Sunday, November 25, 2007

What if the Singapore rap video is censored?

Think about this for a moment. The Singapore video, which was developed to promote business in Singapore, is being spread throughout the free world via various social networking tools.

But could such a video, produced outside of Singapore, be spread by similar means within the city-state?

Reuters notes the irony in its article "Yo! Singapore censor rap hits YouTube":

It hopes the rap video will showcase its potential to be "a vibrant media city".

But critics say this ambition does not rhyme with Singapore's regular censorship of films and theatre and the many defamation lawsuits its government have launched against foreign media.

Let's take another example. In the United States, we take it for granted that Barack Obama and Ron Paul will use social networking in their political campaigns. In Singapore, it's a little bit fuzzy, this feeling inside:

More intriguing is whether social networking platforms would get around the PER's current restrictions on using e-mail to spread campaign messages. The regulations allow parties to mail to their own mailing lists, but parties can't encourage chain letters: an e-mail is not supposed to invite readers to pass it on to all their friends. This prohibition limits the powerful viral potential of e-mail communication.

The interesting thing about Facebook and the like is that the viral quality is built in. These platforms introduce you to friends of friends in a way that doesn't seem to be captured by the PER, which was formulated back in 2001. Furthermore, what is technically being passed around is not a campaign message but the electronic version of a business card, which again falls outside the scope of the PER. However this particular type of business card can of course be linked to substantive content, including campaign ads.

Of course, everyone, including the regulators, knew that the 2001 regulations would rendered redundant by evolving technologies. Social networking services are just one more step towards the inevitable. The question now is whether the government will try to cover social networking in the next round of regulatory innovation, or if it will retreat.

Well, we know what happened in 2006:

Podcasting will not be allowed during elections as it does not fall under the "positive list" which states what is allowed under election advertising.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan added that streaming of videos during campaigning would also be prohibited.

He was addressing a question in Parliament on Monday about the use of new technologies on the internet during hustings.

Pictures of candidates, party histories and manifestos are on the "positive list" and are allowed to be used as election advertising on the internet.

Newer internet tools like podcasting do not fall within this "positive list".

Dr Balaji said: "There are also some well-known local blogs run by private individuals who have ventured into podcasting. The content of some of these podcasts can be quite entertaining. However, the streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting or video streaming of explicitly political content."

And how about people in Singapore who want to use Flickr? Here's what Flickr itself says:

If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service so won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off. If your Yahoo! ID is based in Germany you are not able to view restricted content due to your local Terms of Service.

And if you want to ask about censorship in Singapore, just ask Microsoft:

Controversial video game Mass Effect goes on sale here today -- with an M18 sticker on the package.

It is the first game here to carry a rating, in this case M18, which means someone under 18 cannot buy it....

Mass Effect, a role-play game, was initially banned by the MDA because of a brief love scene between a human and an alien, both female.

The MDA later changed its mind, and effectively fast-forwarded its video-game rating scheme meant to kick in only next year.

So what would happen if some country were to ban the Singapore video? Presumably some of the more restrictive Muslim countries might find portions of the video offensive, and would apply the same censorship tactics to the MDA video that the MDA applies itself. I'm sure that the Cassandra Tay of Saudi Arabia (who would of course be male) might find the Singapore video to be obscene and offensive. Specifically:

All Internet users in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall refrain from publishing or accessing data containing some of the following:

1. Anything contravening a fundamental principle or legislation, or infringing the sanctity of Islam and its benevolent Shari’ah, or breaching public decency.

2. Anything contrary to the state or its system....

7. The propagation of subversive ideas or the disruption of public order or disputes among citizens....

From a Saudi perspective, unveiled, swaying, dancing women sounds pretty subversive to me, so I doubt the Singapore video will get any activity in Saudi Arabia.

As Bob Dylan would say, "how does it feel?"

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

Sphere: Related Content