Our reply (view original letter here):

I refer to the letter of Mr Lionel De Souza on 15 June.

The Online Citizen (TOC) consistently practices a policy of community moderation, which relies on a process of reader feedback and moderator responsibility. Our comment filter is programmed to exclude comments which contain terms and references that might promote enmity between different races or religions, or which might be defamatory.

Additionally, we rely on reader feedback to identify and remove such comments. This form of moderation on the basis of community feedback was most recently practiced during the Aware issue.

In relation to the eight alleged offending comments, if Mr De Souza had raised his concerns directly to TOC, we would be happy to consider removing them if they were indeed a potential violation of the law. Naturally, as the parties who have the most to lose if prosecuted, we have an interest in taking such constructive feedback very seriously.

Unfortunately, Mr De Souza sent us no such notification or email.

Maturity in public discourse can only arise with a willingness to engage parties with whom you disagree. In choosing instead to appeal to the heavy hand of the regulatory authority, Mr De Souza has chosen to bypass a far more effective solution to the problems he is alleging: community moderation.

Mature public discourse is also not served with Mr De Souza’s ad hominem attack on our writers and commentors, whom he calls “nonsensical, crude and not worth reading”. Ironically, his is precisely the sort of online language that makes it easy to negatively stereotype online discourse.

This vitriol can only lead a discerning member of the public to question what his personal motives are in writing his letter.

Choo Zheng Xi

Editor-in-Chief

The Online Citizen

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

Letter of complaint (view original letter here):

Immediately after the report, “8 weeks’ jail each” (June 11), there are as of June 14, a total of 86 posts by anonymous bloggers on The Online Citizen’s (TOC) website.

I have no quarrel with these as most of the posts are nonsensical, crude and not worth reading. However, I came across 8 posts which to my mind have the tendency to espouse religious disharmony. These irresponsible and insensitive bloggers may, whether consciously or unconsciously by their comments (posts) sowed seeds that may inevitably promote religious disharmony or feelings of enmity between different religious groups.

Hence, the conduct of the perpetrators of the posts may probably be a transgression of section 298A of the Penal Code, (Chapter 224) – “ Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.”

The moderation clause of TOC expressly stipulates that it reserves the right to moderate, edit, disallow, remove or delete comments posted on their website which are deemed to be unwarranted and are racially offensive remarks or religiously insensitive or provocative.

I am of the opinion that TOC’s moderators have in this instance failed to exercise due diligence by allowing comments laced with insensitive religious connotations to be published on their website with regard to the topic “Perdition and sedition.”

I therefore urge the Media Development Authority of Singapore to look into the conduct of TOC’s moderators, and seek an explanation for their omission in ensuring that their website will in future not be used to ignite the flames of religious disharmony.

Lionel De Souza

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