From ‘MDA responds to anti-Stomp petition’, 17 April 2014, ST
Media regulator the Media Development Authority (MDA) will not influence the editorial slant of websites but will take firm action if there is a breach of public interest or the promotion of racial and religious hatred or intolerance. In a statement on its Facebook page last weekend, it wrote that netizens can and should continue to signal to Internet content providers the standards expected of them as part of efforts to promote responsible online behaviour.
The post was made in response to a petition to shut down citizen journalism website Stomp, which is owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The petition claims to have collected more than 22,700 signatures since being set up 11 days ago on international campaigning site change.org by 26-year-old retail executive Robin Li.
…Mr Li told The Straits Times that he launched the petition after a March 24 post on Stomp in which an NSman was accused by a Stomp contributor of failing to offer his seat to an elderly woman in front of him. But one picture in the post’s photo gallery showed a reserve seat near the NSman that was empty.
Mr Li said that was the “last straw”. “Many netizens contribute posts that are at the expense of others, especially NSmen. Their faces are not blurred either… this promotes voyeurism and comes at the expense of their privacy,” he said.
Mr Felix Soh, editor, digital media group, of SPH’s Digital Division which oversees Stomp, denied Mr Li’s accusations and pointed out that there was no attempt to hide any information in the March 24 story.
“In fact, the full picture showing an empty seat on the MRT train was published by Stomp in the gallery of two photos accompanying the story. Furthermore, the fact that there was an empty seat in the row was mentioned in the second paragraph.” He added: “It is sad that those who clamour for the freedom of the Internet are now asking for the closure of a website – just because they don’t like it.”
Many people didn’t ‘like’ adultery site Ashley Madison either, which MDA banned because it didn’t meet their guidelines on ‘public interest’, flagrantly disregarding ‘family values and public morality’. Invasion of privacy, however, not only doesn’t count as a breach of ‘public morality’, but is in fact the bread and butter of Stomp, so it’s not in SPH’s ‘interest’ to shut down the voyeuristic tabloid elements. Those of a more dystopian bent would see Stomp as the dreaded roving all-seeing-eye, to the point that the threat of getting ‘stomped’ has become an everyday catch-all phrase to deter any form of antisocial behaviour, be it eating on the train or sleeping on a priority seat. What would it take for SPH to stop encouraging people from spying on each other, I wonder? Someone traumatised enough to kill himself in shame because his photo got plastered all over social media, perhaps?
Instead of addressing their penchant for distorting images and context at the expense of the unsuspecting, SPH went on to question the authenticity of the petition and the number of electronic signatures obtained. Not like numbers matter anyway since it’s unlikely that a petition would bring about Stomp’s demise. There’s also a certain demographic of those people caught on camera. Everyday people like you and me doing everyday things. You may even find yourself snapped unawares even if you’re not part of the action. Fat chance finding a Stomp piece about an important person flicking his booger in public.
Launched in 2006 as the ‘Straits Times Online Mobile Print‘, SPH’s intention was to cultivate what has been termed ‘citizen journalism’, or ‘grass-roots reporting‘. Cherian George disagrees with ‘citizen journalism’ for the simple reason that the end product still has to get the blessings of ST journalists, who get to pick and choose what sells and not what’s decent. Nonetheless, the award winning site (Gold for BEST ORIGINAL CONTENT (provided by other people for free), 2014) stands by its original purpose of getting users to do the ST’s job without a single cent. For every piece of news that justly highlights abuse towards the mentally disabled, road ragers or brawls on the train, there are at least a dozen others that belong more to the category of ‘citizen paparazzi’ than ‘journalism’. Stomp calls their stars of the show ‘Hey Goondus’, while users out to defend the innocents mock contributors as ‘stupid stompers’, unwittingly adding to the millions of hits that keep the site alive.
Here’s my rundown of my ‘Best of Stomp Voyeurism’ stories, which also serves as a warning to everyone out there, not just hapless NSmen, who ever eats food in public, cuddles, sleeps on the train or wears short hot pants. You’d also notice how the editors are inconsistent in their practice of blurring out faces so you can’t trust them with any sense of moral decency. The more practical way to shut Stomp down, short of hiring Anonymous to hack the shit out of it, is to just stop visiting, sharing or ‘liking’, though I confess to occasionally accessing it if only for ‘research purposes’.
1. NSman with trouser leg coming loose
2. Guy eating a bun on the bus.
3. Couple sleeping on MRT
4. Eating during a presidential salute
5. Kids hugging in uniform
6. NSman drinking water on a train
7. Girls with long legs
8. Taking your dog out unleashed.
9. CISCO officers eating in a food court
10. Wearing a helmet on the bus
But it’s not just voyeur posters going out of control in Stomp. The editors are unable to manage death threats from commenters as well. Like this one:
Wildmustang84 on Mon, 03/17/2014 – 15:59
Eh this stomper should be shot 10x over. This poor bloke is serving YOU. Protecting YOU. Defending YOU. You effing suck for taking a pot shot at this poor NS dude you retarded asswipe. Learn how to appreciate others and not nit pick you moron.
Of course even if by some miracle the petition is successful in forcing Stomp to close shop, there will be plenty of eager startup companies waiting to pounce and create copycat platforms, not to mention the likes of already existing forums and Facebook. If you’re a regular contributor to Stomp, I hope you realise SPH is winning ‘journalism’ accolades at your expense, and that even if you think you’re reporting wholesome, worthy news, you’re indirectly supporting the propagation of trashy ones. If you happen to be a victim of Stomp and your life has been ruined forever, my advice is to set up a support group for similarly affected individuals, hunt down and stalk the ‘Stompers’ and editors responsible for your shame, and set them up on your own ‘citizen journalism’ campaign website because two can play at that game. You could call it ‘Stompers Are Bastards Online’, or SABO.