I think, therefore I write. (我思,所以我写。)

Cogito ergo scribo

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Transcript of talk show about bloggers' responsibility

Disclaimer: Again, as much as i don't like to do this disclaimer thingy, sometimes it's necessary. This transcription and translation of the talk show was done with my best effort to be as accurate as possible without prejudice. Some of the Mandarin phrases couldn't be translated verbatim so only the meanings were transcribed. Any misinterpretation, if so occurred, was not intended.

Talk Show: Cross Fire "针锋相对"
Broadcasted on 24-Oct-2005 (Monday), 2130hrs to 2200hrs, Channel U (Singapore MediaCorp TV)


Lawyer Lan Guo Qing (蓝国庆) [Lan]

Radio Programme Producer Li Hui Min (李慧敏) [Li]

Blogger Xia Xue (下雪) [XX]

Secondary School Teacher Zhao Ling Mao (赵令茂) [Zhao]


Wang Di Cong (王帝璁) [Host]


Host: Cross Fire thank you all for your participation and support.

People involved in different area of activities have their own lingoes. In recent years, the term "blog" is often heard and seen. What is a blog?

[Footage with narration]
In recent years, online diary has become the new online favourite. Netizens use online diary, i.e. the so-called "blog", to document the trivia of their daily lives, or to exchange ideas with others of similar interests and thoughts.

Over the globe, a new blog is born in every 2.2 seconds. The speed of growth is astonishing. Blog is a personal Web site, but can also be open for all netizens to read. Since everyone can read it, there will be various repercussions if the words offend others.

In May this year, a blogger criticized the scholarship system and policies of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research of Singapore and slandered its Chairman Mr. Philip Yeo. The blogger subsequently issued two apologies to the said organization.

This month, two bloggers were charged for posting anti-Muslim comments on the Web. One was sentenced to prison for one month and another for one day, plus a fine of 5 thousands dollars. Another Form 4 student also posted anti-Malay remarks on a blog and was charged with infringement of the Sedition Act.

Host: After seeing the chronicles of the big events in the blogsphere, let's change the scene and assume that the remarks in the three cases were made in a fast food restaurant over a casual chat, would they be charged? What does this signify? This signifies the influence and penetration of blogs in our modern society.

Ok, based on this point, let us talk to the first guest of our show, Xia Xue. Can you talk about what had initiated you to have a blog?

XX: When i was in Form 4, there was this guy whom i liked and we were together. When we broke up, i gave him my diary as a remembrance of the good times we had together. Then later i asked him for the diary but only to discover that his girlfriend had thrown it away. From then, i told myself that i would write diary not on paper anymore.

Host: Oh i see. Ok, i know that Hui Min also has a blog?

Li: Yes, i've just started it a few months back. The main purpose is to publish some of the articles that i've written before, and occasionally also to express my feelings and thoughts. Sometimes i may come across some articles or events and i don't intend to put down my thoughts into a formal writing, i'd just casually write it out on my blog.

Host: I would like to ask Teacher Zhao, how many students, or the percentage of it, do you think have a blog?

Zhao: Before i came to the recording of this show, i've done a small research and noticed that older students have more interests in having their own blogs, while the younger ones, such as those in Sec 1 or Sec 2, are lesser; they would read more than write it themselves. Those who write are mostly from Sec 3 and Sec 4. For instance, i've read some that wrote about their teachers, or some who used it as a means of indirect feedback. They would write and then ask the teachers to read it.

Host: When they asked you to read it, what was your reaction?

Zhao: My reaction was of course being very interested and eager to know what the student had written. Was he scolding me or praising me? *laughed* Sometimes they may have watched a debate and then tell me that they have written something and ask me to read it on their blogs.

XX: If they feel embarrassed to say something face-to-face, they can always send emails. Why do they need to put it up in their blogs? I find it very strange to do that.

Host: So you are saying that there's another way, which is to use emails?

XX: Yes.

Host: Actually after the development of email, there were BBS, ICQ, and then Blog. To witness all these development phases, as a spokesperson of the new era of blogging, what's your thought on that?

XX: I think they are different. One is a mode of communication where others can't read it, while blog is open for everyone to read.

Li: I think basically what you mentioned about BBS, ICQ, and MSN were spontaneous interchange. What you say is only a communication between us. As for blog, i simply publish it on the Web. You have a choice to read and not to read, to comment and not to comment. It's all up to you.

Host: Then do you think there's a deluge of this kind of "do as you wish" activities?

XX: Hmmm, i think most people regard blog as a private space, but it's actually not. It's a public domain where everyone can read it. So you can't... wrongly... *paused*

Host: It's not a private space and it belongs to the public. Lawyer Lan, your opinion on this?

Lan: This is just like you voice out your opinions in a middle of a square. You may claim that this square is your private space or your private home, but once certain action affects the public -- others can see you and hear you -- then it's no longer about personal space. This involves some legal responsibilities. It's the same rationale as i stand naked in front of the window of my house and say that it's my space and you can choose to see or not to see. So the point is not about whether or not you want to show it to others, but others can see it.

If your blog is restricted, i.e. only open for a certain people, then it's different. That's considered a personal space. But most of the blogs that i've come across are open for the public. Anyone can read and participate in it.

Host: On the part where you talked about this restricted blog, there were cases where it was restricted but hacked in and then the posts were distributed widely. So what originally was restricted became unrestricted. What's the legal implication of this?

Lan: In law, there's a thing called motive. If you break the law, there should be an associated motive. However, there are two points to note. Let's say i'm talking to you about some sensitive racial topics, and others can hear it, then it's illegal.

Host: *Surprised* Really?

Lan: Yes. What i meant is if i'm talking to you face-to-face and mention some racial or sensitive issues, and others can hear it, then it's illegal because it may cause uneasiness. If i'm having a private conversation with you, then it's different. But if you feel uneasy about what i said, it's also illegal. That's because according to the constitution, the freedom of speech is within the boundary of law, and if it goes against any law then such freedom no longer stands.

Lawyer Lan Guo Qing explaining the legal implications of blogging

Host: It's rather frightening when you touched on this point. Just like what i've mentioned at the start of the show, let's change the scene to a casual chat in a fast food restaurant. Let's just say there are Teacher Zhao... or just say all of us here. If what i say is overheard by someone else then i'll be in trouble.

Lan: Yes, i've handled such case before.

Host: Ok, let's have a break first, and then we'll look into such case. Blog is originally an avenue to express myself, and yet in the end it turns out that i need to bear such a huge social responsibility. Must it really be like this? We'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

Host: Our viewer Invisible Ninja said, "Our society is getting more open-minded and yet the Web is subjected to more rules and regulations. However, this is the only way to ensure that the netizens will think before they act."

Another viewer Flying Angle asked, "If gambling on a casino cruise on the international waters isn't subject to the local jurisdiction, then when is a site considered a local space or a local site? Are foreign sites subject to our country's jurisdiction? Is the law used only to govern the locals and not the foreigners even if they have acted unruly on the local sites? Hope there's a clarification on this question."

We have other feedback from our viewers but we don't have enough time to cover the rest. Ok, lawyer Lan, maybe you can give us a comprehensive answer to these questions. Let's say that the few of us here are chatting and our conversation involves some sensitive topics. Someone overhears our conversation and can report to the authority. Does this apply to blog as well?

Lan: Before the commercial break, you mentioned about a situation where a site is hacked and the content is broadcasted...

Host: Yes, which wasn't the original intention.

Lan: Then this concerns your motive, whereby your opinions and points were meant for the public to read, or only meant for yourself. If a hacker gains access to your Web site and results in the site to be open for others, then maybe on the legal standpoint, it's different.

Host: Hackers are impossible to be forestalled, and hence we are afraid to express our most genuine opinions on the blogs. Then doesn't this violate the spirit of blogging? What do you think, Hui Min?

Li: I have this question. Let's say i send an email to you, and then you forward the email to others. If the email contains my personal opinions on some racial and religious issues, or maybe my email account is hacked and the email is distributed, then what is the legal implication?

Lan: There are two points here. Being hacked and forwarded are different. If you send an email to someone, this means you've already communicated your opinions to others at your own will...

Host: There's a motive...

Lan: Yes, there's a motive there. If it's hacked, there isn't a motive in the first place. It's a restricted site and my personal opinions that i don't intend to be read by anyone else but myself.

As for the question about the jurisdiction of the law, it only applies to the country. Let's say if i'm in the US and i hack into this blog, or leave a comment on this blog, and then is subsequently tracked down. I'm in the US and you are in Singapore. The law of Singapore does not apply to Americans in the US. But if this American is in Singapore then it's different. The law of Singapore does apply.

What i write on a blog can be read by everyone. If what i write is slanderous, then it's different...

Zhao: It's very obvious that blog is a thing for the youngsters. It's not a fad but a trend for the future. But i feel that our students or the youngsters are not ready to be proper bloggers. For instance, they are ignorant about politics and they don't know much about the sensitive issues in our society. Being young also means that they are more impertinent and outspoken, and they don't know that they will get themselves into troubles...

XX: I don't feel that it's a place to get into troubles. Does it mean that people who are less mature should not say anything? Whatever they say are always stupid? That is not getting to the root of the problem but just addressing the symptoms. We should educate our kids on what can and cannot be written, instead of telling them not to write anything at all. In fact, there will always be criticism no matter what you write.

Zhao: Let me tell you the situation. Let me give you an example, real example. The underage youngsters are not allowed to smoke and drink, yet they still do it. So like what you said, even though the youngsters know what are the things that cannot be written in the blogs, given their rebellious and impertinent characters, will they just obey the regulations so easily?

Lan and Li amused by the crossfire between XX and Zhao

Li: Actually, i think that blog is a kind of publishing medium on the Web. It's a new kind of publishing medium that differs greatly from the traditional mainstream media that has more than hundred years of history. Since it has just been developed, we are still in the process of determining its moral and legal standpoint. I've checked on the Web and saw that there's this Code of Ethics issued by those cyber journalists, such as telling us that we have to be responsible for our words, we have to write with integrity, we should not engage in personal attack, etc. What i think is that this kind of ethical guidelines had only just been established and we are still exploring. We are still determining what we should or should not say and the associated legal implications. So i don't agree that we should fixate it when it's still at such inception stage.

Zhao: I have this question. As a blogger, whenever you write something, do you wish for many people to read, or you don't want too many people to read? I just want you to clear this doubt for me.

XX: I think it depends on the individuals. Some people write to market themselves, while some just write their own blogs and then gain more readership along the way.

Zhao: Ok, let's continue with this and say that your blog has a lot of readers, just like having high viewership. Would you do like what the TV station does in accommodating to what the audiences like and move towards meeting their preferences?

XX: I think this concerns what you mentioned earlier, i.e. the motive of blogging. A lot of people read blogs because of the honesty in the writing and the feeling that the bloggers are not writing for the audience. If the blogs lack such characteristics, then people won't want to read it anymore.

Host: Yes, you mentioned honesty. The spirit of blogging is about expressing yourself honestly. And Xia Xue is having a daily hits of 3 to 5 thousands now?

XX: Erm, 10 thousands.

Host: Oh, it's already 10 thousands now?

XX: Yes

Host: Oh, so you are already the star of present-day. Ok, let's take a break now and later we'll hear from our star if she would aim for becoming a bigger star in the future. We'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

Host: Just now we heard from Xia Xue that the daily hits on her blog is over 10 thousands. You are already the star of present-day. Would you hope to become a bigger star for the future?

XX: Erm, if possible, then maybe i would like to place Singapore on the global standard.

Host: Do you think you are an ambassador of Singapore?

XX: Erm, i would rather not to have this notion that i'm an ambassador of Singapore because that would come with a lot of pressures. Some people would say that how can i represent Singapore when i write in such language and i don't write in good English. They would question if all Singaporeans are like me.

Host: Do you feel a sense of mission?

XX: I don't think i'm representing Singapore. Erm... it's more like... what i represent is what Singaporeans like to read...

Host: Ah, what Singaporeans like to read... Are you sure? Are you sure that Singaporeans really like to read what you write?

XX: Er, if they don't like it then...

Host: The population of Singapore is 4.2 million, with 20 thousands bloggers. If we are looking at percentage... hmmm, maybe there are about 270 thousands Singaporeans reading blogs. You think your blog really represents what the Singaporeans like to read?

XX: Mine is already the most read blog in Asia...

Zhao: When you wish for more hits for your blog, would you be more selective in what you write? To put it in a not-so-nice way, would you give what is desired?

XX: If you think that your kids or students would be influenced after reading such language or content, then you should stop them from using the computers or logging on to the Web. This is the responsibility of the parents and teachers. You can't say that, hey, because there are kids reading it, so you shouldn't use vulgar language. And then you ask the bloggers not to write it.

Zhao: If i know that you are having 10 thousands hits everyday, i believe my students are most likely to be part of that 10 thousands. And if everyone of them learn your kind of language, then all our effort will be wasted. *laughed*

XX: How can you blame the authors? If you feel that my site is teaching the kids bad things, then please ask your students not to visit it.

Zhao: We're not particularly talking about vulgar language. It's just like we've also encountered the language used for SMS. The English is really not correct...

Lan: I don't understand those at all... *laughed*

Zhao: Ya, many people don't understand it. Some English teachers even have to ask the students what some of the words mean.

XX: Why didn't you ask about the reasons for the students not visiting those sites written with perfect English but visit my site instead? If i change my style to write in good and abstruse English, then the students would stop visiting my site and go to other sites instead. Then are you going to blame those people too, saying that they are the ones who influence the students to write in such way?

Host: Hmm, Xia Xue seems to hold very firmly to the idea of individual responsibility.

Then just now Hui Min has mentioned that the blogsphere is still at its inception stage. If we just count it from 1993 till now, it's only about slightly more than 10 years of history. Do you think there are too much legal constraints in Singapore?

Li: *Hesitated and turned to Lan* What do you think, lawyer?

Li asked Lan for opinion on question directed at her

Lan: *Laughed* I don't think so. I think that in terms of cyber law, it's already very lenient compared to the law on the normal media. In my personal opinion, some people log on to the Web thinking that there's no restriction at all and have no regards to the laws. They think that they can just do whatever they like because no one can catch them. This is where the problem lies.

I think Singaporeans are very weak in their legal awareness...

Li: Yes, i agree. Even though our society is governed by law, our understanding of the law is very shallow.

Lan: Yes. So what should we do? Personally, i think not only the lawyers and the law administrators need to know about the law. As lawyers and law administrators, we should sedulously make known to the general public about the law and they should be cautious in their behaviours. It's more about educating the public.

Host: On educating the public about the law, Hui Min, as a person working in the media, do you think there's other way than education to tackle this issue?

Li: Maybe we need some guiding principles so that we can have a clearer understanding. Currently the guiding principles are very vague. Maybe we should not constrain it so hastily. Just give it a free hand.

Zhao: I think that first and foremost, the integrity of the readers are not as pressing as that of the writers because the writers are going to affect the development of the blogsphere...

Zhao asserted the responsibility of current bloggers in setting the direction for the development of blogsphere

XX: If the highest...

Zhao: The bloggers should themselves set a good example...

XX and Zhao disagreeing on the responsibility of bloggers

XX: How can you ask the bloggers to set a good example? If i write a porn site and have many readers, and then one day i say to myself, eh, so many people read me and i should think about the kids and prevent them from picking up these bad stuffs. Then i stop writing all these pornographic stuffs. Readers like to read erotica. If they don't read my site, they will still go to other porn sites to read it. Do you understand what i mean? How can you ask the bloggers themselves to... erm... *paused*

Currently we have 16 million blogs. Why is it that out of these 16 million blogs, only 100 or 50 have high readership? It's because these are the things that the audiences like to read.

Zhao: So are you saying that as long as the audiences like it, then it's fine to write it?

XX: That's not what i meant. What i was saying is that...

Lan: Actually i strongly disagree with what Xia Xue said.

XX: Yes, exactly.


XX: *smiled embarrassedly*

XX embarrassed at hearing Lan wrongly

Lan: I feel that if you have a site or a blog, it does concern some... *paused* My personal opinion is this: blog is not much different from traditional media. It is educational... *finger quotes* EDUCATIONAL. It's a media...

Zhao: It has influential power.

Lan: Yes, influential power. So the problem is this: for what you've written, if it's a textbook or magazine, it wouldn't even be allowed to be published or sold. The government would not allow...

XX: I didn't mean something so serious. I was not referring to something like taking drugs or...

Lan: I know, i know. I wasn't referring to that too. The second point is that i believe some of the things should be controlled and constrained by the government and the law. Once it's over the limit, the law has to come into the picture.

Host: From the discussion, we see something very interesting. Why is that so? Well, we can see that Xia Xue's stance is that the importance lies in the awareness, discernment and sagacity of the individuals. Correct? There shouldn't be a demand on me to change for others because blog is in fact a very individualistic and honest expression. Then later, if we are looking at the adult, legal and social point of view, it becomes something with social responsibility and important mission...


(Due to time constraint, the show ended abruptly with the host still talking to the guests.)


wow! great job!
(how come I missed the program!)

My Gosh u really great wor.

Excellent! Thanks for the transcript!

*clap clap* well done!

hey, good job. that Zhao Ling Mao is full of shit, he was a teacher in my sec sch and seriously, he's really full of hot air, telling stories and indulging in his own ego more than teaching. little surprise why he eventually relinquished his position as the HOD hehe.

o.o hi junyi. surprised to see you here.

anyways, the host seemed pretty hard on xiaxue, and she stuttered on many of the re-directs and questions posed to her. one thing that still bugs me is that they failed to answer a question the host mentioned earlier in the show,
by FlyingAngle.

Another viewer Flying Angle asked, "If gambling on a casino cruise on the international waters isn't subject to the local jurisdiction, then when is a site considered a local space or a local site? Are foreign sites subject to our country's jurisdiction? Is the law used only to govern the locals and not the foreigners even if they have acted unruly on the local sites? Hope there's a clarification on this question."

Zhao might be "full of shit", but Xiaxue just beat him to that. She can't even defend her stand-point. :)

Kenneth wrote: "Another viewer Flying Angle asked, "If gambling on a casino cruise on the international waters isn't subject to the local jurisdiction, then when is a site considered a local space or a local site?"

I think the recent charging of three bloggers for sedition has sort of answered that question. Which is why a high-profile blogger like Wendy should be extra careful about what she blogs.

Just my two-cents, but I could be wrong. =)

She also lied - hers is not the most read blog in Asia. What about FuRongJieJie or in another highly populated country like India?

I think one of the reasons that a lot of questions were not addressed in this talk show was becuase of the limited time -- only 30 minutes and there were four invited guests plus viewers' questions.

As for XX, she seemed to have difficulties in expressing herself in Mandarin sometimes and perhaps that was why she appeared to be unable to get her points across fluently.

Yay! Hooray to XX.

xxxx to the others..

i think that silly girl is just young and ignorant, among other things, such as arrogant and immature.

It's such an embarassment to have XX on media, supposedly thinking that all Singaporeans / all Asians like to read what she wrote. She's just an ignorant, self-absorbed, confused Ah Lian.

Any idea where I can download this episode?

Sorry, i have no idea if it's available on the Web or not.

I've deleted the VCR recording. Had thought of putting it up here initially but didn't because it would probably be an infringement on copyright.

did she get any of her point across?

i don't think so...

fantastic! thanks for taking the effort to translate into English, or I'd have missed such an interesting discussion otherwise.

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

Share your cogitation

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 @ 3:12 am: Happy DeepaRaya!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005 @ 4:57 am: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Monday, October 31, 2005 @ 4:14 am: Translating and transcribing
Friday, October 28, 2005 @ 3:51 am: Trivia of my uneventful day
Thursday, October 27, 2005 @ 4:16 am: My apologies
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 @ 10:04 pm: You came from a single-parent family? So?
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 @ 2:12 am: This is what we called proactive
Saturday, October 22, 2005 @ 6:06 am: Money can buy a life
Thursday, October 20, 2005 @ 3:40 pm: Condolence
Thursday, October 20, 2005 @ 4:39 am: Misguided or evil?