Zit Seng's Blog

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Two Cents on TRS Banishment

DSC01438When the news first broke that MDA had shutdown TRS, my first thought was that, yes, good riddance. Honestly, there is so much trash published by TRS that, to me, the writers should be ashamed to write them, and TRS should be ashamed to put them online. What exactly is the whole purpose of TRS, I often wondered.

Truth be told, I don’t care so much about the purported threats that TRS posed to racial and religious harmony. I am intelligent enough, as I believe most Singaporeans are, to read TRS articles and decide how much we believe in what is published, which is not a lot.

I’m glad that TRS is shut down for my own selfish reasons. You see, as much as I can choose not to read TRS, I feel compelled to at least follow on trending topics, so that in some sense I’m up-to-speed on local chatter. On the one hand, it is a waste of time, but on the other, it is filling up my newsfeed. Having TRS not around anymore will save some precious reading time for more worthy news.

The shutting down of TRS, however, raises interesting issues. First, as many have already discussed, is MDA’s ability to summarily shutdown a website it did not like. I don’t want to get into the debate on freedom vs responsibility. I do feel that TRS ought to be shutdown, but I’m curious what justifications and due process were there leading to the decision to shut down the website.

As it is now, you see that after MDA has decreed the shut down, then we hear from the powers that it was indeed justified. I thought this was really funny. I mean, had something gone before the courts, and the judge has decided on a verdict, do we need somebody after the fact to explain that the judge was right?

I think, perhaps, this whole exercise is about MDA testing their powers. The law, under a new licensing regimen, allows them to shutdown a website. So an excuse in the form of TRS came along, it seems like a great opportunity to try it out, see what sort of reaction comes out of it. Good for them, because people like me actually think TRS ought to be shutdown. But is it for the general good of Singapore that the government should be able to terminate a website just like that?

This banishment of a website basically comes down to a form of censorship, and in this age of the Internet and pervasive social networking, I wonder if it still makes any sense to deal with undesirable content in this way. It’s 2015 now, for goodness sake. You block one TRS, a STR shows up somewhere else. What has MDA achieved? Drive our local websites out of Singapore?

TRS is a casualty. I think this episode is a demonstration and test of MDA’s capabilities, and a test of public reaction. Some time down the road, MDA will point back to this incident and say, see, it’s no big deal, they had shut down websites before.

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