 minutes continuously (btw, I clocked a time of just under 40 mins during the Shape Run, which to me, is a pretty respectable timing, given the little ‘training’ I went through to prep for the run).

Now, you may think- what does this have to do with New Media? What does this have to do with the Singapore teacher in a top boy’s school (everyone knows it’s Raffles!) who came out in his blog?

Well, in the past, if I had wanted to announce my participation in the Shape Run, I would have to tell my friends and family members only, and have them share it with others. To announce anything to the world, well, that would take some form of advertising, and how many would actually do that?

But today, thanks to Web 2.0 and ‘prosumer’ technologies, I can now share my Shape Run experience with the entire world, well, okay, the cyberworld, and well, maybe not everyone in cyberworld (afterall, how many would actually be interested in knowing about my Shape Run), but the potential is there…you get the idea?

So, it’s strange and pretty naive of the teacher in Singapore who came out in his blog to declare his homosexual tendencies to think that he was only sharing that info with his family and close friends. Did he think that his students would not have access to his blog as well?

His ‘blogcast’ of sorts has created a buzz in the blogosphere and definitely amongst his students. Views remain divided about his sexual orientation as well as his announcing of it. Some call him brave for announcing and putting his real self for all to see. Others see him as being foolhardy for doing so, as that may actually cost him his job.

What do you think?


Spock a person

What does it mean to spock a person? Just as you google a term or a product, you can now spock someone. A US firm has launched an ambitious Internet search engine that it hopes will eventually help to track down the names of the 6 billion people in the world. At spock.com, you can type in a person’s name and retrieve search results on the person.

 How does the company allow for such extensive people searches? To index individuals, it looks through social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster. It also allows users to submit their own profiles as well as add information about individuals so that profiles could be more comprehensive.

The company plans to make the service a free one. Revenue will be generated through advertising.

I tried a search with my name and found 3 profiles, none of which are mine. Oh well.

In today’s climate of fear of identity theft and privacy issues, we’ll just have to wait and see how successful the site is, and if ‘spock’ will be the next Internet household term to replace ‘google’!