Raising the tone of online debate

Raising the tone of online debate

GOING online after work for some relaxing cyber-engagement can turn into a trial for lawyer Yeoh Lian Chuan.

Mr Yeoh enjoys posting comments on local sites but sometimes this unleashes vicious replies from others.

He has been called a bunch of nasty names and wrongly accused of being paid to post his views.

Ironically, he uses his real name to post, unlike the name- callers who hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

Yet Mr Yeoh, 44, is unfazed. To adapt to the fast and increasingly furious world of the Internet, he simply makes sure he posts sparingly on forums dominated by those out to upset or anger others.

"I only post if I feel strongly. If I post a lot, I'll invite a lot of trolls," he says, using the Internet slang for such people.

Trolling - and how to deal with it - came under the spotlight two weeks ago when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rallied Singaporeans to fight back against this problem. Trolls can ruin the tone of online discussions and deter serious participants.

The fightback will start with the Government's feedback arm, Reach. From Thursday, a user will have to log in with his Facebook account in order to post on Reach's online forum. Before, no such registration was required.

This will widen the space for constructive discourse for Singaporeans, as PM Lee put it.

However, while its reach may be limited - Reach admits to having on average just "over 2,000 feedback inputs" a month - the move is seen by some as yet another step by the authorities to rein in speech in cyberspace.

It also raises issues of whether other Singapore sites will follow suit, if this will reduce online participation or drive traffic elsewhere, and whether people's privacy will be compromised. Insight logs into the issue.

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