Minister cited blogger who opposed regulating of Internet, and posted false information
Singapore: Haze seen from Sin Ming Avenue as at 4pm, 19 April 2013. Photo: Ernest Chua.
SINGAPORE — Citing examples such as a prominent blogger who had posted a false rumour and an unknown individual who had doctored a screenshot of the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday criticised the actions of a minority in the online community while praising the efforts of many who had harnessed the Internet to help others during the haze crisis.
Dr Yaacob was responding to questions filed by Sembawang GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair, Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng and Nominated MP Tan Su Shan, who asked about the Media Literacy Council’s (MLC) effectiveness as a watchdog and the Government’s efforts to ensure Singaporeans receive accurate and timely information during crisis situations, while preventing the spread of false information and hoaxes.
Dr Yaacob cited Mr Ravi Philemon, the Executive Director of a charitable organisation and a member of the National Solidarity Party, who “alleged that his unnamed friend said that nine million masks will be brought into Singapore but none will be for the public”. The minister pointed out that the comment — which was posted by Mr Philemon on his Facebook page — was made “even as the Singapore Armed Forces and People’s Association staff and grassroots volunteers were working hard” to distribute one million masks to households.
He said: “The idea of an Internet Code of Conduct was rejected by prominent members of the online community like Mr Ravi Philemon, and even the formation of the Media Literacy Council was greeted with scepticism. Yet, when public anxiety was highest during the days when the haze was at its worst, where were these prominent members of the online community who believed that the Internet should be left alone?
Were they helping to clarify and reject online rumours, or were they helping to spread them or even create them?”
Other examples of irresponsible online behaviour: When the National Environment Agency (NEA) updated its three-hour PSI reading at 10pm on June 19 to 321, an unknown individual circulated an altered screenshot alleging that the NEA had initially reported the figure as 393. “This was a calculated and mischievous act, intended to undermine public confidence in the NEA,” the minister said.
The Real Singapore website also published an article which was falsely attributed to Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng. “An unknown individual had impersonated Ms Irene Ng to comment on the Government and Singaporeans’ reactions to the haze. It later emerged that even that article was plagiarised from another netizen’s Facebook comment,” Dr Yaacob said.
He said the Government has taken active steps to rebut rumours. During the haze crisis, it set up a haze microsite called Cut Through the Haze, which addressed rumours while educating the public on the situation.
“For more generic issues, we have the Factually microsite on the gov.sg website. We have received positive feedback on such initiatives, and will continue in this endeavour,” the minister said.
Nevertheless, Dr Yaacob also noted that during the haze crisis, many came forward to provide crowdsourcing apps to locate shops where masks were available, or to share air-conditioned rooms with those who did not have them. Mr Jeremy Chua also set up a Facebook page, SG Haze Rescue, which called for the donation of excess masks. “They show that there are many good-hearted Singaporeans who know how to harness the Internet positively,” the minister said.
When contacted, Mr Philemon said that the comment “was not fabricated by me” but was from someone else.
He added that when the PSI reading hit a historic high of 401, he called a few large pharmacies in Johor Bahru to check if they had any stock of N95 masks and travelled to one of them to buy some to distribute to those who needed them most.
He said: “Most bloggers … do support the Government in their efforts to address the problem of haze … But as a blogger, I feel that it is also my responsibility to highlight at least some of the feelings and sentiments of the general public.”
He added that bloggers “can only comment on what they know”. “So instead of pointing fingers, perhaps the Government should engage the blogging community more to disseminate some of this information, especially in a crisis, to the general public.”
Source : todayonline : Yaacob criticises haze rumour-mongers
Comments : from the net :
- I don’t fabricate lah! I only repeat what others fabricate ok?
- Sometimes keyboard warriors can do much harm from behind their keyboards and other keyboard warriors are needed to fight them off
- We are talking about socio-politics and this is a serious topic. While everyone is entitled to their opinion on the topic, it must always be backed by facts. My observation so far tells me that the “fact finding” process is completely ignored by the “well-intentioned” individuals you are defending in your posts. Simply because, fact finding is hard work and time consuming!!
Coherence and logic in civil discourse is laudable, but civil discourse is a battle of ideas. And the underlying foundation of these ideas are facts. An absence of facts will render these ideas irrelevant.
If that is the intent of these individuals like Roy and Ravi, then the online community must treat what they post as frivolous verbiage displayed on a screen. It has no bearing in Singapore’s socio political arena.
- Spreading lies, rumors without facts, etc. will tarnish the Internet’s credibility to be that medium for transparent content. How can anyone who uses the Internet want the medium to be destroyed over the long term by individuals bent on posting without fact checking to meet their personal agenda?
If the same individuals who demean mainstream media but then tell people they should go read accurate news on the supposedly discredited mainstream media, then there is something wrong with the thought process….
- But in the real world where serious subjects like socio-politics are concerned, is it too much to ask individuals to invest in serious effort to engage in civil discourse on such matters? I feel that politics in the Internet has been trivialized by a belief that the Internet gives anyone with a connection to post whatever they want to.
- That belief comes with a huge responsibility to society that any post must be factual. Does being on the Internet abdicate individuals from that responsibility?
- You do realize the Internet is not self aware as of yet? It’s not Skynet. I’m assuming you mean people are capable of self regulation? Sure ok. Except some people are still capable of rape, murder, child molestation, burglary…oh but we have authorities taking care of all that right? Or do you think humans should self regulate crime without authorities stepping in too?Last time I checked its not citizens taking down child pornography sites, it’s authorities. It’s not citizens tracking down the people that hack your bank account details, it’s authorities. I could go on. Trust people to self regulate? Sure. (Not).
- There definitely needs to be some form of regulation. Misinformation can be dangerous and sites that cater to a huge audience need to be accountable to someone. For example, if a certain news site publishes a false news article that causes a riot, then I’m sure Singaporeans will ask why the government did not do anything about it.
- Government should not regulate free flow of information in the Internet. However, should rumours and hatred on the Internet be regulated ? Please keep your rumours flowing ?
- Being balanced is what we need our alternative sites to be. Not being the opposite of whatever comes out of the Straits Times. We need not have conspiracy theorists muddying the waters such that truth is lumped with fiction. Why bother to discredit yourself with the nutty rants of the deranged? Report what you think is truth based on articles you have read. We need opinions based on facts and credible sources not the ravings of the tinfoil IMH patients.
- What next? The LionsXII are actually cloned from the 1994 team? They did not actually win the Malaysian Super League? What new anti-news is too low for them to report? There are facts, opinions based on facts and opinions pulled from the deepest recesses of ones rectum. Basic news comes from the first 2 and a bit of the last one for spice. We should not be trusting news which comes from the Journal of I Heard from a friend’s friend’s dog’s flea.
( latest status update from Dr Yaacob Ibrahim’ facebook )
When I answered the question on online rumours in Parliament on Monday, I decided to cite specific individuals and specific sites where they could be identified. This is because otherwise, the majority in the online community may be inadvertently associated with spreading rumours. That would be unfair, because they were not spreading rumours, and as I mentioned in my reply, there were many examples of Singaporeans pulling together and using the Internet to help do good as well as clarify doubts.
In the case of Ravi Philemon’s post, it is important to remember the sequence of events:
(a) On Friday 21st of June, the Government announced that one million N95 masks will be distributed to 200,000 low-income households for free, and that the SAF will help in the distribution of N95 masks to the vulnerable and needy.
(b) On Saturday 22nd of June, Ravi posted his unnamed friend’s claim that the supply will be strictly controlled by the Government.
The upshot of Ravi’s post is that the Government announcement the day before is not true. But what is his basis for suggesting so?
The truth is, he had no basis for his assertion.
I am happy to learn that he distributed some masks to people in the community.
But let’s be clear – doing good offline does not mean one is excused from acting responsibly online.
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- The Real Singapore has published an article falsely attributed to me, it is pure fiction – Ms Irene Ng