MDA’s licensing of social media, a pawn’s gambit

In a sudden move, MDA stunned the world of social media and the whole wide world with a pawn’s gambit, by requiring social media website reporting on Singapore to be licensed, to put up a $50k bond and risk a $200k penalty if the news site violated its regulations. A few of the official media websites were put up as bait to this new move, and the proverbial inconsequential sacrificial pawns. Some may think that this is a foolish move as the social media exists in cyberspace with no space or territory to talk about, and can’t be under any country’s jurisdiction in the normal sense. A news site in cyberspace appearing here also appears across the whole wide world. How can the govt of a country claims jurisdiction over the site and requiring the site to apply for a national license?

I was thinking of suggesting to Yaacob Ibrahim to retract this new regulation as it does not appear to be very sound, unreal. The Govt may be able to deal with Singaporeans owning the sites, but as for foreigners or sites located overseas, there is really nothing much that the Govt can do except to declare ‘war’ against the site and its owners. Many would not even have a presence here in terms of staff and offices and nothing can be held in ransom. They can show the MDA their middle finger. It would be interesting for Yahoo, Singapore to do just that.

Then again, I think this meticulous and highly talented Govt would not have done something that looked silly to the common folks, but the imposition of this regulation must have been carefully thought through, with the inputs of all the great talents available. It must be something workable, reasonable, logical, and ingenious, and for a very important objective.

As the case turns out, the reception was anything but hostility and many people, not only the website owners, but anyone familiar with cyberspace, are not taking this move kindly. It will definitely increase the anti PAP votes in the next election.

Why would the Govt want to tempt this fate, the same question that the people are asking about the Population White Paper? A simple guess is that by not doing so, the power of social media is going to increase and affect the votes for the PAP negatively. And applying Machiavelli’s Theory, if nasty and unpopular decisions need to be taken, let’s do it swiftly and hopefully by the next GE the pain will be forgotten or softened.

The PAP must have many cards up its sleeves and many things must be carefully planned ahead to take away this sting. How about a big big angpow then, one that will floor every anti PAP voters and put a smile in their faces? The Govt’s policy and trump card has always been the pocket. Hit the pocket hard or fill it fully to win the votes. If the angpow is coming, and a real big one, it will be another ‘pau chiat’ GE in 2016. What is there to fight if the people can see the goodies coming?

The PAP must have known that this is going to be a very unpopular policy domestically and even internationally. This must be another first chalked up by the PAP, regulating and licensing websites, not only applicable to Singaporeans but also to foreigners. They must know that the foreigners will also comply and put up the bond, and prepare to be fined $200k if charged by the Singapore courts. If the foreigners were to stand up in defiance, there is really nothing the Govt can do and can be quite embarrassing, to be seen as bullying the Singaporeans and a toothless tiger to the foreigners.

The owners of all the major local websites are up in arms in protest. Unlike the Hong Lim Park protest against the Population White Paper that died down immediately after the event, these major websites are going to blow their trumpets, bugles, horns and beat their drums daily to make sure not only the Govt will hear the noise, but the whole wide world will get the din as well. It is going to be very noisy without a sound. The only thing is how long will the website owners be able to keep their fighting spirit up and high and to see if they wear out first, or the Govt wears out first? What would be the deciding factor to tip the balance and for a winner to appear? Can it be public opinion of the citizens or the opinion of the whole wide world, or a combination of both? Would the citizens chip in, or would the main media chip in, to give more weight to the combatants?

The time line is likely to be 2016. If this protracted war is dragged on, it will only increase in temperature and intensity as it approaches the 2016 GE. Round One the MDA has clearly lost with social media and bloggers and netizens throwing all the punches. Ouch! Next to throw punches are likely to be the citizens who voted for a Govt and finding it unacceptable for the same Govt to want to gag their mouth, stuff their ears and put blinkers on their eyes. Why would they want to vote for such a Govt? Would this be the big question in the next GE?

The show has just begun.


Anonymous said...

ST Forum 31May

Progressive move to raise standards]

Devadas Krishnadas

" The MDA's move to require websites that cover local news to be licensed
has been met with general dismay by the social media community
('MDA rolls out licence scheme for news websites'; Wednesday).

It has been portrayed as censorship in disguise.

This perspective reflects an assumption
that free-for-all, standards-free reporting is reflective of a more enlightened and well-informed society.

Hence, any attempt to impose some framework for accountability on "netizen journalism" is perceived as reactionary.

However, there is a countervailing view,
which is that this measure is actually progressive."


Anonymous said...

Thoughts of a Cynical Investor

[“PAP-stream media” NOT MSM]


Anonymous said...

"It will definitely increase the anti PAP votes in the next election."

Not really lah. As the wise WP leader Low Thia Khiang already said in Jan 2013 just after Punggol BE, many Sinkies very scared they will accidentally vote PAP out in a GE because WP not ready to govern.

And I agree this is true. If best opposition WP become govt, it will be even worse than PAP, as hinted by Low.

And quite rightly before that in GE 2011, many wise Sinkies (60%) already know and so they did the right thing. Or rather, the less wrong thing.

Anonymous said...

Everything in this world is relative.

So it is not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.

Rather, whether less wrong or more right, or more good and less bad.

And most important, to who.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget, where also.

It may be right in Timbuktu but wrong in Sinkieland.

Anonymous said...

Bangkok Post

[Secrecy bleeds the world's poor dry]

Gavin Hayman is director of campaigns at Global Witness

"Over many years spent investigating these issues, Global Witness has discovered that the ability to hide money offshore depends on two factors _
banks that accept dirty money,
and companies that help the wealthy, well-connected and corrupt to conceal their identities.

The ICIJ report proves definitively that neither is difficult to find."


Anonymous said...

Social media is a different cup of tea. Raise what standard? What are they thinking with their blains?

Anonymous said...

RB, don't worry lar pap will give very big ang pow in 2016 and will win lar. I am only surprise how come opposition never offer any like free uni and poly education, reduce ns by one year etc. opposition offers nothing so how to win?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Opposition like you and me, where got so much money. Only money left stuck in minimum sums, can only smile and feel rich when looking at the monthly statements.

jjgg said...

Good morning RB..you give too much credit to the MIWs..which policy of theirs over the past 4 years have resulted in the betterment of the citizenry..this MDA move smacks of desperation and truly an indication that straw clutching time is here. I see the relaxing of cpf rules and even disbursements from GIC n Temasick approaching 2016..just so to show the relevance of these two property occupiers..

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Oh, there are so many good policies and many people got very rich from them. It all depends on whether you are on the right side or wrong side of the policies. See how rich the property owners are? See how rich the CPF account holders are? Their savings will just keep growing until they kick the bucket.

Anonymous said...

Social media got gang raped.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Like I said before, war has been declared.

The even sadder fact: many other governments also want to regulate content on the internet.

In Australia the govt is considering regulating facebook. Some websites are already banned. In 2009 Julian Assange exposed a government blacklist.

Popular torrent site The Pirate Bay is already banned in many Eurozone territories. However no one gives a fuck and there are myriad ways to access TPB from within the EU.

Sometime ago, the first 3D printable gun was made. Other gun and weapons parts soon followed. Recently the US government asked DEFCAD to remove the files for 3D printing and essentially took over the website.

However, you can still get the files on The Pirate Bay. The files have been downloaded 100's of thousands of times. It is reasonable to assume that not all of these people are "nice law abiding citizens". (Singaporeans: please do not make guns on your 3D printer. Death penalty or life imprisonment)

Anonymous said...

MDA regressive policy aims to preserve and entrench The Party's fascist rule forever.

It is now the duty and responsibility of each and everyone of the more than forty percent true Singaporeans to fight against this fascist obnoxious party. The Party is desperate and and abusing its power to curb the basic freedom of expression in the internet. The internet through its bloggers provides another channel for the people to weigh in news or reports from an unbias perspective different from the Party or government control mass media via Straits Times, Business Times, My Paper, New Paper, Today paper and Singapore Radio and Televisioon which may carry slanted reports in the Party's favour thus hididing the Truth from the people. Now everyone who feels the urgency of the matter must take on himself or herself the responsibility to do the battle every day, every week, every month and every year without respite, and go to every street and corner, go to every market place, every social meeting , every chance meeting with any uninformed Singaporean and explain the grim situation in Singapore that The Fascist Party has dragged the country in. Tell how good men were framed up and imprisoned, families destroyed, policies gone awry and people suffer, ministers pay themeselves by the millions while thousands of Singaporeans suffer in silence in poverty, government squander hundreds of billions of dollars in gambling on failed investments in US toxic assets and holding the workers' CPF as hostage to ransom, the housing and transport quagmire, the detrimental immigration policy and the illicit high COEs, ERPs, GSTs and high PUB charges and high medical cost which prevents thousands of people from seeking medical consultatioon especially in sickness like cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease or cardiac related disease and other serious diseases. The people are getting frustrated but The Party wants to hold on to power by any means. The people now demand that all opposition parties must unite as a coalition party to take on The Fascist Party and throw this obdurate unconscionable party into the dustbin of history.

Eagles Eyes

Edmund Lim said...

@ Chua Chin Leng aka redbean May 31, 2013 10:17 am --- Posted under “MySingaporenews will be closed for the month” - 30 May 2013, 8.29am

// “Hi Edmund, you Mandarin very powderful. Good, effectively bi lingual.”//


Please pardon for the “occasional” typo errors cos Chinese word editor software can be quite “tedious” sometimes. Many Chinese words often have same “pinyin” but “occasionally” type number selection hurriedly and wrong words “come out” …....

What to do?

Everything is always in a “hurry” …... living in this “shining modern city” …...

Ha ha, shall strive to “proof read” in the future before “publishing” comments as much as possible …..


Anonymous said...

Commentary, TODAYonline

[Doing the right thing by Singapore pioneers]

Devadas Krishnadas is the Founder and Director of Future-Moves.

He is also the Editor of IPS Commons



virgo49 said...

Right RB,

Without the policy of the PAP of not only staying in your flat for free for over thirty over years and making a profit if nearly 700k minus so called interest loss, we the oldies would have to daily picking cardboards on the streets for a living.

Tks to them the youngsters had to be suckers and paid these prices to own a flat.

So it all depend ad what you said, which side you are on.


Anonymous said...

Singapore is punching above its weight, making the news agencies of the world to apply for license or else.

Anonymous said...

"Within the reigning social order, the general public must remain an object of manipulation, not a participant in thought, debate, and decision."

Necessary Illusions - Noam Chomsky

Anonymous said...

Totally bypassed the parliament for such a major decsion.

wiki Legislatures called parliaments operate under a parliamentary system of government in which the executive is constitutionally answerable to the parliament.