Monday, February 9, 2009

Internet "not an effective self-regulated regime"

Recently, RADM(NS) Lui Teck Yew, Senior Minister of State in MICA, made some interesting comments in Parliament about the internet not being an effective self-regulated regime.

I agree with him on one point, the mean-spirited comments about the MP who got burnt were uncalled for and cruel.

But to take one incident and draw such a big conclusion to it? Well, he might have been a tad hasty. Here's some of my rebuttals.

1. He doesn’t seem to understand the culture of forum users. The reason why most didn’t respond to their mean-spirited comments? Because most ignored it. In the internet forum culture, it’s not what type of responses you get. It’s HOW MANY you get. If it’s stupid, most wouldn’t want to help “publicise” the stupidity by bumping up the post.

2. Next, in forums, the replies are not linear in response. One reply doesn’t mean it’s in direct response to the one before. And sometimes it doesn’t make sense until you read the FIRST post and then link to what replies were talking about, or the post before it (much easier than it sounds).

3. This also brings up the issue on HOW Lui is reading these posts. From my experience, usually the tracking software comes up with a lot of hits, say 1000. A lower ranking staff member sieves through it to extract what he/she deems appropriate or useful. Then the next level person does the same. Eventually, after 3 or 4 rounds of sieving and narrowing it down, the “best” posts, maybe only 50, are sent to the top level guy to read. In this long process, things are lost, contexts are lost. Results? The top guys sees what his staff what him to see. Maybe that’s why Obama fought so hard to keep his blackberry. The higher up you up, the more alienated and closed-in you are from the ground. You need to be personally savvy and pro-active in following the news / trends by yourself, without depending on others to pass you selected information, without the big picture.

4. The internet is a place for people to vent, especially in countries where the mainstream media is so “buddy” with the government. So they vent, saying stupid things that they wouldn’t dare to say out loud. And most of the time, they don’t mean them or they know they are just talking nonsense. No one puts much weight into these comments… well, except the government or people who take everything too seriously.

5. I ask the question, how does Lui define self-regulation? Is it when it benefits them? When the main party gets attacked online, it's a lack of regulation. When the opposition is attacked online, they keep quiet. This seems to indicate that regulation is whatever suits them, what helps them. This isn't how the internet works.

In a subsequent speech, Lui said that others had "misconstrued my (earlier) remarks as “a desire for more regulation on the Internet”". He pointed out that bloggers were the one who brought up this issue. It sounds like a "he started it first" finger-pointing excuse to me. Bloggers, in their everyday interaction with the internet, understand how it works, and how group-regulation actually happens on the internet. They were mentioning something they saw everyday. Yet, Lui took one incident and turned it against them, as proof that it doesn't work. I'm more liable to trust the bloggers compared to someone who probably never reads a blog unless he has to.

1 comment:

Lim Mingji said...


i agree with your view.
I thought of writing abt this too... but really.... too busy lately liao~

thanks for writing it! Keep it coming, and build this community up together! =}