Unofficial history of the demise of social media?


Is social media in Singapore dying?

I refer to the articles “Painful days as media grapples with disruption” and “Anatomy of a retrenchment” (Sunday Times, Oct 22).

The former states that “”And this has a very negative effect on the newspapers on which we have relied for our news… The amount of serious news, investigative journalism and foreign reporting is going down, because that’s expensive. This is a real problem for the journalism we need for democracy. What we have here is potentially a market failure in the marketplace of ideas.”

As to “Our newspaper titles are generally well regarded, at home and abroad, offering many opportunities for growth – provided we seize them” – our Press Freedom Ranking is 151st in the world.

With regard to “All of this is happening as more people around the world are coming round to the view that the scourge of fake news has to be countered by supporting media groups that have a mission of keeping societies – and voters – well informed, so that they can make critical decisions when called upon to do so.

We have the people, the resources and the will to rise to the challenge of this new media age, just as our predecessors have faced off previous waves of competition and change over the past 172 years – and counting” – after reading the above – a friend asked me – “What about social media – is it dying too?

This question has prompted me to write the unofficial history of social media in Singapore.

The first and most popular (arguably) social media blog was gazetted  under the Political Donations Act – which means that it is prohibited from receiving any foreign funding, support or assistance, and has to file an annual donations report to the Elections Department.

Todate, it is still the only social media blog that has ever been gazetted.

It has been sued or threatened to be sued by various parties, such as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) which sued under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Judgement was delivered in favour of this blog in the MOD suit.

A once upon a time most popular blog whose editor’s identity was secret (unlike the above-mentioned blog) closed down abruptly, after a sex video of its alleged editor, a medical doctor – was circulating on the internet.

A few months later – a similar named blog appeared – ran by a very brave (identity was disclosed voluntarily) Singaporean editor who ran it for about five years. This blog is still running today, although its facebook’s last posting was on 22 February this year – which said “Since Joseph was the editor responsible for TRE’s Facebook (FB) page, we will not be updating the Facebook page for the time being, till an alternative arrangement can be made.

Our techie is studying the possibility of linking the FB page to the website via an API, which would enable real-time updates to the FB page.

In the meantime, kindly visit our website for all current articles and updates”.

Another once upon a time, and arguably “all-time high” most popular blog closed after its editors were jailed for 10 and eight months under the Sedition Act. – a very popular blog by Roy Ngerng who was sued for defamation – shows that its last posting was on 11 August, 2016.

When the media licensing rules were changed – requiring some blogs to put up a $50,000 bond – at least one blog decided to close.

The latest phenomena is that the most popular blog now – has not posted anything since 8 October, 9.29 a.m. Its facebook came back on around 14 October, but it appears to be mainly sharing other postings, instead of the almost daily articles on socio-political issues which arguably, used to seemingly – be its staple fare.

Leong Sze Hian



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.