The threat facing online comments

    Lee Hsien Loong

You may think trolling and flaming is a problem unique to Singapore, but it isn’t.

In Europe, freedom of speech is considered almost a sacred virtue. Yet recently the European Court of Human Rights ruled that when a website publishes a controversial story that may attract defamatory or insulting comments, the website must anticipate this trolling and flaming, and be ready beforehand to remove these comments promptly.

It is not the last word on the matter. But it reflects how societies are still finding the right balance between freedom of speech and responsible online behaviour. I agree with Minister Yaacob Ibrahim that freedom of speech does not come free from the need to be responsible for what one says, either online or offline.

This is a tough problem to solve, but we need to develop our own ways to keep online conduct civil and constructive. – LHL


Yaacob Ibrahim  Yaacob Ibrahim

Came across this interesting article in FT. It referred to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. In the case of Delfi AS v Estonia, an article published about the implications of a ferry company’s decision to change its shipping routes drew over 185 comments, many posted anonymously. Some of these were defamatory and threatening. The ruling stated that websites should anticipate the type of stories that may attract insulting comments – and be prepared to remove them promptly, or even pre-moderate any comment it publishes.

Many other countries are also facing similar issues with irresponsible online comments. A number of websites have implemented measures to promote healthy online conversations – the Huffington Post now has a log-in policy when users comment, and even Google is looking at how to manage comments on Youtube. In our case, REACH has implemented FB log-ins to encourage responsible comments.

The right to speak freely and responsibly must go together.


May 23, 2014 , By John Sunyer

‘Financial Times’  – The threat facing online comments

Overheard :

  • The Govt is not doing enough and quick enough in this regards. Too many toxic websites like TRS dividing the nation with so many misinformation.
  • There is probably no good way to really to do this. Monitor or regulate and complaints of freedom and censorship comes up. Shut down the site and probably more sites will come up. Remember first it was Temasek review, then the real Singapore. Maybe a place for alternative views is always needed, what has to be done is educating people to discern right from wrong.
  • There is this perception on the ground that Singapore is the only country where people making defamatory remarks against politicians get sued. This is utterly untrue, such actions are brought in Australia too (for instance, Treasurer Joe Hockey sued Fairfax in May this year for defamation).Also, freedom of speech is not absolute. If it were, why would the laws about official secrets and defamation even exist?

    I believe that true citizens love, rather than hate Singapore, they do not demand unreasonable “customer service” from the government or the country. They try to make positive contributions to it, they take ownership for the affairs of their country, and try to view/promote it in a positive light. In other words they are personally responsible for, and proud of their country.

    Finally, I believe that the blind hating that’s so prevalent nowadays is extremely worrying. It is a highly dangerous threat to Singapore that can ultimately reduce us to being absorbed by one of our neighbouring countries if we aren’t careful. If citizens are the cells that make up the body that we call a nation, then such haters are literally cancer cells. If people don’t make decisions on the merits, but based on hate, we will not even exist in the near future.

  • What is so difficult about being RESPONSIBLE, and being HELD RESPONSIBLE, for what one speaks? If the bases are sound and the points are valid, why cower and why sidestep the issue by appealing to “no freedom of speech”? Let’s support and demand responsible speech.
  • It is unfortunate that not everyone understands the true meaning of free speech.
  • Controversial statements must be backed up with facts. One has to be responsible lest chaos rules and the less informed or the easily led, lead astray.
  • People need to realise that Slander is DIFFERENT from the right voice one’s opinions. Singaporeans are too often caught up with so-called ‘freedom’ they forget the key value of respect. My support goes to you regarding the Roy Ngerng case, this should serve as a reminder and warning.


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