Singapore Kindness Movement urges people to be civil when disagreeing with views online

SINGAPORE - THE Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) is urging people to stay civil when objecting to views that they disagree with or may find offensive.

Its call comes after the Media Literacy Council had similarly called on netizens to be respectful and responsible online, following the violent and threatening remarks made against teenager Amos Yee.

Yee, 16, had posted on social media a video peppered with vulgarity and insults against the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Christianity.

But the backlash he received "is neither a proportionate response, nor the mark of a civilised society", said the SKM in a statement posted online this week.

"Tasteless videos and posts are no excuse for responding with vindictive attacks and threats of unspeakable violence... Vengeance is not justice.

"The way we respond to offence can reflect more poorly on ourselves than the original offender," it added.

Yee was charged on March 31 with attacking Christianity, transmitting an obscene image, and making an online video with remarks about Mr Lee that offended viewers.

The SKM said that instead of addressing the seriousness of his actions, the responses were tantamount to the "raising of pitchforks" and "people baying for blood".

"We can disagree and still remain civil... We must, if we want to live as a society that is mature in dealing with things we don't like or agree with," it added.

The Media Literacy Council, which helps educate people on how to use the Internet, earlier this month gave tips on how people can stay civil online when disagreeing with others.

It made its call after some people made disparaging remarks about Yee as well as his parents.

In one instance, a Facebook post by a Mr Jason Tan Kok Whee has led to an undisclosed person making a police report against him on Tuesday.

Police confirmed the report had been filed but declined to give further details.

A People's Association spokesman confirmed Mr Tan is a grassroots leader in Telok Blangah, adding that the PA will take necessary action depending on the outcome.

The SKM's associate general secretary Cesar Balota told The Straits Times on Friday that it was prompted to issue the statement by the uncivil remarks of the "online lynch mob".

The attacks on Yee were not an isolated case, he added, citing Ms Amy Cheong, who was sacked by the National Trades Union Congress and left Singapore after her offensive remarks about Malay weddings drew incensed criticisms online.

Said Mr Balota: "There's a worrying trend that when some people make mistakes, an online lynch mob comes after them.

"We're of course entitled to our objections, but they should be made in a civil manner. Once you start hurling threats and insults, then you don't end up talking things out."

asyiqins@sph.com.sg