Self-regulation Needed to Protect Cyber Liberty

Posted On: February 8, 2009
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Comments: 3 Responses

In the aftermath of the unfortunate event that led to Yio Chu Kang Member of Parliament (MP) Seng Han Thong being set on fire last month, Senior Minister of State (Information, Communication and the Arts) Lui Tuck Yew commented that the Internet community here “squandered” an opportunity to show that it was capable of a “higher degree of self-regulation”. I tend to agree with his observations.

When I first read the news report about the incident, I was filled with dread. I will not wish the same thing to happen to my family and friends, nor to another human being. When Ms. Lo Hwei Yen was killed in Mumbai terroist attack, many Netizens offered their condolences to the bereaved family members. So why did many provide unkind words instead of encouragement to the Minister in question? Just because he is a member of the PAP?

The question of self-regulation in cyberspace has been debated countless times. Most notably in recent times, due to a spate of defamation charges and political confrontation, a civic network called the Thai Netizens Network, designed to promote and protect cyber liberty was formed, raising the issue of self-regulation in Thailand. Globablly, there seems to be a rising number of cases where bloggers have been jailed, usually for crossing certain social, racial and political lines.

Many Netizens bemoan the lack of journalistic freedom. They wish to express their own opinions. They want to condemn or praise someone else’s actions without repercussions. They demand to be heard and actions taken in response to what they express. That is all fine. They do deserve their rights. However, everyone of these people need to have a basic understanding that with the power of autonomy, there will be a stronger need to have accountability. Netizens do have to be responsible for their thoughts and actions, translated on the Web in their comments or blog entries. The price of failing to do so could very well be the freedom that they sought.

In closing, I wish to quote Peter F. Ducker on the nature of freedom, on which he said:

Freedom is not fun. It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress. It is a responsible choice. Freedom is not so much a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be license. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite. It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man: to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions.

Thus, I hope Singaporeans, and possibly all Netizens of the world, to make the right decisions. Be mature, be responsible and thou shalt have the crown jewel that is freedom.


P.S: In case you are wondering, the above picture has nothing to do with the subject 😛