internet-2.jpgBy Aaron Ng

Wednesday, 6 December, 2006

In reading Dhamendra Yadav and Bernard Leong’s thoughts on self-regulation by bloggers, I find myself agreeing with the principle of self-regulation.

The reason is simple enough. I don’t wish to see a blogger get into trouble over something posted on his/her blog out of ignorance. I don’t think that any blogger would intentionally seek trouble; the problem is more of a lack of knowledge of the environment governing communication.

Of course, why should bloggers self-regulate instead of leaving it up to the authorities? BL postulated blogger aversion to anything official as one reason. My perspective is that self-regulation may postpone an overly strict set of guidelines by official bodies that can restrict the relatively free space of expression enjoyed now by Singaporean bloggers.

The changes in the Penal Code might be a sign of things to come if things continue in their current trajectory. As the government begins to have greater experience with blogging, they will eventually figure out how best to control blogosphere. A self-regulating community may not prevent legislation, but it can help delay legislation or offer recommendations for any new legislation governing blogosphere such that it will not stifle the fledgling blogging community.

A blogging association

An association representing bloggers will cut more ice with authorities rather than individual bloggers voicing their opinions. This is a way of life everywhere, so it should not be a surprise. The question is whether such an association will have the support of the blogging community in general. For the association to work, it must be able to command enough support, or else it will just be a paper tiger.

I believe that such an association will actually command support if it can be a comprehensive source of information on blogging in Singapore, and that it actually can do some behind the scene negotiation if any member happen to transgress. Topics such as libel/defamation laws, copyright laws, ethics, good writing, nature of computer-mediated communication etc should be of considerable interest to most bloggers, whom I suspect are probably rather ignorant about all these right now. The closest website I’ve seen providing such information is on WWLegal but I think more can be done.

Bloggers should see the merits of an association

Ultimately, I hope that bloggers will come round to seeing the merit in having an association. To cut to the chase, its really for their own protection. In Singapore, our constitution gurantees freedom of expression but with restrictions. If we do not pre-empt the officials, it’s only a matter of time before the restrictions come in, which may very well kill the Singaporean blogging community. And, an association will raise the credibility of blogging. Members will be deemed ‘accredited’, and this will remove claims of blogs being unreliable by our government leaders. If bloggers can uphold a certain set of code of conduct, they can write with greater confidence and their words be taken with greater credibility.

Of course, as BL rightly pointed out, when people get together, there is bound to be politicking. However, should this even deter the formation of an association, given the benefits of having one? Singaporeans from all walks of life are blogging, and we can harness the collective expertise of this group, such as lawyers, academics, PR practitioners, writers etc to take the Singapore blogosphere to another level. Even if one does not wish for his/her blog to be a credible alternative to mainstream media, being a member of the association signifies that the content can be read with confidence because it is written in accordance with a set of guidelines.

On whether blogosphere is ready for such an association, I think that is a pointless debate. Maybe it’s just my perception, but I think that people will never agree on whether blogosphere is ready for such an association. I would just say that some bloggers should just get the ball rolling and see how things go from there. I’m willing to give this a shot. Anyone else willing to join?


About the author

Aaron is 24 year-old final-year undergraduate in Communications and New Media at Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. His interests include blogging, web design, assembling and setting up computers, watching Japanese animation, soccer and playing Dota on Blizzard’s battlenet server.

Visit Aaron’s blog here.

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