Do anti-online harassment laws mask real intent of the Govt?

image“Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there,” said PM Lee Hsien Loong at a forum yesterday . This comment seems to be the latest sign of the PAP-government’s belligerent attitude towards the online world.

This comment by PM Lee was reported as part of the current spate of news reports, editorials and letters published in MSM – all seemingly aimed at demonising the online world and drumming up support for our government’s move to introduce new laws against cyber harassment. Many of the govt officials, reporters and letter writers cited the dubious survey by REACH (the govt’s feedback arm) to claim that 8 of 10 Singapore “residents” want tougher rules against online harassment.

I am against cyber bullying but I also believe many people may be supporting this move without being aware that the PAP-Govt could be using this as an opportunity to a) attack the credibility of the online world to diminish criticisms of the PAP and b) to tighten the laws such that netizens will have more fear and lesser freedom online to criticize incompetent PAP leaders, flawed national policies and the Party.

Some political observers believe that this is a strategic war move that the beleaguered PAP leaders are making to shore up their defences in the run-up to GE2016. The signs have already been there since GE 2011 when government leaders started referring to the online world as “the wild, wild west”; their online critics as the “lunatic fringe”; made numerous slurs about the “vocal minority” online and subsequently introduced the new MDA ruling earlier this year to curb the reach and proliferation of online sites and blogs that are increasingly critical about our incompetent government. Demonising the online world by describing it as a vile place full of trolls, hackers and crazy anti-establishment bullies is a devious political strategy to discredit it.

And now, riding on a flimsy survey by their propaganda arm REACH, and leveraging off the recent website defacements, the Government is making its move to tighten their invisible net on the Net by introducing tougher laws against harassment online. Just how far will they go with these laws?

Their approach to the new online laws betrays their real intent because if they were sincere about protecting those who are being cyber bullied while balancing not being a paternalistic nanny, surely they would have focused the new laws on cyber bullying? The fact that they have come out with guns blazing to say that they want to introduce tougher laws against online “harassment” implies a lot as the word harassment is very vague and the act of harassment spans a broad and grey continuum of behaviours.

What is harassment? How will it be defined? There are 1,001 degrees of what constitutes harassment. Is a political cartoon or a meme mocking govt leaders deemed as harassment? Is using an anonymous profile to question and critique a Minister on his Facebook page or to tweet a not so nice comment considered cyber bullying or even harassment of the minister? How many times must one do this to run afoul of the new laws? And really, shouldn’t the focus of the laws be to tackle genuine cyber bullying cases and not harassment which is so vague? In fact, if the G wants to tackle serious harassment, it should step up its efforts offline where it is much more common and worrying There are many cases of sexual harassment at work and bullying at schools for example, but I don’t see our government making a big deal out of that.

It is precisely the vagueness of this word “harassment” that benefits the increasingly defensive Government. Keeping it grey and the laws broad could give them wide powers to deal with unfavourable online comments and netizens as they deem fit, just like how the recent MDA online ruling has been kept very general.

Yes, anti-harassment laws could instill more civility in cyberspace, but if too broad and unfettered, they could also spread fear, yet again, among Singaporeans, who have only recently started emerging from their fear of speaking up for their rights and to criticise the government policies that hurt the people.  The net effect of increasingly repressive laws could lead to a muzzling of online criticisms of the government. A most desirable outcome for the PAP.

“Nothing is as it seems. Black can appear white when the light is blinding but white loses all luster at the faintest sign of darkness.” – Christopher Pike

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7 Responses to Do anti-online harassment laws mask real intent of the Govt?

  1. Chris Chow says:

    I guarantee you that if I ask all my ten neighbours now about their views about wanting tougher rules, their answer is they dun give a fuck. REACH is such a crooked organisation. I wonder who they work for.

  2. john says:

    From wanting us to read “the right things” now they want us to say the right things. I once thought that the extreme advantage that PAP have put in place over the last 4 decades would make them impossible to lose power, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

  3. the usual. They will make use of every situation, scenarios and use it to their advantage, carving new laws, schemes, licensing and rules. Not a surprise and if the citizen continues to let this happen, we will soon have our “MINI FIREWALL FROM CHINA”

  4. The success of PAP over 4 decades lies in 4 pillars. 1) Good governance 2) Good performance 3) Full control over MSM 4) Control over law (ISD, Kangaroo courts, a CBIP under the PM etc.) Obviously, the first two pillars have been decaying over the years. They cannot afford to lose control over MSM to online media. Else, even the last remaining pillar will not be enough to stop them from crashing down.

    They will go ALL OUT to salvage their advantage, regardless how irrational, impractical or how indefinable it is supposed to be.

  5. Collin Lee says:

    Dear PM Lee and others
    It would be a Stupid thing to say about online comment and that people are too Free and Unsatified they go through that option. Very very gravely wrong… It’s an alternative to working around problems and getting the message across. Do you ever learn that at most time we give Feedback to you guys it just Disappear or put yo the Trash. Or another method the Civil Servants… Grassroots are just censoring them to let you guys hear what you like to hear then those you don’t like to hear.
    Can you All PAP grow up and open your Mindset and don’t be so naive.
    Same goes to pray to Gid asking for help and cure, you just don’t wait for an answer but find other alternative to getting help and cure whether even if it’s online after all someone somewhere may have had that sickness and cure or suggestion. You Guys in the PAP are so negative on the ONLINE matter and I’m being an ex-Civil Servants and PAP knows that one of the many reason why I left you all. It’s because I see lots of Empty Bullshit and cronies from within PAP, Civil Servants and even the damn Residents Committee itself in my 18 years. DISGUISTING

  6. Ho Harry says:

    Ivory Tower too comfortable for CLOWN so those idiots from “Getting Rotten Org” abused common area and walkway to collect protection money from illegal traders round the clock.

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