Singapore’s politicians on Facebook

In earlier posts, I’d talked about how politicians have been jumping on the new media wagon and exploiting it to get a feel of the ground and further their popularity.  For instance, there was a Facebook standoff between Hillary, Obama and McCain some months back.

The politicians in neighbouring Malaysia have also realised the impact of new media, and the ruling party has taken an about turn on its view on new media. From disregarding it, they are now encouraging party members to keep blogs. Of course, by now, everyone has probably heard of and/or read Mahathir’s blog.

In Singapore, our local politicians have also started to use new media to reach out to the public. First there was George Yeo who was the face of PAP’s new media user, who blogged about his experiences. Now, more and more of the PAP’s members have started to adopt new media as part of their communications strategy. Teo Ser Luck is on Facebook and Vivian Balakhrishnan keeps his own blog.

According to the Today article, PAP MP Lam Pin Min (Ang Mio Kio GRC) said that, “The power of the Internet as a political tool must not be underestimated as demonstrated by the experience of the recent elections in our neighbouring countries. The party understands this and takes the feedback from netizens very seriously.”

Of course, new media shouldn’t just be used for the sake of using it. To be meaningful, it should serve as a platform for open discussion and feedback, and not a channel for propaganda.

Well, do share your thoughts about what you hope to see being used and done in new media by our local politicians.

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Racist blogger gets arrested

Last year, I wrote a post about racist bloggers in Singapore.

You’d think that after that episode, bloggers would be more careful about what  they blog about. I mean, come on, it would be pretty naive to still hang on to the notion that blogs are for your own eyes only, and that  they have no real consequences beyond the virtual world.

But, just yesterday, another Singaporean blogger has been arrested for putting up a racist blog. The 24 year-old goes by the onscreen moniker, Fragrance Prince.

When I tried to access the Fragrance Prince blog, I was given the message that the blog is only for invited readers. Looks like he’s wised up a little.

Anyway, some other bloggers managed to get hold of his so-called apology on his blog before he restricted access to it, and according to them, this is what Fragrance Prince said,

Quoted from http://fragranceprince.blogspot.com

Sincere Apologies
Dear Readers,

I would like to express my sincere apologies for any misinterpretation to my blog entry.

I regret having mentioned this entry in my blog which I didn’t expect it to turn out to be like this, I should have been more mindful.

Once again, I am sincerely apologetic for the recent events that had happen.

Your’s sincerely,
Franco

Well, apology or no apology, Fragrance Prince’s words have certainly caused a stink on the blogosphere and beyond.

Thriving Blogosphere in China

The blogosphere is thriving! This is especially so with the number of China’s Internet users hitting new highs. Even in the rurul areas of China,  the numbers surged 127.7% in 2007.

In fact, China has become the fastest-growing Internet population with 221 million online users. This makes it a tie with the number of users in the US. The number has exploded despite the Chinese government’s efforts to curb access to materials they deem as offensive or pornographic. Remember the cute policeman and policewoman policing the Internet and screens of the Chinese online users? Perhaps, it is because of the imposed curbs and censorship that has caused the surge in online use.

This growing number of Internet users is seen as a cause of concern for Chinese officials who feel that users would turn to the Internet for their subversive activities and discussions.

Or perhaps they need not worry so much as many Chinese have turned to the Internet to rally support amongst the Chinese against the pro-Tibet acitivists during the Olympic Torch Relay through the various countries.

Perhaps, the Chinese government would like to take a leaf from the Malaysian government in its about turn in moving from ignoring and criticising the Internet to embracing it. It’s now calling all its members to write blogs and use new media to connect with the electorate and general public. It’s learnt its mistake of not using new media, thus leaving a void for other online discussions to take place without it.

In Singapore, blogs, websites and other new media abound to supplement and complement the news in mainstream media and serve as alternative forms of engagement

I do believe that using new media would in a way help to engage with younger voters and members of the public, but new media in itself would not do much – you would still need good, quality content, and online conversations that would be open to all, and of course, an open mind.

New video game rating system in Singapore

Singapore has just announced its new video rating system that’s meant to help gamers, and especially the parents of young gamers, to make more informed choices about the type of games to play.

According to the Straits Times article, “Titles that contain possible objectionable content will come with stickers to warn buyers. Those that have realistic violence, drug use, nudity and frequent use of coarse language will be rated M18, for a mature audience that is 18 and older. Games that have moderate level of violence, portrayal of implied sexual activity, nudity without details, coarse language and depiction of drugs will be rated ‘Age Advisory’ and restricted to those 16 and older.”

Other than that, games that are deemed for general play do not have stickers, such as the Mario Bros games. 

Of course, the new game rating has drawn mixed views, just like when the new film rating system was implemented many years back.

Some wonder if the licensing needed for the game rating will cause game prices to rise. Some also find that groups of gamers made up for a range of ages would also be affected, as it’s been known that there are parents out there who game with their kids.

There are others who welcome it, and feel that the rating gives some idea as to the suitability of the game.

Then, of course, there are others who feel that the enforcement of the rating system needs to be worked out as there could be loopholes, such as someone older buying the game for someone younger.

Actually, if you think about it, the same arguments apply to all other age-defined policies, such as film rating, consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

And what can be done about online games? Could there be any regulation for them?

In an earlier post, I talked about the controversial game, Ms Bimbo. Hm..I wonder what rating Singapore would give it, and if it’s even possible to implement such rating on online games.

What do you think?

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.