Thou shalt post the truth

Thou shalt post the truth

When a blogger's posting makes for Parliamentary debate, the signal is clear, said experts.

Bloggers now shape opinions. But do they do it responsibly?

Yes, said bloggers like Mr Ravi Philemon, who often blogs about socio-political issues, and Mr Ivan Kwan, who writes about environmental issues.

Do they think they are doing enough?

That depends on the medium.

Mr Philemon said he exercises more care with his blog than with postings on his Facebook page, one of which earned him a mention in Parliament on July 8.

As thick haze enveloped Singapore, he re-posted a friend's comment that the public was denied access to the nine-million stockpile of N95 masks.

Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim called it online rumour-mongering that caused unnecessary public anxiety.

Social media expert Michael Netzley felt the comments in Parliament are a sign of bloggers' increased influence.

"They are exercising greater reach. It's a sign that their influence is growing," said the academic director of executive development at Singapore Management University.

What? Me, influential?

"I'm a blogger, not a news source," said Mr Philemon likening the extent of his influence - both online and offline - to "a pimple on your face that is obvious to you but unnoticed to others".

Asked whether that Parliamentary mention meant bloggers' influence is increasingly being recognised, he said: "When people are talking about you online, it may seem like the whole world is talking about you but very often, that's exaggerated."

Don't compare journalists with bloggers, the former chief editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) said. He is now a blogger and activist.

"There's a big difference between what journalists write and what bloggers put out.

"Although both journalists and bloggers do try to verify and fact check before they publish anything, the fact that most bloggers are amateurs cannot be ignored," he added.

Yes, that part can be tough for bloggers, in part because of the lack of professional training, said Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director at Singapore Internet Research Centre, and Dr Netzley.

But both said bloggers must then exercise judgment and think critically about the information that they receive before putting up a post.

Otherwise, they risk losing credibility. And the experience of getting it wrong can be harsh.

Blogger Alex Au and former TOC chief editor Andrew Loh found out first-hand, having had to apologise or back track recently.

On Tuesday, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC Zaqy Mohamed gave socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) 24 hours to show proof to support a report about the Chua Chu Kang Town Council's management of a fall.

If it is unable to do so, he called on the website to remove the post and apologise for having published false information.

Volunteer editor of TR Emeritus Richard Wan also knows the pressures on accuracy.

He was served a letter from Mr Lee Hsien Yang's lawyers about a defamatory comment on the website in February last year. TR Emeritus took down the comment and posted a statement of regret.

To get it right, Mr Wan said he would write in to the authorities for confirmation.

The mainstream media reported on the police apologising for not handling the case better, an example of how "the online media can help to surface problems for people's attention", Mr Wan added.

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