Be aware of consequences of posting on social media

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam's concern about public trial by media is an understandable one ("MHA held off 'out of respect for teen's family'"; March 2).

Freedom of speech is about letting the public be aware of your opinions. These opinions can shape how millions of people think.

But the public will read reports and comments only if they have an interest in it.

Therefore, commentators will present their posts in a way that will make the public like it. They can control which issue or part of an issue the public is told about so as to get attention. In this way, they also shape readers' opinions.

In the Benjamin Lim case, anger pushed social media users to become "content publishers" and post speculation without considering if it was appropriate.

As soon as a person is arrested, we should stop talking about what we think we know, because there is a risk that the person accused, if his case goes to trial, cannot have a fair trial when so much information has been made public.

Negative comments on social media hurt legal proceedings, and users must be mindful of that.

It is a real problem when people do not know the implications of such a public trial by social media. Many are also not aware that the law on sub judice applies to them on the Internet as well.

The challenge of moderating Facebook pages is an ongoing one. It is time the Media Development Authority did something about it to ensure criminal proceedings can go the way they should.

While everybody has the capacity to contribute to public conversation about issues, they should consider the serious risks that exist, particularly in a criminal case that is going to trial.

Francis Cheng