Friday, September 05, 2008

'Bloggers 13' want near free-for-all

Sep 4, 2008
'Bloggers 13' want near free-for-all
Their verdict on new-media proposals: Advisory council's approach overly cautious
By Jeremy Au Yong
'Bloggers 13' members (from left) Ng E-Jay, Alex Au and Choo Zheng Xi giving their feedback on proposals for regulating the Net. The group welcomed some 'good, forward-looking options' but expressed reservations too. -- ST PHOTO: FRANCIS ONG
GOOD, but not good enough.

That was the verdict yesterday of a group of bloggers on a list of proposals a Government-sponsored panel had put up for managing new media.

It has some 'good, forward-looking options' but the approach was overly-cautious, said the group which calls itself 'The Bloggers 13'.

They had, in April this year, handed their list of suggestions on Internet freedom to the Government, to pre-empt the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (Aims).

The council released its consultation paper last Friday and is now seeking public feedback on its proposals.

But when three members of the group - Mr Alex Au, Mr Choo Zheng Xi and Mr Ng E-Jay - met reporters yesterday, their responses were only on the political changes. They want a near free-for-all approach towards online political content.

In fact, for every Aims suggestion that called for a relaxing of restrictions, the bloggers went one-up and asked for the law to be removed completely.

Where the panel gave three ideas for easing the ban on party political films, the bloggers wanted an unconditional repeal of Section 33 of the Films Act.

In fact, they also wanted Section 35 of the Films Act to go, a move that would render the Government powerless to ban any film contrary to public interest.

The panel had also urged that more activities be allowed for online election advertising. But the bloggers asked if such a list is even necessary.

Similarly, they disagreed with Aims' suggestion that political bloggers be exempted from registering under the Class License Scheme. They want it dumped altogether.

The scheme requires all who deal with political material or religious issues online to register with the Media Development Authority.

In addition, it treats all websites as automatically licensed, meaning their owners must adhere to a prescribed code of conduct. For instance, the code prohibits the posting of pornographic material.

The bloggers argue that existing laws adequately deal with pornography or racial and religious hate-mongering without the need for such a scheme.

The only suggestion they agreed with is the lifting of the ban on 100 websites. Aims believes that once its proposals for the protection of minors are in place, the list becomes unnecessary.

Mr Choo explained the bloggers' decision to ignore the sections about protection of minors, immunity for intermediaries and Government engagement.

'In terms of substantive legislation this is probably where we feel we can most contribute to,' said the 22-year-old law undergraduate.

When his group gave their suggestions to the Government, they were concerned that the Aims study would focus too much on the views of experts.

Asked if they now felt their move was justified, Mr Au said: 'What is important is that they (Aims) have come up with something that is quite substantive.'

There is very little to fault in its background analysis, he added.

People keen on giving their feedback can attend a forum on Sept 19. Its details will be available at

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