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MDA and SPH counter anti-STOMP petition, blogger: MDA response is ‘sneaky’ to suggest more internet regulation could be needed

Stomp campaignSingapore’s media regulator and government-friendly publisher Singapore Press Holdings have both mounted their defence against a petition to close down STOMP, a notorious public shaming website published by SPH.

In a story published by SPH newspaper the Straits Times, Felix Soh, editor of SPH’s digital arm, said that those who opposed STOMP were also among those campaigning for free speech in Singapore.

“It is sad that those who clamour for the freedom of the internet are now asking for the closure of a website – just because they don’t like it,” he told the Straits Times.

The campaign to close STOMP was launched by retail executive Robin Li on 7 April, and has drawn almost 22,800 signatures on campaigning website Change.org.

Li told Mumbrella that he was against the site because, in his view, it has become a platform for “hate speech; derogatory remarks on race, gender and beliefs” and has a habit of publishing fabricated stories.

Meanwhile the Media Development Authority said it would not try to influence the editorial content of online publishers, but would “take firm action” in cases where public interest was breached, or racial and religious hatred or intolerance were promoted.

The MDA stated: “Should you believe that Stomp, together with other class-licensed and individually licensed sites merit stronger regulation, we invite you to propose how the standards should be tightened.”

Singaporean blogger Kirsten Han, who writes for independent news site The Online Citizen, Yahoo! Singapore and Asian Correspondent, said today the anti-STOMP petition is not about freedom of speech, and the MDA was hinting that it could use the anti-STOMP campaign to tighten control of the internet in Singapore.

“If you publish fake or bullying posts then it’s not freedom of speech,” she wrote on Twitter today. “For STOMP’s editor to defend it on grounds of freedom of speech is therefore disingenuous. People will let it stay if they overhaul content.”

“For the MDA to use it to suggest they need more power to regulate is also sneaky. The content already breaches their standards,” she said.

The MDA introduced tough new rules for online news sites just under a year ago. The rules stipulate that high-traffic websites need to get a licence if these carry Singapore-related stories, and content deemed to disrupt racial or religious harmony has to be taken down in 24 hours.

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