The Many Faces of Moderation

driLast weekend, over a few drinks, Nicholas Aaron Khoo threw an interesting question to me that prompted his recent discussion on whether the Internet can be self-regulated. The question has been examined in the early days from the submission of the “Proposals for Internet Freedom in Singapore” by a group of bloggers to the engagement with public feedback on the government appointed  AIMS Report – Engaging New Media: Challenging Old Assumptions with regards to the issue of community moderation. To Nicholas’ credit, he constructed a well-thought counter example by looking at the example of, a blog aggregator in Singapore that is suffering from the lack of community moderation despite the tools made available by the owner of the platform. Hence my intention of this article, rather than just argue only on the merits of community moderation, also examines the many faces of moderation and self-regulation of the Internet in Singapore
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The Economics about Banning Political Films

driI have been thinking about the political films discussion that took place during the Seminar on Internet Regulatory Reform. Two of my colleagues, Alex Au aka Yawning Bread and Gerald Giam have voiced their opinions about section 35 in the Films Act and their reaction to the comments made by Mr Cheong Yip Seng, the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMES). Alex Au is worried that AIMES may be trying hard to justify why section 35 should stay after hearing Mr Cheong’s point about the high impact factor that a political film can sway how people think after his visit to a conference in Canada. To reinforce his point, Mr Cheong also cited that Japan and Korea were the other two countries that banned political films. On the other hand, Gerald took a different position by arguing that the political films act benefit PAP more than the other opposition parties. In this post, I adopt the relationship between the demand & supply with the impact of a political film to explain why banning section 35 is a worse option for the PAP to stay in power. Continue reading The Economics about Banning Political Films

Community Moderation: Thoughts from the Internet Regulatory Reform Seminar

driOrganised by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, the seminar on internet regulatory reform happened today at the URA Centre. About 50 people attended the event, excluding the organizers and the bloggers who are involved in the drafting of "Proposals for Internet Freedom in Singapore". The aim of this seminar is to present the proposals and at the same solicit some thoughts and comments from the public. Together with Cherian George, Alex Au (Yawning Bread), Choo Zheng Xi, Ng Ejay, Arun Mahizhnan (Institute of Policy Studies) and Mohan Gopalan, we presented the various aspects and sat on a panel to discuss the proposals. In the process, we drew interesting comments and questions from the audience.  After a vibrant discussion, I will like to outline some ideas about the formation of Internet Content Consultative Committee (IC3) mentioned in the community moderation section of the proposal.
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Official Reply from Singapore Government on the Proposals for Internet Freedom

driFor those who wonder about the progress of the proposal, Ms Bhavani from MICA representing the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts have responded to us on the proposals and said that they will review the suggestions made on the proposals. There is a ST report "Government looking at Lighter Touch"  by Zakir Hussain narrating about the responses between MICA and the bloggers on the proposal. The engagement between MICA and us has been cordial and positive and that’s a good starting point for proper debate in our society. From reading the response, my opinion is that they would at least review what we have proposed.  We have to wait and see what their eventual policy decisions may be, given that the report by Advisory Council on the Impact  of  New Media on Society (AIMS) is about to be submitted. In any case, both groups (the bloggers and AIMS) have been in contact, and have exchanged notes among each other through various closed door sessions on regulation issues in Institute of Policy Studies or private emails. Meanwhile, check out Alex’s article on "The pigeons are among us already", Clarissa Onn’s "Bureaucratic ambiguity and Internet freedom" and Mohan’s "Maintaining Racial and Religious Harmony through Criminal Law". The full text for official email reply can be found in E-Jay’s I have attached a copy here.

Official Reply from Ms Bhavani to Alex Au (on behalf of the bloggers):

Dear Mr Au,

My  Minister would like to thank you and your blogger friends for the effort  in putting up the proposals for Internet deregulation which you had emailed to him on 20 April 2008.

MICA is well aware of the fact that Internet and new media technology have  evolved  by  leaps  and  bounds  since  we introduced our light-touch approach  in 1996.  Back then, MICA had recognised the potential growth and impact  of the Internet, and the tremendous opportunities and benefits that it  will  bring  to  all of us.  We were also wary of its negative aspects. Hence,  our  response  to  the  Internet was to take a balanced light-touch approach.   Our  intent  with  this  light-touch approach was to foster the growth of the Internet and to enable us to exploit its vast potential while safeguarding  our  society  from its undesirable aspects.   That 79% of our households  subscribe  to  broadband  and  many Singaporeans especially the younger citizens  own  a  blog  or  participate  in some form of new media clearly show that the light-touch approach had not been without merit.

To  keep  up with the fast-evolving new media landscape, we have been reviewing  our light-touch approach and are considering how we could take a lighter  touch  approach.   We  have  appointed the Advisory Council on the Impact  of  New Media on Society (AIMS) in April last year to study the new media and how best to refine our regulatory framework.

We will consider  the  views  expressed  in your proposal and other feedback in our review.

Yours sincerely
Press Secretary
to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts