Censorship mechanisms for Online Citizen Journalism should be strengthened

Lim Guohao

What is online citizen journalism? According to media practitioner Rajan (2007), it is the act of self-motivated citizens taking up proactive roles in the process of researching, reporting, analyzing and publishing of news contents over the Internet. Its existence is also aimed to seek for independent yet trustworthy and expansive of relevant articles that a democracy requires.

However, Perlmutter and Hamilton (2007) have raised up that due to the rapidemergence of online citizen journalism, many countries including Singapore, are now facing challenges of coming up with a flawless censorship mechanism for online news platforms, to effectively control or suppress the releasing or accessing of information which may be deemed sensitive, offensive, distasteful, misleading or inconvenient to the general body of people, without depriving them from human rights and freedom of speech over the Internet (Zuchora, 2010).

Thus, to highlight the need for improvisation to the current “light touch” control mechanism for online citizen journalism, we will first start off by reviewing the effectiveness of the current media policies that are in place, followed by exploring some examples, mainly from omy.sg and stomp.sg, to illustrate the current online citizen journalism trends and overall growth. Next, we will also present responses gathered from our survey conducted with 120 people of ages 13 to 49 and omy.sg content Producer Raymond Foong Kim Ben, sharing their opinions towards the censorship mechanisms for online citizen journalism in Singapore.

To date, the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), under the provision of the government, has passed on several policies and guidelines for local media players in creating clear operating boundaries, such that the four main aims of (1) protecting the young, (2) upholding of the community values, (3) ensuring sustained stability of racial and religious harmony and (4) the safeguarding of national and public interest are met. The relevant policies and legislation that are applicable to the current local Internet scene are Undesirable Publications Act, Sedition Act, Defamation Act, Internal Security Act, Broadcasting Act, Internet Code of Practices and the Computer Misuse Act.

Though tightly controlled by various mechanisms, there are still areas for improvisation to the online policies in order to ensure that censorship remains effective in the fast changing and rapid growing Citizen-journalism era.

Instill similar controls over TV news to online news

For instance, unlike the Free-to-air TV Code which specifies the news treatment requirements for news programmes on the television media, there are currently no similar comprehensive policies to regulate on (1) the way news should be presented, (2) what kind of news should be disallowed on the Internet, and (3) how citizen journalists are identified, other than the Internet Code of Practices to advice on the general content on the Internet. This in turn, gives the “purely-online” news mediums like stomp.sg, omy.sg, asiaone.com and razortv.sg large spaces for exploration, which may in turn result in a bombardment of unreliable articles on the Internet.

Furthermore, prohibitions that were instilled to the television and newspaper medias, mainly “morbid, sensational, or alarming details not essential to factual reporting should be avoided” and “reports on sexual crimes must not carry information which could lead to the identification of such victims” were all subverted on the citizen-journalism based websites.

Photo disclosure of identity for minors under 18 (refer to Appendix A) and complaints of other ethnic and religious groups’ behaviours (refer to Appendixes B and C) were published in high volumes without identifying who exactly are the uploaders for such citizen-journalism (CJ) news articles. Anonymous comments that contain vulgarities, racial discrimination,sexual contents and provoking remarks (refer to Appendix G) were also largely published on discussion columns that are bundled with the CJ articles.

Not only that, adapting from the Agenda setting theory (McCombs, 1972), the media also makes use of such controversial contents to attract readerships (refer to Appendixes D, E and F) in order to generate revenues. These articles are highly lacking of credibility as contents are twisted and sensationalized to capture the attention of the browsers. They were also presented in a biased and single-sided view, mainly quoting solely the uploaders’ speeches, thus not being able to represent the voices of the public.

More importantly, no verification of actuality for the mentioned incidents is being conducted, thus encouraging more untrue or fabricated news stories by anonymous identities to be published on the Internet.

For instance, the article in Appendix F states “M1 forces customers to give it high rating by making low ratings valid,” which could be a planned effort of other telecommunication providers to intentionally defame its competitor for self gain, since registration is simple and real identification are not required in both the registration process and for the news bylines.

In another case (Appendix H), numerous photographs of the world’s impactful events like the attempted shooting incident in America were published widely on the CJ websites. However, majority of such restricted contents were seldom widely distributed to the general public, which may imply that such reports could be the work of a media practitioner, forging his identity as a commoner to share such restricted contents, or for the purpose of spreading sensitive messages, without being penalized for abusing his powers as a media practitioner.

Thus, as observed from the above examples, a “light-touch” self-regulatory approach for Internet content regulations may not feasible or as effective in safeguarding the nation and public’s interests, as online media players are often caught in a dilemma between the moral values and ethics of a media practitioner, and the company’s monetary concerns. Thus, instead of having them to be indecisive over what contents to be omitted, a standardized plan of news handling may be what the online news industry is lacking now.

Tight controls to be instilled given high Internet penetration rates

On the other hand, based on the Infocomm usage statistics released by IDA and marketing research company Comscore (2009), it was found out that 35% of the local households own at least 1 computer or 48.6% for at least 2 or more computers at home in year 2009, accounting to 3,370,000 unique internet users or an internet penetration rate of 72.4%.

Out of which, the age groups of 15 to 24 and 25 to 34 are the most frequent users of the Internet. It was also found out that the leading activities conducted over the Internet were instant messaging, entertainment and news, which are equivalent to an average of 254 pages of content per month, or 24 percents of the total minutes spent on the Internet.

Furthermore, the research conducted over 120 individuals of different ages, also showed that 99.6%, or 119 of the respondents visited at least one news-related site recently, with 78%, or 94 of the respondents spending 11 or more minutes on those sites. Out of which, 56%, or 67 respondents visit such sites at least once or more in a week.

Thus, given such extensive and frequent usage of the Internet for news information, it was believed that the Internet would cause huge impacts on its users, in the way they think or perceive a particular event, trend or object.

Pfau (2007), theassistant professor of Communication at the University of Minnesota, also mentioned that, “attitudinal effects of media use often involve the way that media usageand attitudes interconnect, and that one’s opinions or emotions about an attitude object may be impaired due to media use.”

Adding on, citizen journalism websites like “stomp.sg” could capture a considerable 87,458 page views with 380 comments in a single article within 6 days of publication (refer to Appendix I), which such figures are near to the readership and circulation rates of our evening dailies, Shinmin Daily and Lianhe Wanbao, it further proved that such CJ websites have strong influences and attraction over its viewers.

And as technology capabilities leap tremendously over the years, the demand of spaces for public opinions are expected to increase, thus encouraging CJ websites like stomp.sg and omy.sg to tap on resources of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, in order to provide a two-way communication platform for both the users and providers, thus forming an integrated communication channel.

Such way of communication is especially popular amongst the young generations, as they are able to gather large support groups for a common goal in a very short time-span. This phenomenon was further supported by the survey results as 44% of the respondents visit CJ websites for online discussions and interaction with the users.

Thus, given a multi-racial and multi-ethnical country like Singapore, it is especially crucial and vital for the local government to instill a thorough and sensible censorship mechanism in order to ensure that the integrated communication tools are not misused, especially for propaganda purposes.

Suppress the formation of anti-social groups

For instance, the recent “Anti-Singapore action (Appendix K)” was a good example to show. The incident first started bubbling attention when the secondary student created a Facebook group called “Singapore Sucked”, which its hyperlink was shared amongst numerous users of omy.sg and stomp.sg through the discussion boards and self-help posting boards concurrently. The group capacity started growing, reaching 2,000 fans in just hours, as the secondary student posted sexy photos of MediaCorp artiste Jeanette Aw and ex-artistes Felicia Chin and Fiona Xie, insulting them for being “xenophilic”, which refers to admiration of foreigners or of anything foreign, instead of being proud of their own unique Singapore culture.

Not only that, seditious remarks towards Singapore’s National Service (NS) and education policies were also made, which very much aided this social group to be featured in the CJ websites’ headlines column, gaining much attention from both the public and the media.

Another example would be a racist rant by a 24-year-old Singaporean on his web-blog (Appendix J). The incident was initially made known to only his friends, until a citizen journalism website Tomorrow.sg blew off the whole incident.

The Singaporean described the man whom he met in the MRT as “smelling like he didn’t showered in years” and illustrated him by “wearing some really scary dirty clothes.” The CJ website duplicated sentences and keywords from the blog, combining several comments, and republished it on their main page, which then caused a public outburst amongst the browsers, especially the Indians in Singapore.

Thus, through the two mentioned examples, we are able to see the importance for a policy regulating strict moderations for such sensitive contents that would wound racial or religious feelings of individuals, as large anti-support groups can be formed easily through the power of such CJ websites. Moreover, gathering responses from the survey conducted, 82% of the interviewed public responded that, in comparison to traditional medias, online CJ medias have a wide freedom in choosing the information to be disseminated, and that more than half of them (54%) felt that there should be tighter controls over news contents that are presented on the Internet.

Content producer of omy.sg, Raymond Foong Kim Ben also raised up that “there are actually simple terms and conditions for the CJ websites users to follow. However, many chose not to, as by publishing these contents do not inflict their interests directly. Thus a tight control would be wise.”

Furthermore, given the media as a two-step flow of communication (Lazarsfeld, 1944), the information disseminated by these CJ mediums are often believed to be channeled or “broadcasted” through opinion leadership. Such leaders will make use of the interactive media, to “explain and diffuse the content” based on his personal viewpoint, in order to gather supporters of similar thinking, interests or personality. And when these anti-supporters gather and make massive negative remarks over the affecting party, disputes occur and this will ultimately cause strong disaffections and hatred among the different racial or religious groups.

As such, the “light-touch approach” only served as a “loophole”, for both the media practitioners and opinion leaders to gain advantage of. Singapore is still not ready to welcome a environment that has wide freedom, and that strong control mechanisms needs to be instilled to ensure sustained stability and the media continues to serve by educating and informing the public.

Thus, below are some of the suggested areas of improvisations to the current online policies.

Suggestions to be made to the current policies

Firstly,strict verification checks should be made compulsory when users are registering for an account in the CJ websites. Actual names are also to be displayed in the bylines of the news contents. This is to ensure that information uploaders can be easily identified when discrepancies over the published content arise. Take the former mediacorptv.sg (2008) as an example, the chances of a single user creating multi-accounts was completely eradicated as the system would reject applications with fake NRIC number and/or birth-date when verification are done across the national database. Users are also careful with what was being typed in the forum, as identification was made easy to the moderators.

By taking this step, we can also encourage responsible sharing of information, and prevent fabricated information by anonymous identities, especially defamation attempts amongst organizations or social groups, to be published on the CJ websites.

Secondly, the news control mechanism for television in the “Free-to-air TV Programme Code” should be made applicable to the online news contents as well, in order to safeguard the interests of the nation and the public, especially the young.

Such measures will eradicate news that may inflict privacy, or contents that may cause social disharmony from online publication, as photo disclosures of minors under 18 are disallowed, and commentaries over ethnic or religious groups’ behaviours and explicit contents of sex and violence, are expected to be handled with extreme care and caution.

Moreover, learning from China’s Internet regulations, the Internet content providers (ICPs) are also required to prevent the “appearance of politically or socially objectionable content through both the automated and manual means”. Any ICPs who fail to meet the requirements will have their licenses revoked. This measure will instill strong pressure on the industry players, as CJ contents disseminated are now required to be of high reliability and moral integrity.

Thirdly, similar to Taiwan’s Internet regulations (Chu, 2007), the CJ websites are required to label the different sections or web pages with label codes(S for sex content, V for violence content etc) in order to provide the users witha more informed choice.

Minors under 16 will also be forced to denial of access to news contents that have explicit revealing of body parts, detailed description to cases of violence or any religious and racial discussion that requires high maturity.

Though such measure can only restrict contents produced by local websites, the authority can however strengthen the Internet filtering system and family access networks (FAN) as well, in order to aid parents in better control over their children’s explorations for undesirable contents in the cyberspace. For instance, webpage access is denied if the filtration system detects keywords like “Sex”, “gore” and “pervert”.

Not only that, an automated list for the websites browsed will also be generated online via the providers’ secured channels to aid parents in effective tracking of their children’s movements on the Internet.

Fourthly, the CJ websites are to come up with an offensive wordlist to prevent any extreme word usages. This is because as compared to the past, the young generations nowadays, are now more open, daring and active to what they say in CJ websites and online discussion boards over religious, racial or ethnical issues.

Thus as media gatekeepers, the CJ websites can ensure that all the news contents or comments published are not being sensationalized or made hurtful to any party, by restricting any extreme words, phrases or vulgarities such as “burn in hell” and “hong kees” to be published. Also, manual checks must also be conducted by moderators to ensure that CJ news are factual, objective and not abusive, thus maintaining social harmony in Singapore.

In conclusion, given the increasingly high penetration rates and readership of citizen journalism news websites1in Singapore, it is undeniable that they have become an important and popular platform amongst Singaporeans to share, comment or judge over social, religious, racial, political and daily-life issues.

And as more new media services are being introduced and become readily available, online news websites, especially CJ websites, are very likely to turn into the “leading delivery infrastructure for mass media content” (MDA, 2010) in future. Thus, instead of self-regulation, there is a need for Singapore to develop a strong Internet censorship mechanisms, to ensure that the information collected are highly credible and objective, in order to protect the interests of different religious and racial groups, and more importantly, the young.

More importantly, for the fact that the Internet contents can be archived and retrieved indefinitely, it is important that these strong censorship mechanisms are put in place, so as to allow the current information collected be of important reference sources for the future generations.

 

1High readership rates of citizen journalism news websites: According to mypaper’s report “The Rise and Rise of STOMP” (refer to Appendix M), in November 2010 alone, STOMP.sg had gathered a total of 45 million page hits.

 

Written as part of the assignment for Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Media Ethics, Law and Policy.

(Y.E.S.93.3金曲奖造势活动) 永邦:男生跌跌撞撞很普通!

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3年坎坷的日子终于过去,永邦重新出发,推出全新华语专辑《魔鬼的眼泪》。

一改以往风格,永邦这回大胆练舞转型。但基于他首次触舞,之前近一个多月魔鬼式的排练过程当中,永邦把膝盖磨给伤了,手脚也都曾被扭伤。这也使得他原先约定好出席之前(10月4日) 的《933醉心龙虎榜街头爆唱会》被迫喊停。

永邦在音乐会上回应说:“男生嘛,跌跌撞撞很普通。偶尔睡醒也会撞到头。”        而之前被前经纪人季忠平骗走近25万新元的版税与演出费,迫使永邦因此在台湾歌坛消失3年多,无法正常工作,当时也只能投靠大陆商演来过日子。

永邦对此表示,过去的纠纷不想多谈,但不否认对前经纪人还有所抱怨。Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.45.38 PM.png

带你走一趟“恐怖科学馆”!Museum of Horrors!

林国豪 报道

取材于16部东西方经典惊悚巨作, 逾20名学生化身3D恐怖电影人物,让你吓破胆!
恐怖电影《僵尸枪手》(Zombie Shooter)的妖魔鬼怪、《电锯惊魂》(Saw)的恐怖医师,以及《新猛鬼街》(A Nightmare on Elm Street)里的腐烂尸体等,“他们”随时会跳脱电影剧情,与访客进行亲密互动!
Untitled1

 

为迎接万圣节活动而筹备的“恐怖科学馆” (Musuem of Horrors),除了是东南亚首个结合3D特效的互动性展览,也允许访客携带摄像机进场,并和里头人物与道具进行拍摄。
活动策划人符淑仪表示,许多相关的活动都不允许到访者拍摄,对青少年而言,他们就是要把所见所闻与青少年分享。因此,《Musuem of Horrors》不仅鼓励访客与人物拍摄,甚至可以拿起道具,让自己融入于剧情中。
记者日前走访“恐怖科学馆” 展览区,亲身体验“恐怖科学馆” 的惊悚氛围。

科学馆分为两大区域, 主要为地下展览区和3D特展区。3D特展区除了采用了迷宫式的呈现, 提高访客的期待与胆怯, 匿藏在宫中的“冤魂”也会随时跳尖嚎, 刺激程度颇高。

然而,地下展览区的开放式呈现却相形见绌。虽然开放式格式是为改善之前人潮过于拥挤的情况,但由于访客能在灯光相当充裕的情况下,预见之后所会体验的项目,大大削弱了原先的未知与恐怖程度。

此外,展览会的道具都依据人体的实际面积进行制作,相似度逼真。即使利用手机的相机功能拍摄,也难以辨识真假。但据了解,每场展览限定500人入场,道具的数量或无法满足所有访客的需求。

值得一提的是,这次的展览没有设定任何的到访时间限制,这让访客能放慢脚步,并有足够的时间进行拍摄与探险。

这项万圣节探险活动是由*scape与本地奇装公司MovieMania举办。参与的学生来自新加坡理工学院和共和理工学院传播与活动管理系学生。

 

Musuem of Horrors
日期:2011年10月21日至11月2日
时间:傍晚5点 – 晚上11点
地点:*scape Warehouse
票价:$19 (周日) / $22 (周末)
订票网站:www.scape.com.sgScreen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.44.11 PM

 

陈伟联一句“一起sway” 引来笑话 Kelvin Chen’s epic moment!

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 7.58.49 PM.png以一首《童话》一曲成名的陈伟联,上周在狮城大厦一带连续举行了三场街头走唱会。当天伟联的一句“希望大家可以一起sway”引来了一连串的笑话,让观众差点就误会了他。

针对这个“笑话”,伟联解释:“我的同事讲要你们‘suay’(走霉运),不是 ‘heng suay’的‘suay’,是sway(摇摆双手)的意思,因为我们会进行一些拍摄工作。”

这次的走唱会,伟联特别要求免去华丽的舞台,减低商业的包装,誓言要找回当年街头卖艺的甘苦记忆。其实,伟联在获封《绝对 SuperStar 1》冠军头衔之前,他都是靠街头卖唱维持生计。而这次推出第三张全新华语专辑,他就希望通过最初“街头卖唱”的方式,回味自己走唱的生涯,让到场的观众听 到他最原始的感动。

不仅如此,新专辑《走唱陈伟联》,伟联更是独挑大梁,亲自创作了7首原创的音乐,证明他的音乐天赋。但这位唱过数百首歌曲的歌手,在走唱会现场却不时停顿,担心自己忘记歌词。

尽管看不见,但阿姨歌迷们仍高举海报,以及高喊欢呼为伟联加油。活动现场虽不见人头攒动的壮观场面,但伟联却通过了动人的歌声,感染了到场支持的阿姨们,为他接连欢呼。

《走唱陈伟联》专辑已在8月9日于本地的各大唱片行发行。Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.45.38 PM.png

《晚报》记者郑迦馨 被受访者呛‘Just Shut Up’

林国豪 报道   图片源自互联网  

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.25.37 PM.png在停尸间挖掘新闻;细心观察案发现场的所有事物,还得经常看到“血淋淋”的场面……采访意外新闻的记者的工作,一点也不简单!

采访无数社会新闻、意外新闻的记者郑迦馨说: “作为意外组记者, 我们在办公室里都必须多准备一套衣服, 甚至是拖鞋。因为我们可能会要走泥路采访、或是冒雨进行采访。”

迦馨说:“我记得有一次我去采访一个腐尸案件,死者家里因为长期封闭,加上里头明显欠缺整理,屋里臭气熏天。采访完毕后,我感到身上一股臭味,于是回到公司后赶紧换上干净衣服,不过还是觉得腐蚀的味道残留在身上,久久难散。”

《联合晚报》意外组记者郑迦馨受邀前来由资讯娱乐网omy.sg以及义安理工学院联办的“VOX!新媒体新闻工作坊 2011”, 以一些个案和亲身经历, 分享当记者的苦与乐。

郑迦馨指出,意外组记者采访社会新闻时,经常需要与受害者、死者家属接触。“他们情绪激动,因此记者在执行任务时,必须要注意用词,避免无意伤害到他们。”

她透露:“我访问过一名死者家属,她不肯接受访问,而且一直快步离去。我跟在后头,突然她转身送了我三个字‘Just Shut Up’!她的凶恶眼神令人感到害怕。”

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近来许多轰动的大新闻如【医科生希腊失踪案】、【勿洛蓄水池母子双尸命案】等报道,郑迦馨也有参与采访。她与学生们分享了采访经验,和面对的挑战与难题,并从中透露可如何运用采访技巧发掘新闻。

她说,记者必须具备敏锐的观察力,例如观察死者身上搜获的遗物、死者与至亲最后的联系内容等,都成为新闻线索。她强调,新闻工作者的报道影响力大,因此任何刊登的资料都必须经过查证、实事求是。Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.44.11 PM

青少年是否还对政治冷感?

林国豪 报道

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国家政策太完善,人民生活太安逸,青少年认为没有必要关心政治?这届大选,新加坡被划分为几个选区,国会共有几个议席,执政党需要争取几个议席才能组成政府,青少年可知道这些重要信息?
omy在网上展开了30人的调查,希望从中了解年轻人的大选相关知识究竟有多少?
理工学院生林文聪说:”有看新闻,可是不太了解他们说什么。其实,政府的安排妥当,而且新加坡和很多别的国家一直以来都保持良好的关系,所以对于谁当选,真的不太重要。更何况,我还未满21岁,没有资格投票。即使要投,我也很肯定又是人民行动党获胜,不必多说。”
记者也在民意调查中设定了一些有关于大选的问题,考考年轻人对于大选的知识有多少。
记者首先问青少年,此届大选的提名日与投票日是哪一天?70%的受访者都知道投票日是在5月7日,但对于提名日的日期却不太了解。
谁当选重不重要?年轻人怎么看?快上网看omy《青春》(http://yzone.omy.sg)吧!Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.44.11 PM

李圣杰成功之道 “坚持” 是关键 Sam Lee: Perseverance is key to success!

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林国豪 报道

歌手升级当制作人,李圣杰举办座谈会授课!

时下许多年轻人都把成为明星当成梦想,然而在无数的比赛中,年轻参赛者还没唱完歌曲,就被令淘汰出局。到底应该怎么唱,才能突现自己的歌唱实力呢?情歌王子李圣杰认为,坚持是关键!

李圣杰说:“生存在娱乐界,时常会遇到很多挫折。很多人也会向你挑战,但要当一名好的歌手,坚持最重要。”

他也说,参赛者也需考虑如何在竞争下,进步自己,如何有自信。 如果一个人有天赋,但少了坚持,还是行不通的。

谈到参加比赛,李圣杰认为:“现场比赛是非常残酷的,因为你只有一次机会,没有一位评判会给你多一次的机会。”

李圣杰也坦言,刚出道的他握麦克风时,手时常会颤抖。所以,“比赛的前一天睡眠要充足。演唱时,也可尝试转移你的注意力,把精力都专注在歌曲所要呈现的画面上。”Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.45.38 PM.png