Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Crackdown against Harassments

Singapore getting tough on all forms of harassment

He emphasised that conduct which is considered unacceptable in the physical world must also be resisted in the virtual world.

The minister said he is considering a standalone harassment bill rather than making changes to the current legislation because of the feedback received.

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Laws Needed In Online Sphere For Accountability, Says Shanmugam

The Government is not attempting to curtail freedom of expression, but believes people should be held accountable for what they post online, said Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam yesterday.

The online environment, like the physical sphere, needs laws in order to curb “child pornography, harassment of people to such an extent that they commit suicide, cyber bullying (and) putting out falsehoods which have no basis”, he added.

Mr Shanmugam, who was speaking at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum, also dismissed suggestions that the Government is clamping down on socio-political blogs and websites. Rather, it encourages responsible discussion online, he said.

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Online harassment law to be tabled next year

Shanmugam cited a recent Reach survey which showed that the public found the the law inadequate in dealing with online harassment. Over 80% of the more than 1,000 Singaporean residents surveyed felt that online harassment is a serious issue, and a similar number indicated they wanted tougher measures in place to deal with harassment, both online and off-line.

He also cited a 2012 Microsoft survey that found that Singapore had the second highest rate of online bullying worldwide out of 25 countries surveyed among youths aged eight to 17.

Together with China, which had the worst online bullying rates, Singapore was the only other country surveyed where online bullying was more pervasive than in the real world.

Harassment a rising worry, new laws to be tabled: Law Minister K. Shanmugam

New laws against harassment, whether online or in everyday life, will be tabled by early next year in response to Singaporeans' concerns about this growing menace, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday. -- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

NEW laws against harassment, whether online or in everyday life, will be tabled by early next year in response to Singaporeans' concerns about this growing menace, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference on harassment, he cited a survey by government feedback unit Reach that showed more than eight in 10 Singapore residents polled last month were in favour of tougher measures to deal with harassment, both online and offline.

The same proportion of respondents also supported empowering courts here to order that online comments be taken down if they cause distress or alarm to others. The survey polled about 1,000 Singapore residents.

related: Legislation in the works to better protect against online harassment

Singaporean convicted of cyberstalking US singer Ramm
Singaporean convicted of cyberstalking US singer Ramm
A Singapore court convicted Colin Mak Yew Loong on Tuesday of charges relating to the six-year cyberstalking of U.S. singer Leandra Ramm, as well as other charges.(Image:

Colin Mak Yew Loong, the Singaporean who cyberstalked U.S. singer Leandra Ramm for six years, was convicted Tuesday of criminal intimidation, harassment, criminal trespass, and theft in Singapore

The 38-year-old Mak admitted to 31 counts of criminal intimidation of Ms Ramm from 2005 to 2011.

In addition to the charges of harassing the 29-year-old Ms Ramm, Mak also admitted to 11 other offences, including intentional harassment, criminal trespass, and stealing biscuits from a kindergarten, said reports 

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The Alternative View

Shanmugam has tried to deflect criticism of the PAP's intention to clamp down on internet free speech with more draconian laws under the pretext of combatting harassment and trolling.

The PAP's target, he claims, was those who hide behind a cloak of anonymity to make untrue claims.

"Why should people be uncomfortable expressing their views on political and social issues?" he asked.

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The issue of harassment online was raised at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conference on harassment on Monday

It was raised by some people at the conference that there should be stricter laws to deal with false online comments about individuals as well as postings which alarm or distress others.

Generally, the current remedies at law for people affected by harassment and bullying are not considered to be adequate by those in attendance at the conference.

Law Minister K Shanmugam had commented that there is a possibility of implementing tougher laws to control harassment online. However, he said that he prefers to use the law only as a last resort and other, self-help measures should be used first.


Shanmugam said that the government is not trying to restrict the freedom of expression in Singapore. 

He was speaking at a forum yesterday and spoke in relation to the new requirement for users to log in before commenting on government feedback portal REACH.

The new restrictions are expected to be implemented from mid-December and were announced by PM Lee as a way to have more responsible online discussion.

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The topic of new media, cyber security and online comments has been a hot issue for the MPs and ministers lately with several leaders expressing the need to put more emphasis on controlling internet discussions. 

Chua Chu Kang MP, Zaqy Mohamad, said on Sunday (24 Nov) that Singapore is currently considering tougher laws to deal with online harassment

He also mentioned that any changes to the law would need to be implemented with increased education on internet engagement.

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Nicole Seah: I suffered a meltdown this year
Nicole Seah speaks at a rally for presidential candidate Tan Jee Say in this file photograph. (Yahoo file photo)
Yahoo Newsroom/Marianne Tan - Nicole Seah speaks at a rally for presidential candidate Tan Jee Say in this file photograph. (Yahoo file photo)

"I was only cheating myself," she wrote, revealing also that she was constantly being stalked with threats of rape and death, and the combination of all these things triggered the start of her meltdown.
  • "Feared for my family's safety because I was constantly being stalked with rape threats, death threats, people knowing my exact address."
  • "I was on the verge of snapping. That was when my meltdown began."
Read her reflection in full here

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Taking a stance against online harassment
Jeraldine Phneah – Source

Early next year, the Singapore government will be reviewing legislation to address the issue of online harassment. This move is supported by legal experts and over 80 percent of the respondents in a REACH survey. K Shanmugam also pointed out that based on a Microsoft study, Singapore ranks second globally for cyber bullying.

While some are worried that the terms ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ have been conflated, it is not as different. According to the US legal definition, cyberbullying is “Communication technology is used to intentionally harm others through hostile behavior such as sending text messages and posting ugly comments on the internet”. They define it as part of cyber harassment which is the use of communication technologies to “harass an individual or group through personal attacks” through “posting on blogs or social networking sites”. While netizens have the right to their views and to disagree, if such actions cross the line to uncivil behaviors like personal attacks and derogatory remarks, it becomes unacceptable.

Protecting the individual’s safety and dignity - Although western countries with strong beliefs in Freedom of Speech like the USA, United Kingdom and Australia have rolled out attempts to criminalize cyber harassment, some still hold misconceptions that measures against online harassment goes against their rights to freedom of expression.

Unblurring the lines on online harassment

Technology as a double-edged sword is now common wisdom. Social media, instant messaging and file-sharing sites have become fertile grounds for disseminating information. While Internet technologies have been harnessed for public good, they have also given rise to undesirable behaviours with devastating consequences.

Recent incidents include a student from a local university who became the target of vile attacks on Facebook after she criticised the university’s financial aid system, and a grassroots volunteer’s personal particulars, including his mobile number and his child’s information being posted online.

Singapore’s first case of online harassment with fatal consequences was recorded in 2010. Then, a student from Myanmar committed suicide after her ex-boyfriend wrote cruel insults on her Facebook page.

Cyber-harassment in Singapore: Where to draw the line?

Microsoft’s 2012 study found that out of the 25 countries surveyed, Singapore was the second-highest in terms of cyber-bullying. Harrowing accounts of cyber-stalking and harassment have emerged from other parts of the world, sometimes with truly tragic ends. I don’t think many people would agree that cyber-harassment – especially when it targets minors who have done nothing to put themselves in the public sphere – needs to be looked at.

But figuring out how to manage this issue is not easy. The Microsoft study itself recognises this when it says:
“...what is seen as cyberbullying can vary between different cultures, and even among different individuals. In addition, cyberbullying, as a term, is not recognized worldwide.”
Dealing with cyber-harassment is a matter of balancing the need to protect individuals with the important principle of free speech. With no concrete definition of cyber-bullying or harassment, it is not always clear where to draw the line.

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Harassing your harasser

Workplace sexual harassment only became relevant to this working girl when I entered the workforce. Not so much because it didn’t exist previously, but because I just wasn’t thinking much about it. Which is a good thing, because it meant that I didn’t have much reason to think about it.

There are many for whom sexual harassment cannot be ignored. What if you go to the office every morning trying to avoid your colleague who has been trying to hug and kiss you for the past few months? What about the manager who thinks you’re a “real nice girl”, makes lewd comments on your appearance, and gets a little too physical with you? And (perhaps) the worst case scenario: What if you’ve been forced to perform sexual favours on your boss, who makes threats to fire you and generally ruin your life if you don’t comply?

The thing about sexual harassment in the law now is that there is no one law that applies to it. If the incident happens in the workplace, it might be breaching the penal code. If it happens online, maybe there’s something under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act that applies to it. And if it happens at home, between family members, there’s a bit in the Women’s Charter that might be relevant.

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Big Daddy’s Gonna Protect Us

In a 25-country survey conducted last year, Microsoft found that Singapore has the second-highest rate of online bullying among those aged between eight to 17; first place being China.

Singapore law minister said on November 18th "the anonymous, borderless, viral and permanent nature of cyberspace makes harassment and bullying easier and more egregious.”

New laws against harassment and bullying, whether online or in real life, will be tabled soon in response to Singaporeans’ concerns about this growing menace.

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Do anti-online harassment laws mask real intent of the Govt?

“Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there,” said PM Lee Hsien Loong at a forum yesterday . This comment seems to be the latest sign of the PAP-government’s belligerent attitude towards the online world.

This comment by PM Lee was reported as part of the current spate of news reports, editorials and letters published in MSM – all seemingly aimed at demonising the online world and drumming up support for our government’s move to introduce new laws against cyber harassment. Many of the govt officials, reporters and letter writers cited the dubious survey by REACH (the govt’s feedback arm) to claim that 8 of 10 Singapore “residents” want tougher rules against online harassment.

I am against cyber bullying but I also believe many people may be supporting this move without being aware that the PAP-Govt could be using this as an opportunity to a) attack the credibility of the online world to diminish criticisms of the PAP and b) to tighten the laws such that netizens will have more fear and lesser freedom online to criticize incompetent PAP leaders, flawed national policies and the Party.

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Crackdown against online harassment: govt must be transparent

Law Minister K Shanmugam has said that a review of legal provisions to address the issue of online harassment could take place early next year, and that conduct which is considered unacceptable in the physical world must also be resisted in the virtual world. According to a 2012 survey by Microsoft, Singapore had the second highest rate of online bullying of youths aged 8 to 17, just behind China.

Mr Shanmugam said he prefers to use the law as a last resort to deal with harassment cases, and that ideally, self-help should come first, where there are appropriate avenues for corrections or clarifications.

Without further details however, I remain cautious as to the direction the new legislation will take, how effective they will be in curbing cyber-bullying, and whether they will be abused to silence free speech and legitimate criticism of government policies or the political system

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Online Harassment: Not caring to look good

I have always felt that much of the good behavior we see in public are not from the heart but only to look good. So cocooned away from each other in bodies of steel we are terribly rude to each on the roads. But if we bump into each other accidentally in a crowd we are quick to say sorry. However nothing show our true and ugly side than our online personalities.

Now to be practical, we are going to strengthen the laws against harassment, especially online.

I am glad that my children do not have a wide circle of superficial friends. I have noticed that many such friends are worse than enemies. The painful dawn comes when they betray you online. To the folks at MOE, this is evidence that years of moral education has gotten us nowhere but I think Heng Swee Keat is taking this more seriously than ministers before and I hope he succeeds.

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Time to protect victims of cyber-harassment in Singapore

A difference in two landmark cases on the tort of harassment in Singapore suggests that it’s time for the government to reform the law.

Recently, AXA Insurance went to the High Court to seek an injunction to prevent a disgruntled customer from harassing their staff. AXA claimed that the former customer was sending abusive correspondence to its staff. In dismissing AXA’s claim, Justice Choo Han Teck declined to grant the injunction on the basis that the law as it stands does not provide for an award for a civil remedy in harassment. He took the view that Parliament is better placed to introduce such laws, and was hesitant to judicially introduce an amorphous tort of harassment.

Justice Choo’s approach is a departure from the last landmark case on harassment in Singapore. At the turn of the century, in 2001, Justice Lee Seiu Kin decided the case of Malcomson v Mehta. The case granted injunctive relief to a Malcomson, an employer who was being stalked and harassed by an ex-employee, Mehta. Mehta used emails, SMSes and phone calls and trespassed on Malcomson’s property. Most alarmingly, Mehta sent a card with a picture of a baby rattle on the death anniversary of Mehta’s infant child.

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New Laws Cometh

The Law Minister has announced Government plans to put up new laws to better protect people, not against bad laws, but for "victims of harassment, both in the real world and online." These will be implemented either in the form of new legislation or amendments to existing law. Article 9(3) of the Constitution of Singapore will probably not be amended:
“Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”
What you can bet on is that the wording will be similarly crafted. For instance, they are already contemplating that courts should be given the power to order that online comments be taken down if they "cause distress or alarm to others." This is obviously adding clout to Yaacob Ibrahim's proposed internet licensing rules. It also means halting further queries about the unsettling and unsettled transaction between A.I.M. and PAP town councils, a subject that must surely cause distress or alarm to Teo Ho Pin and associates.

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Big Internet Names Blast MDA’s Licensing Rules

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which comprises Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo and Salesforce, blasts our Media Development Authority’s (MDA) new licensing requirements for Internet news sites. A strongly worded letter sent by the AIC on 14th June criticised the new regime as having “onerous, regressive and untenable” conditions, and being “unwarranted and excessive”, among other things.

There is basically nothing wrong with the previous rules. Yet the government, for reasons we cannot comprehend, felt it necessary to introduce new rules.

At times I don’t know whether I should feel sad for our government. In this day and age, they still think they can exert some form of influence or control over Internet content. You can’t censor the Internet. Publishers can take their content elsewhere. Readers will follow where the content goes.

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Wedding procession disturbs residents' sleep at 1am with revving engines and sounding horns

STOMPer I wanna sleep was left incensed by a wedding procession who disrupted the peace in her neighbourhood during the wee hours of Sunday morning by honking the horns of their vehicles, revving the engines and also blaring a siren.

In her report, STOMPer I wanna sleep wrote: "Wedding proceedings at 1.00am in the morning?

"The groom chose to make a grand entrance with his newly-wed wife by the massive blasting of horns, revving of engines and even a siren in the neighbourhood at that time."

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Another Amy Cheong? Young mother complains about noise from Malay wedding

Jacqueline Wong's (left) post online about the noise from a Malay wedding is similar to the Amy Cheong (right) incident which happened last October

Another Amy Cheong in the making? A young mother has been bombarded by netizens for racial discrimination after she complained about a Malay wedding at her void deck, reported Lianhe Wanbao. One netizen even allegedly made a police report.

According to the report, there was a Malay wedding at the block where 20-year-old Jacqueline Wong lives. The celebrations reportedly caused her new-born baby girl not to get any sleep, thus prompting her to rant on social media site Facebook on Thursday evening.

She wrote: 'Another malay wedding under my block againnnnn! all th knocking since early morning! now thy are setting up th scene. then thy gonna make sooooooo much noises cooking till midnight. then again sooooooo much noises on th wedding day. no peace for at least 3days! god damn it. even my baby can't haf her afternoon nap. i wonder who started th "malay wedding at hdb" thing. nv see other races doing so too? inconsiderate max.' (Note: This is from her original post)


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Jacqueline Wong: Another Amy Cheong
After putting up the remark, Lianhe Wanbao said the post garnered much attention with netizens calling her disrespectful. The evening daily also said some people even reported her post to the police.

In a similar case in October 2012, former NTUC Membership Partnership & Alliance assistant director Amy Cheong posted an expletive-filled racist rant on Facebook about the noise coming from a Malay wedding held at her void deck, reported local news media

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Why Malay weddings are held in void decks

It is common for Malay weddings to have a guest list of at least 1,000 guests per venue.

The reason for this is cultural as well as historical. In Malay culture, a wedding is a grand celebration hosted by usually the parents of the bride and groom. The bride and groom will usually hold separate wedding receptions, so if you are friends with both, you might have to attend both events!

In the past, a Malay wedding is hosted at the home or in a tent near the house compound. But as the size of a HDB unit is insufficient to accommodate so many guests, the next best thing is to host it as close to the home as possible, which is at the void deck or in a large tent in an open field.

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Racist rant: Amy Cheong gets stern warning from police

Former NTUC assistant director of membership Amy Cheong. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMY CHEONG

THE police have issued a stern warning to Miss Amy Cheong over her expletive-filled racist rant on Facebook last year.

The 38-year-old Australian and Singapore permanent resident, who has returned to her family home in Perth, confirmed to The Straits Times that she received an e-mail from the police last week informing her of the closure of her case file.

Miss Cheong, a former assistant director of membership at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), made headlines last October after she lost her job for posting the insulting message on her Facebook page.

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