Saturday, March 30, 2013


From ST image

This article appears in The Straits Times today. It's important enough to share it here as a timely reminder to all users of social media, (and that includes me) to be more responsible in what we say or post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social network channels. 

While I support freedom of speech and the right to express our thoughts and feelings about any issue, this freedom should be exercised responsibly. The amount of vitriol and personal attacks I often see in comments posted on the alternative media, blogs and FB is alarming. I know I will draw flak from people who don't see eye to eye with me on this. So be it. 

Some of the 10 commandments listed below are controversial, and bound to invoke criticism, even outrage among those netizens who abhor any rules and restrictions that impinge on their freedom of self-expression, especially if they feel it is their civic duty to speak out against what they perceive as an injustice or wrongdoing, be it by the state or by an individual. 

I complain and criticize too, but stop short at personal attacks. I also believe that people who throw stones at others or incite violence should identify themselves and not hide behind masks or anonymity.

To read David Tan's full article in which he elaborates on each commandment, please click here. I hope you can access it.

The 10 Cyberspace Commandments 

by David Tan

HAZARD alert. My mind automatically goes through all the potential legal issues when I see a comment on Facebook directed at another individual, or a video on YouTube that draws on musical and cinematographic works created by others.

It is so easy to rant about people and events that have annoyed us on social media. Or to upload photographs of ourselves or our friends on social networking platforms like Instagram. Or to post a negative comment on Twitter. Or to chronicle our loves and pet peeves on a personal blogsite.

But how often do we pause to think about the consequences, especially the legal implications, of our conduct in cyberspace?

The cloak of "online" anonymity in cyberspace emboldens many of us to act in ways we would not when "offline". We are unlikely to confront a work colleague whose behaviour irritates us, but we will more likely criticise the same person on Facebook.

Nude or revealing pictures? Surely we will not show them to friends over dinner in a restaurant. But we might just post a few provocative ones in our Facebook or Tumblr albums.

While netizens generally share an unspoken code of cyber- etiquette, a vast majority are likely unaware of the wide range of legal risks that carry with them personal liability and criminal sanctions.

Below are what I would term the 10 cyberspace commandments, distilled from the common law and myriad legislative provisions in Singapore.

1. Thou shalt not speak ill of another.

2. Thou shalt think twice before uploading photographs of other people.

3. Thou shalt be respectful of copyright.

4. Thou shalt not distribute obscene material.

5. Thou shalt not misuse a computer.

6. Thou shalt not commit a crime against the state.

7. Thou shalt not threaten racial and religious harmony.

8. Thou shalt not disrupt the public order.

9. Thou shalt not incite violence.

10. Thou shalt not reveal details of government documents or locations.

(The writer is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, and an associate member of the Media Literacy Council.)

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