Oct 30, 2013

    Only way to beat heartbreak website

    THE smartphone you hold in your hand is practically a modern-day war horn.

    As new media surges forward as the vehicle for change, digital natives around the world are taking their causes online.

    Take, for example, a Facebook page set up last Wednesday to petition for the authorities to stop dating website Ashley Madison, which promotes extra-marital affairs, from launching here.

    The Canada-based website has already been launched in other Asian countries and territories, such as Japan and Hong Kong.

    Even as the website boasts subscription from over 22 million users worldwide, news of its Singapore venture has been met with disdain.

    The Facebook page, called "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore", garnered the support of over 25,500 people in just a week. The petition was closed yesterday.

    It is the latest to join the slew of online citizen-activist movements here, including campaigns for a ban on shark's fin and a petition for the preservation of the historic Bukit Brown cemetery.

    All this wouldn't have been possible 10 years back.

    Seeing Singaporeans take a stand for the values they believe in, and so fervently, is proof that they are not passive and apathetic individuals, but socially active community players.

    But what's unsettling is how citizens continue to look to the Government for yet another "solution" to the problem, by asking for the imposition of a ban on the dating website.

    While the Media Development Authority (MDA) is vested with the power to issue take-down notices or block sites where online content is deemed to "violate community standards and social norms", it is no secret that the Internet is a boundless entity.

    For the cyber-savvy and those bent on having the "discreet encounters" touted on Ashley Madison's website, circumventing the ban on a site would simply be a matter of exercising some technological expertise.

    Perhaps what Singaporeans have yet to realise is that the Internet and social media have clearly given them the autonomy and power to rewrite the rules of the game.

    Instead of relying on a top-down "solution" - which is, at most, symbolic - what they could do is to guard that independence, and use it well.

    They must use their voices not to exact action from the Government, but to staunchly announce that they will not support the setting up of the website here - and no cheating, please.

    Raising their concerns - valid ones, at that - is one thing, but what remains more important is real belief and action from average Singaporeans, who are the only ones with the power to decide whether or not Ashley Madison will make it here.

    In other words, don't ask the Government to "guard" us from Ashley Madison. We can do that on our own, if we want to.

    But if the silent many are simply looking for quiet flings, then no ban or outrage has any meaning. Your call.