New Media Regulation, Moderation or Free for All


In 2008, 13 bloggers produced a list of recommendations to MICA about the Go and No-Go areas in new media conduct and laws.  Recently, Cherian George resurrected these ideas of imposed regulation or intuitive moderation of the internet.

Slightly earlier, there was also a furious debate in Australia over tighter control of content in the Internet as part of the wider News Media Council that would replace the toothless Australian Press Council, according to report. It was not the thrust of the entire Finkelstein report but the impact of the Internet as a challenge to the authority, monopoly, ethics and business of the newspapers was discussed in detail. This assessment in the report is telling of Australian’s preference in news sources shows why the Internet should be more regulated, if not now, then in the future.

“The results of the first survey, conducted in 2007, indicate that the internet was already considered as an important or very important source of news by more than two-thirds of internet users. By 2011 more than three-quarters did so. In these surveys, radio was ranked second, followed by newspapers. Television was in fourth place.”

So it made sense that as the Internet has more penetration into the market, it should be imposed with the same expectations of the print and broadcast media. Internet news including those by bloggers should be bound by the same ethics and responsibilities as the older media.  However, as always, there were justified concerns that the News Media Council, especially when it is funded by the government, “could become a political correctness enforcement agency destined to hound from the media people whose opinions might rattle the average Q&A audience.” as The Australian insisted. Fair point since the news corporations, whether for profit or altruistic reasons, need to provoke and lobby without fear of government meddling.

The implications on Singapore is that as the Internet increasingly becomes a news source for us, blogs, forum members and their fellow online newscasters cannot escape the responsibilities, while they demand more rights to co-exist with SPH and CNA. We can tell that there are differences in quality and agenda in sites like TR/TRE, TOC, Public House, Sammyboy, New Asia Republic and some are more responsible than others generally. Being open about their identities seems to encourage better behaviour.  These sites are important and they have a right to be here. They counter the usually, albeit not totally, pro-establishment views of the government-SPH-CNA machinery. But once they (we) abuse that right to express responsible opinion, community moderation should set in since nobody likes the meddling hand of the government. But if community moderation fails to do the job, then regulation seems the natural evolution of action to take on irresponsible news that instigate or facilitate hate, crime or fear. However, the devil is in the details – what is hate, crime and fear from whose point of view especially if there is political party motivation.

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