US’ Big Power Hypocrisy and Realpolitik on Internet Freedom


Big powers can do what they want, say what they want, with hypocrisy even, as they know they can get away with it. The US State Department in its standard moral high horse pontification of what sovereign states should do said that MDA’s licencing restrictions curb Internet freedom of expression.

We are assuming that the US State Department means responsible freedom of expression in the Internet and accept that there should be regulations to curb hate speech, terrorist propaganda, cyberbullying, and other criminal expression in social media.

Obvious to the discerning reader that the current regime is rethinking its light touch approach on established online news media catered to a Singapore audience, in particular Yahoo. The concerns of silencing bloggers from the sensitive Free My Internet bunch are valid, Speakers’ Corner protest and all,  but the regime has kept its word largely that it would not restrict political expression by bloggers. Admittedly it helps if bloggers remained anonymous. The first and last attempt the regime did to pressure the wild Internet into political obedience was to gazette TOC but it arguably made matters worse for them, if GE 2011′s results are an unscientific indicator of backlash.

Pivoting back to the US State Department’s standard call to Singapore to behave in the Internet, it is hypocritical in light of Snowden’s accounts of widespread NSA spying in the Internet on US citizens, anyone on US soil and beyond even. Prism and the invasion of privacy shows that the US is selective on rights in the Internet. Maybe to the US government people have the right to rant, but not to privacy. An interesting debate into a Maslowian priority of Internet rights and that not all rights are equal. Furthermore, Snowden’s claims that the US also spied indiscriminately on China and Hong Kong is another funny story of a door that swung back on the US after Uncle Sam accused China of rampant spying on the US.

The ZDNet article on US State Department reprimanding Singapore ended hilariously with this paragraph on US double standards and its real realpolitik agenda:

Ironically, in her reply about the new ruling, Psaki was then asked if the U.S. government’s push for Internet freedom in countries was to “make it easier” for it to “listen in and bug people”. She appeared to hesitate before replying: “I just–I want to make sure…that the AP and Reuters stories are available to all the people of Singapore.”

 
US gov ‘deeply concerned’ about S’pore licensing rule
ZDNet
By Eileen Yu | July 9, 2013 — 06:55 GMT (14:55 SGT)
Follow @eileenscyu

The U.S. government has expressed concerns over the introduction of an Internet licensing regime in Singapore and urged the Asian economy to safeguard Internet freedom according to global standards.  

During a daily media briefing in Washington on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “We are deeply concerned by the new restrictive Singaporean policy requiring the licensing of news websites. We raise Internet freedom regularly in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with foreign governments, including Singapore.

“We urge Singapore to ensure freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations and commitments. We closely monitor and often speak out, as you all know, on both Internet freedom and media freedom throughout the world. This case is no different and we are concerned, of course, to see Singapore applying press restrictions to the online world,” she noted.

Effective last month, news websites that meet two criteria–primarily around reach and frequency–stipulated by Singapore’s content regulator Media Development Authority (MDA) will need to apply for a license. The move sparked much public outcry and online petitions, including a self-imposed 24-hour blackout by several local bloggers in protest of what they described as an attempt to stifle Internet freedom.

Five U.S.-based Internet giants also issued a letter to the government detailing their concerns over the latest measure. Comprising Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com. eBay, and Yahoo, the group said the licensing rule could “unintentionally hamper Singapore’s ability to continue to drive innovation, develop key industries in the technology space, and attract investment in this key sector”.

Ironically, in her reply about the new ruling, Psaki was then asked if the U.S. government’s push for Internet freedom in countries was to “make it easier” for it to “listen in and bug people”. She appeared to hesitate before replying: “I just–I want to make sure…that the AP and Reuters stories are available to all the people of Singapore.”

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One response

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 10 Jul 2013 | The Singapore Daily

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