Increasingly, world governments are mounting pressure on the global internet community to censor politically, racially or religiously sensitive comments.
For example, the Indian Government has asked the internet companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft to create a framework to pre-screen online remarks before it goes up on their websites. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told media that the Indian government was not trying to censor the freedom of speech and expression or the press; it merely wants to stop offensive material from being uploaded on social networking sites.
Singapore is no exception to the global trend. During a recent speech, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean described the Internet and social media as a “double-edged sword”. According to him, the Internet and social media can be “an enabler of active citizenry and positive change” but “can (also) disrupt social order and harmony.” Since last year, the Singapore government has been urging the internet community to adopt a community-initiated Code of Conduct.
However, several well-known bloggers and citizen journalists opposed the Code of Conduct. Elaine Ee, an editor of Publichouse.sg, opined that the Code of Conduct is unnecessary and what is needed is a new journalistic environment where the mainstream media is allowed to move with the times, and be released from its public relations role of helping with “nation building” and social cohesion. Blogger and former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong also added that if the Singapore government is concerned with online witch hunt, it can tackle the issue by tightening privacy laws instead of deploying the Code of Conduct.
In this episode of The Stream, Al-Jazeera discusses whether online censorship is needed to protect the sensitivities of society.