[...]Another example would be the onus placed on webmasters to police the chatrooms, forums and comment trails of their websites. While the government does have a small crew that trawls through the internet for what they deem as offensive content, mostly they depend on complaints from the public. If any posting has breached any of our numerous laws that proscribe racial and religious hate speech, sexual language and images, defamation (very low threshold here when it comes to political leaders' egos) or "election advertising", then unless the webmaster has taken prompt action to remove such postings, he will be just as guilty as the original offender. If the offender is anonymous and untraceable, then the webmaster alone will have to face the music.
Of course, this is not unique to Singapore. Many other countries rely on similar mechanisms of getting the proprietors to police their own turf, and holding them accountable under the law. Nor is it unreasonable.
However, what we should be watchful about is the abuse of this mechanism that arises from Singapore's democratic deficit. While the ban on smoking is well-justified in the public health interest, what if other laws serve partisan or illiberal purposes? Private citizens would then be compelled by law to act as agents for these aims.
Compelled to serve the government's interest
I mentioned "election advertising" above. This is the law that forbids anyone from using the internet to promote any candidate or political party during an election campaign . Singaporeans know full well that while the law may in theory be party-neutral, in practice, it favours the incumbent People's Action Party. Since all our mainstream media are government-controlled, barring the digital media from being a channel for opposing views handicaps the opposition. Thus, when webmasters are expected to implement the law, the government is, in an indirect way, making party helpers of us all.
[...]This illustrates a well-known axiom: that totalitarianism destroys our sense of humanity. People end up, whether for reward or self-preservation, as tools and agents of the state, doing things they might not, in good conscience, want to do, or equally often, refraining from doing what they rightfully feel they ought to do.
[...]If we couldn't stop the blatantly partisan creation of Group Representation Constituencies by law, if we couldn't stop the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and the Broadcasting Act that put all print and broadcast media under the thumb of the government -- and foreign media too  -- what's to stop another law another day to make censors, informers and enforcers of us all?
3 Jan 2007
Yawning Bread starts January 2007 on a high note in terms of insight and journalistic integrity. The entire article can be accessed here and below are a few extracts that I feel contain many truths.