Online comments: Line drawn at religious, racial-sensitive issues

Story source: Online comments: Line drawn at religious, racial-sensitive issues

THE GOVERNMENT is willing to listen to contrarian views expressed online, but the kid gloves will come off where Net postings that threaten the nation's racial and religious harmony are concerned.

The Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrisnan, said on Thursday that the Government is willing to 'listen to honestly-held views of responsible people, especially when they are different'.

However, he warned that it takes seriously its duty to 'maintain the integrity and security of the State'.

This was the reason 'recent events' transpired, he said at a new media conference on Thursday.

He did not specify what the 'recent events' were, but it was likely that he was referring to the arrest two days ago of a 24-year-old Chinese man accused of making racist remarks on his blog, or online journal.

In his speech at the seventh annual PR Academy's conference on Thursday, Dr Balakrishnan, the guest-of-honour, made clear what he thought of new media: 'It is a source of tremendous opportunity, both economically and socially.'

It gives users the ability to communicate and express themselves, find like-minded people and mobilise online, he said.

And though it has made governing a country a much harder job, this is a good thing, he said.

He explained that thanks to new media, governments no longer have a monopoly on information, and cannot simply decide and act as they previously could.

Here's the thing about communicating through whatever medium, be it phone, tv, youtube videos or online forums. If you cannot say the same thing you said on that medium to a live person, don't say it.

E.g. You make a racist remark on someone. Are you able to say it in front of the person you're talking about?

E.g. You accuse someone of fraud. Are you able to say it in front of the person you're talking about?

Many people get the impression that you're anonymous behind the Internet. YOU'RE NOT! You're not especially if you doing illegal stuff, such as threatening racial and religious harmony, like in example 1. You're not if you're slandering someone, like in example 2. Both of which will get you into trouble with the law.

That's how I consider if the things I write on the Internet are safe. Regardless of the medium, I can tell every person the same version of the story every single time.
Sure people might not like what you say, but at least what you say is not against the law.

Freedom of speech is only within legal boundaries.

(By the way, Paul Graham has a great essay on how to disagree with people online.)