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Online vigilantes going too far?

Two recent cases expose the ugly side of online behaviour in Singapore

Published on Feb 9, 2014 7:41 AM
 

Singapore's Internet community ought to police itself better if it wants to safeguard its freedom online and not invite the authorities to step in and stop atrocious behaviour, new media experts say.

Two recent cases have exposed the ugly side of Singapore netizens in the way they have pursued and attacked individuals they decided deserved to be punished.

Last month, Briton Anton Casey found himself at the receiving end after posting disparaging remarks about "poor people" on the MRT and having to "wash the stench of public transport" off himself.

Most agreed that what he did was offensive, but the online attacks targeted him, his former beauty queen wife and their young son. Mr Casey took his family to Perth, claiming they had received death threats. He then lost his job as a senior wealth manager after he and his employer "parted ways" in the wake of the controversy.

 
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Background story

FROM WRONGDOER TO VICTIM

Anton Casey, 39

What he did: Last month, the British wealth manager (above) posted two Facebook comments referring to public transport commuters in Singapore as "poor people".

The reaction: Netizens took offence and circulated his comments widely. He was flamed online and his actions were reported in both the local and international press. He said he and his family were threatened by netizens.

The result: He apologised, left his job here and left with his family for Perth by the end of the week.


Quek Zhen Hao, 24

What he did: Last week, the undergraduate was caught on video twice in the same day driving dangerously. The clips, in which he was shown tailgating, overtaking and braking suddenly, were posted online and went viral.

The reaction: He was roundly flamed online and netizens posted his home address and girlfriend's photos. He also claimed he had received death threats.

The result: Mr Quek has apologised on video. He has also appealed to netizens to leave his family alone and remove his parents' address from the Internet.


Troubling

"Any time somebody appoints himself judge, jury and executioner, we have a drastic problem."

DR MICHAEL NETZLEY, a media researcher and the academic director of executive development at Singapore Management University