Thursday, February 05, 2009

We don't need no regulation...

Well, more importantly, we can't be regulated. Self or otherwise. I mean, people can try, they certainly have before, but when countries like China are fighting a losing battle against the Internet, regulation just isn't in the cards.

Funny thing is that we're still thinking of the Internet in terms of traditional media without actually realising that we can't use the traditional mindset or SOP to ensure that the Internet is what we want it to be. Which I guess is a double edged sword. It's freedom of speech unleashed...with everything that comes with that.

Firstly, it means that even if a government (hypothetically) wants to regulate the content on the Internet regarding its policies etc, it would have problems doing so. Sure it could technically track bloggers / internet users down manually and persecuteprosecute them, but like the multi-headed Hydra of old, more will sprout up in their place and before you know it, the entire web's filled with heads. (Extended metaphor right into the realm of the incomprehensible...movingon)

Secondly, it means that any sense of self-regulation also tends to be impossible. Even if responsible, articulate bloggers wished to shut down trash sites, they'll encounter the exact same problem. (Especially the Prosecution bit simply because everyone's reading it...)

Even if we wanted to regulate the internet, it's infinite. How do you regulate it? The Internet (for better or worse) has made it possible for a person (if they were so inclined) to find anything they wanted to find if they just looked hard enough. If, for instance, your inclinations lay in getting your rocks off looking at Richard Simmons getting Karmic justice for his perpetual peppy ways, you can. If you wished to view a man stretching out his nethers, you could. I'm pretty sure that there are also groups that have interests in watching people who dress up as furry animals having sex...Well guess what, they can find it all. Heck...try checking out Craigslist sometime.

What is of interest to me is how we still strive to control the pandemonium that surrounds us in cyberspace. How we seem to think of the Internet as a medium that has a hierarchy. That there are those among us with the authority to rein in the chaos. Let's get it right here: there isn't.

What happens with traditional media is that the people who get spanked for their content have to fall in line because otherwise they lose their jobs. With that comes the loss of financial security, perks and (perhaps more importantly) their soapbox. The internet doesn't work that way. With condemnation comes a splintering of the already dynamic medium. Factions are created. A lot of the time, those factions have factions as well. It's how people work. We will group with the like-minded among us. Safety and strength in numbers and all that. End of the day, however, what this means is that if you decide that you want to be an anti PAP-vegetarian-gun toting-chain smoking-parakeet loving-hot pants wearing-polka dancing-car dealer, you can probably find an interest group that will support your specific inclinations even if the rest of society calls you a freak. That's the beauty of the internet. (Also the terror-inducing ugliness of it)

Which makes self-regulation (or any other regulation) impossible.

I'm not saying that the Internet doesn't require any regulation. But I'm also careful not to say that it does as well. Problem with regulation is that when we do start, where do we stop? Child pornography is one of the big no-nos in my book. As are snuff films. Stupidity, unfortunately, is something that we really need less of on the Internet, but we can't do anything about that. The same can be said about people who condone or incite violence. But then again, some would say that these are merely bugbears of mine. The majority may agree but there would be a minority that don't. And even if we were to condemn and take action against that minority, they'll just splinter off. And there isn't anything that we can really do about that.

So to have someone come out to condemn the "Internet" (more likely Bloggers on the Internet although I'd use the interchangeability sparingly) for not being "self regulatory" just boggles the mind. It is akin to trying to condemn the ocean for being wet. Sorry: Can't do anything about it even if we wanted to. That said, what seemed to be the topic for discussion certainly did show a particularly dark side of the Singapore Blogosphere. At no time should a man ever have been burned even if it was to show growing displeasure with the organization that he represented. I can sympathise with the sentiment behind it but the celebration of the act was preposterous. The admonition of the blogosphere for their failure to chastise the denizens of the net who condoned (and even applauded) the act was similarly as preposterous (Although I can see how some may be shocked by the obvious bias of the sympathy for the perpetrator over the victim). We don't work that way. It doesn't work that way. And the threat of regulation isn't going to work that way...

Lui Tuck Yew might as well be firing bullets into the ocean...

WHEN Yio Chu Kang MP Seng Han Thong was set on fire by a resident last month, a significant number of netizens posted unkind comments.

These included a list of 10 things he 'must be thankful for' as well as remarks that he deserved what happened.

On Wednesday, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew said he did not think the Internet community did enough to rebut some of these comments.

'It is a squandered opportunity for a higher degree of self-regulation,' he told Parliament.

He made the remark with a tinge of disappointment as just a month ago, the Government had largely accepted a report by a government-appointed committee that said it was a good thing for the Internet community to exercise greater self-regulation.

The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, or Aims, issued its report last December.

Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui's remark was in his reply to Ms Penny Low, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, who asked for his views on netizens' response to the attack on Mr Seng. She noted that they had voted quite unjustly in an online poll.

The poll asked who deserved more sympathy: Mr Seng or his attacker Ong Kah Chua. The ex-cabby received 200 votes and Mr Seng, 56.

RADM Lui noted there were some comments sympathetic to Mr Seng. But the vast majority were "unhelpful, a significant number were unkind, a small number were downright outrageous."

"It was disappointing, and my impression is that I do not think the community itself have done enough to rebut some of these unhelpful comments delivered by fellow netizens," he added.

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