Archive for the 'Law' Category

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theorycast.47 :: “Not My Problem” & other Singaporean citizen dilemmas

theorycast.47 :: "Not My Problem" & other Singaporean citizen dilemmas

Here are my thoughts on the government’s New Media engagement and the qualities of the disaffected Singaporean netizen.

This discussion refers to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent National Day Rally Speech, with particular emphasis on the newly formed “Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society” (AIMS) and their consultation paper on liberalizing Internet regulations in Singapore.

I focus solely on the e-engagement chapter of this paper, exploring how Singaporeans interact via the Internet, the inequalities that are inherent in most online communities, as well as measures that could be taken to encourage constructive societal discussion online. Continue reading ‘theorycast.47 :: “Not My Problem” & other Singaporean citizen dilemmas’

Qik showcased by Singaporean Prime Minister at National Day Rally

In his National Day Rally 2008 Speech today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained how his Singapore government has been, and will continue to, interact with citizens through new media on the Internet.

Among significant developments in new media and local politics (which I hope to talk in-depth later), a highlight included the Singaporean Prime Minister demonstrating the power of Qik by filming his audience. Qik lets anyone stream live video while being captured on compatible cellphones (e.g. Nokia n95, iPhone 3G, plus many more).

Being a social cyborg, I’m a huge fan of this video service. I’ve previously used Qik to stream and share my local high school address on using Wikipedia in academia, in hopes of teaching young students how to use online resources responsibly (as opposed to plagiarism).

It’s disruptive technologies like these that give citizens an immensely emotive voice in expressing themselves online, be it for reporting on critical events or sharing the everyday trivialities that make up our social fabric.

I first got wind about the Prime Minister using Qik two days ago via Qik co-founder Bhaskar Roy. If you’re interested in seeing the actual footage streamed by the Prime Minister, here it is on Qik. There seems to be no sound though.

Credit goes to Channel NewsAsia for sharing the National Day Rally footage online so that those of us living internationally can participate online, as the Prime Minister has subtly hinted.

Aside: Plenty of issues were raised at the NDR, but I’m less concerned about the baby-making portion of his speech. Winning Olympic medals for the first time in 48 years is pretty cool.

China’s New Groove: “The information opening is the disaster relief best weapon”

Photographing a Wedding and then an Earthquake
A rare glimpse from a Sichuan wedding haunted by the three minute earthquake (via

In recent weeks, there seemed to be an incredible number of reports of natural disasters happening around the world. While most of us might attribute this to the brunt of climate change finally dawning upon us, this is also likely the effect of a highly networked society, where peripheral news that would otherwise be left out from mainstream media (i.e. what’s fit for print), would come full center in most netizens’ conversations. The recent earthquake in Sichuan (China) is no exception, except for the fact that information came forth uncharacteristically freer than before.

As a topic of my dissertation, the Great Firewall of China has been subject to immense pressure from the Western media, yet appears to be a non-issue to Chinese netizens themselves. Simply put, there has been enough personal freedom in their Internet use that most of them don’t feel compelled to take issue with their political freedom online.

While such is the case, this isn’t to say that the Chinese government hasn’t been as open as it should be on civil affairs. In 1976, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Tangshan province. Chinese censors were quick to clamped down on news of the actual death toll from the event, which was estimated to range between 240,000 to 779,000 (via Washington Post)

Having notice the flurry of information about the recent Sichuan quake, especially photos and twitters (some possibly translated), I called out on twitter for any information pertaining to an apparently new “open” information policy put forth by the Chinese government (as hinted on Gizmodo).

Thanks to the wonders of twitter, @AOmoon responded with how he read about it in a recent Chinese publication and offered to dig out more concrete information. Not long after, he came back with this Chinese article, which when translated under Yahoo’s Babelfish yielded the following optimistic headline amongst a series of quake related articles:

The information opening is the disaster relief best weapon. Zhang Jieping, Tan Weier, Qiu early morning

@AOmoon later noted that “it took them 13months to prepare the law but only less than 12 days to use it. Info is China greatest weapon to fight the Quake”

The next day, @AOmoon rewarded me with a comprehensive English language article from The China Teaching Web, which explained what I now know as State Council Decree 492. The article pointed out that the Chinese government’s decision to allow unrestricted flow of information in the aftermath of the Sichuan quake was a natural surprise to many, but it should be noted that this decision was “in fact made last year when the State Council passed the People’s Republic of China Ordinance on Openness of Government Information”.

Article I in the ordinance succinctly sums up the purpose of the ordinance:

This ordinance is instituted in order to ensure that citizens, legal persons and other organizations may obtain government information in accordance with the law, to raise the transparency of government work, promote legal governance, and thoroughly bring into play the service function of government information in the productivity and lives of the masses and in economic and social events.

Interestingly, the ordinance did not go into effect until May 1st, 2008, the earthquake in Sichuan this week was the first real test that the new policy has faced. As astutely pointed out by the writer,

Releasing information about an earthquake is one thing; releasing information about what happened in Tibet in March or what ocurred at Tiananmen Square in 1989 is quite another. Only time will tell […]

Head over to read the entire article on “How State Council Decree 492 Affects the Earthquake Aftermath“. Also check out a good summary of this from the Associated Press.

In other news, China to airlift giant pandas from quake-hit Sichuan to Beijing.

Ariel Waldman vs. Twitter: A story so dirty, I’m taking a shower…

Ariel Waldman » Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service

UPDATE: Now verified, as seen on Twitter’s blog.

I’ve been following Ariel Waldman’s twitter as I would with others I respect in the social media circle. Since Thursday however, her online plea against twitter has made me cast doubts about her.

Her situation involves “harassing user accounts” that would typically be banned by other web services upon request (e.g. Flickr), just not so in the case of Twitter. With that, she’s thrown everything but the kitchen sink, from discrepancies with Terms of Service to Communication Decency Act, towards Twitter.

Despite the support she’s received from other popular bloggers, I haven’t been able to trust her case fully just yet. Even if she declares that she’s not writing it in her position as Community Manager of Pownce (competitor), there is still conflict of interest. Furthermore, her arguments for "banning" twitter user accounts might be overblown.

I respect that Twitter’s community managers chose to exercise more caution than others before terminating accounts, that’s way more work than simply shutting things down upon request.

For instance, what if a mob of abusive users decide to report your twitter account for termination, even though you did nothing wrong?

Since no one can see the actual offensive tweets in question (she didn’t fully disclose), it’s really up in the air. The bottomline is simply who you’d trust more.

For the record, Evan Williams (Twitter founder) already stated that they have deleted twitter accounts before, but her case was not an account-deletable offense.

Additionally, the following excerpt came from a comment on Zeldman’s blog. Do practice caution as we need to verify that the commenter was indeed Evan Williams:

Evan Williams said on May 23rd, 2008 at 6:26 pm:
I have a list of 13 tweets that Ariel sent us as examples of the abuse from the account she wanted banned. According to our records, this is everything she sent us, except for those from the “confessions” account, which Ariel says was not the main problem. (I couldn’t look those up, because the posts themselves were deleted before we could look at them.)

I would *love* to post the whole file of these examples. I think it would clear a lot of things up. Unfortunately, since this content is the source of all this strife, and it’s now off the Internet, that seems…well, not quite right.

What I will tell you is this:

Out of these posts, exactly one mentions Ariel by name. It calls her “experienced.” The others do not personally identify Ariel.

One of them uses the word “cunt” (with a quote, presumably from Ariel). None contain either “crack” or “whore.” None contain threats, physical or otherwise. Most are insults about physical or personality attributes without referring to anyone specifically. If you were following both Ariel and the account of this woman when these posts were made, it may have been clear who she was referring to. Out of that context, you would probably have no clue. But even if they would have mentioned Ariel by name, most of them are not actionable, because we don’t have a rule against insulting people or hurting their feelings.

Caveat: Many of the examples she sent us were from Flickr. I didn’t look at all of these, because…well, we don’t run Flickr.

Our stance is this: We stand by our TOS. We have deleted accounts for abuse of various kinds. We had to make a judgement call here, as one does in all such cases. This didn’t meet the bar for being banned, in our opinion.

You can disagree with our judgment call. And that’s fine. But you’re choosing to do that without seeing the content, and someone has very carefully painted a picture that has misled many people. (One might ask why Ariel didn’t post the full tweets in order to strengthen her case.)

Even if you do disagree with our judgment call, this is not an argument about whether or not we’re enforcing our TOS; this is an argument about how we define “harassment” or “abuse.”


Few additional sources:
CNet: Popular blogger ignites uproar over Twitter harassment (May 23, 2008)

SlashDot: Blogger Incites Outcry Over Twitter Harassment

Surveillance Culture: Punking and Power Reversals

Here’s punking and power reversal at its finest…

Reader Heather Glogowski tipped me off last week about how a UK band, Get Out Clause, used public video surveillance to make a music video and requested the footage under the Freedom of Information Act (also on BoingBoing).

Proposal using Apple's time-lapse cam (May 20th 2006)

This situation reminded me of how an ingenious man stood once before a time-lapse camera outside the then newly-opened Apple Store Fifth Avenue at the right times just to get his wedding proposal seen.

On a related note, there is something ironic and difficult about surveillance technology though. UK CCTVs don’t cut crime rates as much as we’d like them to. Ars Technica meta-reports on how “Only three percent of crimes have been solved using CCTV footage, and offenders aren’t afraid of being caught on video” (The Guardian, 6th May 2008)

Aside: First Person R/C Plane, Almost as Good as Actually Flying (via Alex Halavais)

The United Nations “Creative Economy” Report 2008

UN Creative Economy Report 2008

It’s so darn ironic that just yesterday, a visual designer friend of mine was complaining about how the U.S. government prefers to give the international students in the hard sciences discipline a total of 26 months OPT (Optional Practical Training). This is an incredible 17 month extension from the typical 12 month work opportunity given to graduating international students in areas such as the humanities and the arts.

That friend was just hired to work for Google.

From the academic circle of the tweeterverse (@ChristyDena), comes this particular U.N. report, which I believe is a first of its kind on a global scale, for anyone in government, creative businesses as well as peer-producers like ourselves (least if you’re reading this blog).

The United Nations has released a Creative Economy report for 2008. If you’re wondering what the creative economy is about, it refers to something I recall seeing Australian scholars (like Axel Brun) write about “creative industries” back in 2005. The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has programs focusing on the Creative Industries.

What is the creative economy?
The “creative economy” is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development. The United Nations adopts the UNCTAD definition of the creative economy, where…

  • It can foster income-generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.
  • It embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives.
  • It is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and cross-cutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy.
  • It is a feasible development option calling for innovative, multidisciplinary policy responses and interministerial action.
  • At the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries.

What types of industries fall under the Creative Economy?
Wikipedia might also be a decent place to start, but it’d be better to compare this with the concepts and definitions as laid out in the U.N Report, which details various classifications systems used to define such creative industries. As seen in the U.N. Report, a widely quoted definition of the Creative Industry comes from the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which points to “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” (DCMS 2001, p. 04).

Types Of Creative Industries

While the other classification systems list more disciplines, the 2001 DCMS definition recognises eleven creative sectors, including Advertising, Architecture, Arts and Antique Markets, Crafts, Design, Designer Fashion, Film, Video and Photography, Software, Computer Games and Electronic Publishing, Music and the Visual and Performing Arts, Publishing, Television and Radio.

Given that responsible governments are constantly updating their media policies to encompass new modes of production (e.g. Proposal for Internet freedom in Singapore), perhaps cues could be taken from the United Nations. As highlighted in their foreword: “The creative economy has the potential to generate income and jobs while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.”

Click here to download the entire United Nations Creative Economy Report 2008.

Update: Singapore isn’t behind either. According to the Rambling Librarian, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) has been at it for the past four years, taking elements from the U.K. initiative and adapting them for the Singapore context. MICA provides reasons for developing local creative industries and shares blueprints for the future creative industry landscape in Singapore.

Mapping the Social & Legal Consequences of Mediated Identities

Digital Ego: Social and Legal Aspects of Virtual Identity My last two blog post had an interesting commonality; they both reflected the increasing significance of mediated identities.

In the physical world, your identity is already represented in a multitude of ways, often delineated by geography (e.g. neighborhood), function (e.g. housewife, doctor), tribe (e.g. runners, software developers), and so on. Despite these variations of self, it is the presence of our physical being which authenticates and reinforces the imagination we have of one another.

In the online environment, this body of meaning stretches in more dramatic ways, especially when we consider the types of media to choose to represent ourselves (mediated identities). From the early Internet days of text (IRC, newsgroups ASCII art), to the rich and often exaggerated depictions through photos and videos on media sharing sites (e.g. Facebook, Youtube). Do watch Derek Lackaff’s explanation of this in my recent video interview. The by-products of these virtual selves include everything from the rise of DIY microcelebrities to satirical manifestation of an ex-Prime Minister on twitter.

While the physical realm of identity has been constantly studied under numerous disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and communication, some work has been done to illuminate the mysteries of our virtual selves, much of it to reveal why we’re willing to displace so much of our time for games like World of Warcraft or social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Still, not enough might have been done to examine the impact that mediated / virtual identities could pose in the context of the real world.

My friend Shady pointed out an article on Massively (a MMORPG meta-blog) hinting about this topic. It lead me to Smartmobs for quick pointers on a new book focusing on the impact of virtual selves.

The book is “Digital Ego: Social and Legal Aspects of Virtual Identity” by Jacob Van Kokswijk. Here’s an abstract from the academic publisher based in the Netherlands:

Non-human virtual identities have an increasing impact on our society. A virtual identity is not just an online identity of a person, but a new technical and social phenomenon. What if software agents, powered by artificial intelligence, start acting on your behalf in a digital marketplace? What are the legal consequences of decisions made by these autonomous virtual agents?

Digital Ego counters the common belief that a virtual identity is only a temporary and innocent phenomenon, which disappears when a computer is switched off. Influenced by markets, politics and culture, cyberspace is becoming a highly regulated world where, compared to our tangible world, behaviour will be much more tightly controlled. The author addresses a broad range of social and legal aspects of virtual identities, such as the position of virtual environments in real world legal systems, and the difference between virtual and real identities.

Jacob van Kokswijk is a communications expert. He has written several books and articles about digital interactive media, user controlled technologies, cross media development and human behaviour in cyberspace. He is Adjunct Professor HCI at KAIST Graduate School of Culture Technology (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). Jacob is also a Research Professor in digital media at the Dutch Twente University , and is currently researching the phenomenon of Virtual Identities at the Law School of the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde.

It’s currently a pre-order on Amazon, but you can get it through The University of Chicago Press for US$25.

Twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” to test Singapore’s Internet freedom

Twitter / LeeKuanYew has FakeSteve to deal with, while Singapore has her own twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” on the loose!

Will this “Lee Kwan Yew” be able to entertain us with his satirical ways, or will he be subjected to some form of defamation suit (a first for twitter)?

Given that a high profile group of political bloggers has just submitted a 20 page “Proposal for Internet freedom in Singapore” (pdf) to the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, perhaps our twittering Lee will be a fresh test of the civil liberties of our pending media landscape.

As a member of the group of 15 bloggers making these recommendations, Bernard Leong invites Singaporeans (especially bloggers) to provide feedback about the proposals. A summary of the key proposals is available right after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” to test Singapore’s Internet freedom’

Tiananmen 2.0: Freedom and Suppression both growing in China

Take this with a grain of salt, but “BDA China, a Beijing-based consulting and research firm has announced that there are 220 million Web surfers in China, a number which surpasses the 217 million in the United States and makes the country the largest Internet-connected population in the world” (via Mashable).

For the past few months, China’s online population has indeed been edging closer to that of the United States, so it’s almost time. To be sure, we should start hearing word from official sources, such as the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Still, that’s largely good news for Chinese netizens. As a potentially democratic platform, the Internet will hopefully allow the Chinese to realize a more transparent space for social and political discourse. While the Chinese government can still shut off parts of the Net, such as Youtube videos of the recent Tibetian Protest, there will always be other online avenues for the dissemination of citizen generated content.

That’s unless they decide to shut off their entire Internet, which was what the Burmese government did on 29th September 2007, following its violent crackdown on protesters there. Quite unlikely I think, since the Chinese citizens have been getting quite good at mobilizing themselves via cellphone SMS and voice calls.

If you’re interested staying tuned to the Chinese friction, be sure to read John Kennedy’s amazing bridge blogger reports on Global Voices Online. For a teaser, read China: Hack into Freedom City.

Kennedy aptly calls what’s presently happening as Tiananmen 2.0.

Why stop at your organs? Be an Intellectual Property Donor!

Public Domain Donor (sticker)

Clever media art project. Makes sense especially in countries where copyright length go for an average of + 70 years after death of the creator. Least I now have a failsafe choice to share my work beyond Creative Commons.

See the sticker sample, then print your own set.

Aside: Was wondering about the economics of having copyright persistent over death (beyond their family wealth)… then I realize what a cruel world it would be if creators were to get offed (i.e. assassinated) frequently so everyone could have access to their works.