Today: Bloggers to send ideas on Internet regulation to Govt

Bloggers to send ideas on Internet regulation to Govt
Neo Chai Chin
chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

AN OPEN letter on proposed changes to Internet regulation will soon be sent to the Ministry of Information, Community and the Arts (Mica) by a group of 15 bloggers.

Their proposals include the setting up of an Internet consultative committee for the free and responsible use of digital media, and for rules governing speech to be the same across media platforms.

The group, led by bloggers Alex Au and Choo Zheng Xi, also believes that regulations should take the form of clearly stated laws rather than “licensing, bureaucratic discretion and administrative penalties as is currently the case”.

The “platform-neutral” regulations should also be as minimal as those regulating the “current freest platform”, which they believe to be film.

“As far as administrative rules are concerned, film may be in some ways freer than the Internet,” said Mr Alex Au, founder of the website Yawningbread.org. “The Internet is the freest of all platforms only because the rules are not enforced very much, because of the ‘light touch’ policy.”

Seeing a trend where Internet site owners are themselves ensuring the responsible use of their digital domains, the group would like to see community moderation resolving controversies relating to Internet speech as far as possible.

For this, an Internet Community Consultative Committee could be set up, comprising — in equal parts — independent content providers, digital technology experts and regular Web surfers.

“The Government often posits freedom and responsibility as trade-offs. We disagree,” said Mr Au, who added that Singapore’s digital space needed freedom to mature and become more responsible.

The proposals on platform neutrality, the committee and Internet laws are good ideas in principle, said Dr Ang Peng Hwa of the Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

Speaking in his personal capacity, he said: “I think that the fact that they’re thinking about it is certainly welcome. But how you implement it is not so easy.”

For example, laws are debated in Parliament before they are passed, so “to change the laws, you need to go through a more bureaucratic process”.

Laws are also less flexible and slower to change than guidelines, Dr Ang added.

Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng agreed that some media regulations are currently “not very clear”, thus limiting the “freedom of players in the media to manoeuvre”.

He added that in considering the bloggers’ proposals, Mica needed to consider factors like media convergence and the fact that young Singaporeans are heavy users of new media.

Another MP, Ms Denise Phua, commended the bloggers for “speaking up on what they believe in”.

Ms Phua, a blogger herself, said that in trying to influence Government policies, “efforts will bear fruit only when common ground is found” after the perspectives of all parties are spelled out.

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