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How not to run a Facebook page

By Ravi Philemon

On 18 September 2010, the Ang Mo Kio - Yio Chu Kang GRC’s Facebook page was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a roadshow organised by the People’s Association.

Start/Finish - prophetic words on the Facebook page's profile picture. Within a month after the page was launched, it appeared to be finished.

It was a move to reach out to the young people who are the dominant users of Facebook.

PM Lee – who is also adviser to the Ang Mo Kio- Yio Chu Kang Town Council – marked the event by being the first to post on the Facebook page.

“Hope you will participate actively, and post on our wall”, the Prime Minister wrote.

And participate netizens did.

Almost immediately, the Facebook page was flooded with comments and discussions. Unfortunately most of them were either critical of the government or complaints from residents. Many of the posts were directed at the Prime Minister.

“Dear PM Lee, I just hope that you are magnanimous enough to take any negative criticisms to PAP and PAP policies in stride. Don’t just look at the praises and be blinded by them. Read the negative comments too so as to better understand the problems below. Those criticise because they care for Singapore. The day that th…ey stop criticising is when they have all given up on Singapore. Don’t behave like Minister Lim Swee Say who said in parliament: “we are deaf to all criticisms”.

- a post by ‘Kojakbt’ which was later deleted.

At first, the Facebook administrators pleaded with the commenters that “this is a page for us to talk about events and activities going on in Ang Mo Kio – Yio Chu Kang and not about any political views”.  Then they updated their rules that any “topics on politics and religion will be removed” and asked the commenters to send feedback on government issues to REACH.

But all these pleas and rules were ignored. Posts which were critical and skeptical of the government kept flooding the page. The Facebook administrators went on a deleting spree to keep such comments that were deemed political or government issues at bay.

The deleting of “unsuitable” comments by the administrators got so rampant that even a seemingly apolitical member of the Facebook page pleaded with the administrators, “Please do not delete comments – preserve the integrity of the site”.

But the administrators would hear none of it.

“Some of you are really making this page into a very unhappy page. At the end of the day, we just want the residents of AMK-YCK to enjoy their community and partake in events and activities. If there's any political issues (sic) or comments, I will delete it. I am from the PA, not from the PAP, and I am not even interested in politics but love my hometown”, one of administrator posted.

In their zealousness to delete any post that seemed political, the administrators even deleted a post of condolence to the family of the late Dr Balaji Sadasivan. That post supposedly announced first the death of Dr Balaji.  The member who posted that message of condolence also claimed that after deleting his message, the administrators copied his message which said in part, “we have lost a good man” and reposted it as if it was their own comment.

Feedback that having the words “GRC” and “SMC” on their page meant that they were political went unheard.

The last update by the administrators of the Ang Mo Kio – Yio Chu Kang Facebook page was an announcement of the winners of the roadshow’s photo contest. It was posted on 19 October 2010, a little over one month after the page’s debut.

Since then, comments like, “PM Lee gave 9K for those serving NS and ICT. Those who had finished the ICT cycle get a big fat ZERO!!! Means those who had contributed to protect our country to be free had no contributions at all? Yeah, PM Lee import more FTs to boost the economy and GDP so that your pay will be higher, okies? Really nice PM we got here! Hurray!!!” (posted on 15 November 2010) went undeleted.

Comments asking why the lift upgrading work stopped suddenly at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 (28 December 2010) went unanswered.

A seemingly anti-PAP Facebooker by the name of Sin Rak Sin seem to ‘rule’ Ang Mo Kio – Yio Chu Kang Facebook page now.

In the speech given at the roadshow where the Facebook page was launched, PM Lee said, “We look forward with confidence to next year and the years after that, but at the same time we always have to ask ourselves what can go wrong”.

If only those behind the Facebook page had heeded his advice.