Saturday, June 24, 2006

Anonymous bloggers and pseudonyms

Dear friends,
I refer to the recent debate about anonymous bloggers and would like to express my opinion not just about blogging but also about providing “feedback” in general.

Netizens who post anonymously (even with pseudonyms) do so for various reasons:-

1. Some have to
Their employers (eg civil service or just plain illiberal bosses) do not allow employees to post matters which may be interpreted as being anti-establishment. In any case, it would be unprofessional for any of us to ventilate publicly confidential matters relating to our firms or professions.

2. Some want to
Some feel (erroneously) that anonymity allows them the liberty to publish just about anything without having to tediously back up their assertions with facts or proof. Most of us who read these would be foolhardy to take them more seriously than to say, a coffee-shop gossip.

3. Perceived fear (irregardless of whether real or not)
Unfortunately there are some who fear that any opinion - even if credible and valid, so long as it goes against the grain of “political correctness”, is not welcome by the authorities and will be responded to with the sledgehammer. Their perception that we are some sort of a “quasi-police state “somehow seems more than a paranoia to them. Hence, everything is a conspiracy to “fix” them. Sometimes these perceived fears are understandable.

Although I sympathise with the first group ( ie those that had to be anonymous), I feel that with “globalization”, the authorities will have no choice but to loosen the grip of what I consider an overly paternalistic “nanny-state”. The only question is not if but when.

I have also observed that when the newspapers’ forum pages discontinued the practice of allowing pseudonyms (many years back), the quality of letters increased noticeably. No writer wants to look the fool making unsubstantiated allegations without proof!

My hope is that more would stand up to be counted with sincere but candid opinions, irrespective of where one stands on our nation’s issues. If we do not speak out from the heart, the establishment may end up hearing what they want to hear due to “selective retention” and that would not be good for all of us.

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

(The above was printed in Straits Times forum page 28 June 06)

I have attached related letters ( from the ST online forum pages ) below

Letter No. 1.
June 22, 2006SITNews:
Bloggers should have the conviction to stand behind any statements they make and not hide under the cloak of anonymity

I refer to the report, 'Divided views over police checks on blogger' (The Sunday Times, June 18).
Personally, I have developed a great distaste and distrust of bloggers who post anonymously or use pseudonyms to disguise their identities. I can understand that sometimes anonymous postings are unavoidable. However, when postings on the Internet are seditious or have a tendency to deliberately wound the religious feelings of any person, the perpetrator of the posting should have the full weight of the law brought to bear on him or her.
It appears to be the norm for bloggers to hide under the cloak of anonymity or use pseudonyms to blame, insult and rant out against the Government or individuals believing that their postings can better the political process or current events concerning Singapore. Netizens have no legal or constitutional right to condemn the whistle blower who brought blogger Char's blasphemous posting of pictures of Jesus Christ on the Internet to the attention of the police. The conduct of netizens is similar to that of cyber terrorists since netizens have unashamedly condoned the seditious posting of Char, which could have sparked off strong reaction as did the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper in February this year. Fortunately, Char's blasphemous and seditious posting happened in Singapore, a country of tolerance. I am certain that if this letter is published in The Straits Times, netizens and other cyber-terrorists will have a field day posting all kinds of nasty or defamatory remarks against me. They will do so anonymously or using pseudonyms. To these cyber-terrorists I say, 'Be brave and don't hide under the cloak of anonymity or use pseudonyms'.
They should have the conviction to stand behind any statements they make. If they do not have the confidence and passion to put their names beside their statements, I am sure that all right-thinking people cannot take them seriously. It appears to be the current trend for bloggers to hide under the cloak of anonymity to act irresponsibly by ranting and musing about current events. If their ratings and musings do not cross the line of fair comment, they are free to do as they please. However, for bloggers who choose to post seditious and inflammatory comments that could cause anarchy by damaging the fabric of religious and racial harmony; they should be dealt with vigorously under the law. Cases of this nature should not be dealt with by the Community Court where the punishment meted out could be probation and performing a number of hours doing community service. They deserve a more deterrent punishment. I hope that I do not sound 'sub-judice', but I hope that blogger Char receives his just deserts for his blasphemous and seditious posting.
Lionel De Souza

Letter No. 2

June 24, 2006SITNews: Not true to say bloggers hide under cloak of anonymity to rant against govt

We refer to the letter 'Bloggers should have the conviction to stand behind any statements they make and not hide under the cloak of anonymity' by Lionel de Souza (ST, June 22). We believe that Mr de Souza's claim that bloggers usually hide under the cloak to rant against the government and others is seriously misguided.
Most bloggers reveal their real identities, as we can see from people such as Mr Lee Kin Mun (mrbrown) and Mr Benjamin Lee (Mr Mayagi).
Bloggers' critical commentaries that are logical and backed by facts play a part to better shape our country politically, as we can see from Gayle Goh's (i-speak) recent postings that prompted Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to respond.
Despite the use of pseudonyms by some bloggers, views that are coherent and sound have been considered by the media, as The Straits Times did for Mr Wang's views in the original report 'Divided views over police checks on blogger' (The Sunday Times, June 18).
Furthermore, blogging with anonymity does not guarantee that the bloggers cannot be traced, as we saw the identification and conviction of three bloggers last year for flouting the Sedition Act.
It is a great misjustice to tar the entire group of netizens as cyber-terrorists just because of the acts of a few, and it is unfortunate for Mr de Souza to make further sweeping statements that bloggers will go all out to disparage him online. Mr de Souza's hasty conclusions on Char's actions and his advocacy for more punishment is very distrubting to us.
It should be noted that he is only being investigated by the police for the alleged cartoons and has not been charged with breaching the Sedition Act.
Everyone has the right to scrutinise the whistle-blowers' actions and see for himself whether his actions are indeed justified. We wonder if Mr de Souza has viewed the four cartoons in question before making a such strong conviction that Char is guilty of sedition and blasphemy.
We would like to express disappointment on the publication of such prejudiced views. We are sure that readers and netizens are right-minded enough to decide for themselves whether to take Mr de Souza's opinions seriously.
Kua Keat Hou
Hee En Hua


Anonymous said...

This man Lionel De Souza must be mad or uneducated.

Singapore is a democratic and free country.

What we have here are choices.

So people are free to be identified or remain anonymous.
It is their personal choice, nothing wrong with that.

Can we say those that identify themselves as stupid and is wrong from anonymity point of view?

Some would argue Singapore is not matured and not ready for identification of bloggers and forummers.

Given the present situation, there is some truth in that and it will be wise to remain anonymous.

Plus there are so many grey areas in the laws especially for bloggers/forummers who just wants to let loose,have fun and talk crap. This group would be better off remain anonymous or else their creativity will be curbed.

Public figures are after all public figures. If you want to be a public figure, then be ready for all kinds of views and comments or else remain a private citizen.

Is Lionel De Souza a PAP supporter?

I bet he is cause he makes ranting against government looks like a crime which we all know is not as Singapore have elections and elections of course must have more than one party and take sides.

This ex policeman must have a gratuity of a million dollars to speak so crazily.

He still do not grasp the essence of free and democratic nation. He thinks everything must be controlled and registered. He is mad but will not "conveniently die off"

nofearSingapore said...

Thanks for your comments.
Although I generally feel that anonymity takes away some credibilty, I understand why some choose to remain so.
It was harsh of Lionel DS to make sweeping statements and paint all anonymous bloggers with the same broad stroke.
I also do not wish to pre-judge his motives. All of us have the right to our opinions. The important thing is that all of us must learn to think through issues and have opinions and convictions ( not the lawsuit types!)
Dr. Huang

Anonymous said...

Some would argue Singapore is not matured and not ready for identification of bloggers and forummers.

Given the present situation, there is some truth in that and it will be wise to remain anonymous.

Plus there are so many grey areas in the laws especially for bloggers/forummers who just wants to let loose,have fun and talk crap.

This group would be better off remain anonymous or else their creativity will be curbed.


When I mean the environment is not matured yet for identification, I mean the ruling government has not yet mature, not the people.

Singaporeans have mature considerably but not PAP as they still cling on to certain traits of the past.

Until PAP or any ruling party mature about the need to let go and let loose on the environment, it is correct to remain anonymous.

Environment means overall climate in Singapore on freedom.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon,
It is sad isn't it that we almost have to have a lawyer on retainer to vet what we write in case they deem it defamatory! We can't just talk and argue (gentleman-like) over a cuppa kopi-O!
I understand your need for cover.
Dr. Huang

Anonymous said...

In a realistic world, nobody is ever 100% right or wrong. Not even MM, SM , PM or PAP.

It is up to the masses to judge whether anybody is right or wrong.

Anybody can say whatever he wants. But it is up to the listeners to make a choice and decide to accept and decide what he/she says.

This logic is universal and can never be change, unless you live in North Korea or Iran.

This is why I am against defamation suits as it might paint an incorrect picture of the person's character and honesty even if he wins.

Clear example is TT Durai. He sued the two former colleagues until they go bankrupt.The court awarded him and his character to be clean and honest and his two colleagues' reputation went down the drain

But we all know now TT Durai is the complete opposite of what the court and laws rule him to be.

Thus the same can be said of the loser in the defamation suit. The courts are never 100% right in judgement.

Thus even if Lee Kuan Yew wins defamation suits all the time, it may not mean the courts and laws are correct in judging his character.

By Shakespeare:

"A rose by any other name would have smell as sweet"

Credibility and validity of any statement does not depend on names and the nameless.

It depends on individual judgement.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon
I think only in utopia can we do away with courts and laws and defamation suits.
What I do not agree with is the large amounts awarded to the plaintiffs in some of these cases.
Whist the defamed ( as judged by the rule of the land) should be compensated , it should not prevent people from freely speaking ( what they assume are truths).If that happens society would stagnate!
Actually, a sincere and public apology with a hangshake should be enough and we should all continue as ladies and gentlemen.
But then that’s utopia and as you will agree Singapore is anything but that!
Dr. Huang

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