Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Matrix is watching us

I'm posting this primarily for record purposes and for whoever's interested. I've lifted those parts that concern blogs from the latest report issued by the National Internet Advisory Committee. All this information is from the Media Development Authority.

Rise of Blogosphere

1.11 Blogs, which are a form of online diary, are gaining immense popularity in Singapore and around the world. In August 2005, the Singapore Internet Research Centre carried a report stating that Singapore has over 22,000 registered blogs, putting Singapore among the top ten countries with the largest number of registered blogs. Some Singaporean blogs are already making a name for themselves in the blogosphere; for example one local blogger won the 2004 Best Asia Weblog award while several local blogs are also listed among the top 100 blogs in Technorati. However, this might present a problem, especially if the bloggers get carried away and post objectionable content on their blogs, as demonstrated by the recent public outcry over some racist blogs.

1.12 It is with regard to this exciting, evolving landscape that the NIAC was asked by MDA to review the existing Class Licence Framework, first introduced back in 1996 when the Internet was still in its infancy and when 3G and blogs were non-existent. The NIAC believes that the light touch Class Licence Scheme is still the best regulatory approach to deal with evolving technological and market trends but feels that the MDA Class Licence needs to be updated in some areas to factor in these changes.

Treatment of blogs

2.3 Given the emerging pervasiveness and popularity of blogs over the past two years, the Legal Sub-committee considered how blogs should be treated under the Class Licence framework. The Legal Sub-committee noted that a blog, or weblog, is similar to a normal website except that a blog typically comprises of a collection of entries conjoined together – much like a diary. While a diary, in its traditional sense, is a private collection of one’s thoughts; the Legal Sub-committee noted that blogs are usually public in nature. Indeed, popular blogs are able to attract such high viewerships that popular bloggers can collect revenue from advertisements.

2.4 Despite receiving much attention as a new form of content, the Legal Subcommittee is of the view that a blog is not sufficiently distinct from a web-based discussion forum where users can post entries and comments, or sometimes even a simple website that is presented in a “journal” style. In other words, the Legal Subcommittee is of the opinion that blogs, from a legal perspective, are simply “old wine in new wine bottles”.

2.5 Accordingly, the Legal Sub-committee recommends that there is no need to adjust the Class Licence to specifically address blogs, as the Class Licence regime already applies to blogs in the same way as it applies to any internet website or any discussion forum i.e. where a blog is operated by an individual for commercial, political or religious purposes, the blogger would automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the Class Licence.

2.6 For individual private blogs, the Legal Sub-committee holds the view that existing laws are sufficient and can be brought to bear on a blogger whose blog contains material that is detrimental to public and societal interest. The effectiveness of existing laws was vividly illustrated by the threat of possible legal action from A*Star against one of its scholars for alleged defamatory statements on his personal blog, and by the incident where the 3 bloggers posting racist entries on their blogs were convicted in the last quarter of 2005 under the Sedition Act. In addition to existing regulatory safeguards, the Legal Sub-committee also believes that other informal mechanisms, such as peer pressure and blog community norms, would also play an important role in neutralizing any bloggers who may espouse irresponsible or extreme views.

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