Singapore Press Holdings to review STOMP following petition to close ‘public shaming’ site

Patrick Daniel talking at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Hong Kong today

Patrick Daniel at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Hong Kong today

Singapore Press Holdings is to undertake a review of its citizen journalism website STOMP in the wake of a popular campaign to close the site down, Mumbrella can reveal.

Talking to Mumbrella at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Hong Kong today, Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of SPH’s English and Malay newspapers, said the company would be reviewing the site to see what needed to be changed.

The campaign to close the site, which launched on 7 April, has attracted 23,160 signatures on at the time of writing.

The campaign, instigated by a young Singaporean retail executive, has attracted international media attention, with Al Jazeera’s Washington bureau running an internet program on what it described as a “public shaming” site. SPH declined to be on the show.

STOMP has been accused of promoting cyberbullying, racial intolerance and the invasion of privacy, particularly on public transport.

Despite reports to the contrary, Daniel told Mumbrella that the campaign had had an impact on the publisher.

“I can’t say that it [the anti-STOMP campaign] doesn’t have impact on us. We will have to review it. After all, we serve an audience,” he said this afternoon.

“But having said that, I have to measure that [negative] sentiment against the fact that we have a solid following of people who can live with a bit of edginess. They’re not troubled by it. But that’s the internet for you,” he said.

“Everything people accuse STOMP of, you could say the same of a dozen sites on the internet. We have to decide what the best response is,” he said.

“We are looking at it calmly. I think there’s been a little bit of astroturfing on the numbers [of backers of the anti-Stomp campaign]. But we have to accept that these are genuinely held views.”

He added: “I’m not forcing everyone to read it [STOMP]. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. It’s not as if STOMP is your only media diet. It’s a website for people to engage with us, and that’s what it is.”

The Stomp story that trigger a campaign to close it down

The story that led to the anti-Stomp campaign

Daniel said he was still working through what the review of STOMP would involve, whether that is heavier moderation of the site or more stringent fact-checking.

The story on STOMP that prompted the campaign to close the site down was the false accusation of a national serviceman for not giving up his seat on a train to an elderly lady.

“If a citizen journalism site is very heavily moderated, then you will lose the character of the site. We need to think that through.”

“People have flamed Stomp for a long time – we’re used to it,” he added.

A week ago, Felix Soh, editor of SPH’s digital arm, said that those who opposed STOMP were also among those campaigning for free speech in Singapore. He told his sister newspaper, the Strait Times: “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.”

At the WAN-IFRA conference, Daniel outlined the threats and opportunities for Singapore Press Holdings as revenue and circulation have begun to decline. “If we do nothing, the tipping point will come – or we will find that we’re past it. But now we’ve had the experience [of decline], the challenge is what steps do we take,” he told Mumbrella.


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