Internet Politics in Singapore CS2002 Yeo Han Zhong U1130838E T3
Singapore’s General Elections in May 2011 has receivedthe epithet of being its “First Internet Election”.“There is no doubt that new media played a signiﬁcant role in the way politicalparties and candidates communicated with voters, and the way citizenscommunicated with one another” (IPS, 2011).Discuss the pros and cons of Internet politics andwhether this has necessarily been a good thing.
Deﬁning an “Internet Election”An Internet election can be deﬁned as one in which theInternet played a signiﬁcant role in the election processand outcome.Key CharacteristicsThe Internet is expected to be:1. A key channel for voters to communicate and exchangeviews and opinions.2. A key channel for political parties and candidates toengage and move voters, thereby inﬂuencing the voters’views and the voting results.
Background of 2011 General ElectionsFor the ﬁrst time in Singapore, political parties wereallowed to use social media to reach out to voters.Political parties and most candidates had theirofﬁcial Facebook and Twitter pages.-> Ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), Workers’ Party (WP), SingaporeDemocratic Party (SDP) etc.-> George Yeo, Nicole Seah, Chen Shou Mao etc.Election news updates were readily updated onthese pages.
Background of 2011 General ElectionsFacebook and Twitter pages of political parties &candidates:
Background of 2011 General ElectionsTwo-ways engagement and communication:Social media1. Became major platforms for the dissemination ofinformation and engagement of voters by the variouspolitical parties and candidates.2. Provided voters with the option of accessing socialmedia platforms for sources of information as well as toexchange their opinions and feedback.Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,blogs and forums became important and alternatesources of information for many voters.
Background of 2011 General ElectionsKey Impact of Internet Politics on 2011 GE:Enhanced prominence of the new media in the lastGeneral Elections had facilitated not just a two-waycommunication between voters and political parties orcandidates, but also enhanced inter-communicationbetween voters.
Pros of Internet PoliticsRise of Internet politics via the new media:1. Provides greater visibility for marginalised politicalparties and sub-groups.2. Facilitates enhanced coordination and collaborationwithin and between political parties.3. Grants greater freedom for discussion of Singaporepolitics.4. Enables society to engage with politics on a higherlevel.
1. Greater Visibility for MarginalisedPolitical Parties and Sub-groupsIn Singapore, the mainstream media:-> Has often been regarded to be dominated by theruling PAP party.-> Is perceived to represent and portray more of theruling party’s views and opinions, granting them muchmore visibility.Negative Consequence:-> Marginalised opposition parties often get either lesscoverage or less positive coverage in the mainstreammedia.
1. Greater Visibility for MarginalisedPolitical Parties and Sub-groupsWith new media:Marginalised opposition parties can directly engagethe public by sharing their views and opinions ontheir social media pages.-> This grants them enhanced visibility to the publicand allows for a more objective evaluation of theirviews and opinions.
2. Enhanced Coordination andCollaboration Within and Between PartiesWith new media:Political parties have greater ﬂexibility in makingchanges to their political manifesto as well as totheir internal structures.With just a few clicks and a little bit of typing, keyannouncements and updates can be made throughthe parties’ ofﬁcial websites or their social mediapages on Facebook and Twitter.-> Gives them not just more ﬂexibility but also allowsfor a more timely dissemination of information.
2. Enhanced Coordination andCollaboration Within and Between PartiesNew media provides:A platform and opportunity to cultivate consensusbetween different political parties.With information so readily available on the onlinepages of the different political parties:-> Ideas and viewpoints can be more easily sharedand exchanged among these parties.
3. Greater Freedom for PoliticalDiscussionNew Media:Allows political websites to be hosted and basedoverseas.Eg. Socio-political website Temasek Review Emeritus-> Greater freedom for discussion of Singaporepolitics without legislative restrictions in Singapore.-> Beneﬁcial for development of the opposition voicein Singapore, which would otherwise be restricted bystrict laws governing freedom of expression.
3. Greater Freedom for PoliticalDiscussionTemasek Review Emeritus:
4. Higher Level of Political Engagementfor SocietyWith new media:Society is able to engage with politics on a higher level.Increased political outreach:-> Ease of access to ﬁrst hand information disseminated bypolitical parties and candidates on their respective onlinepages increases political outreach to the general public.Engagement of Wider Audience:-> Use of social media such as Facebook and Twitterwhich have a massive outreach to the youngergenerations allows political parties and candidates toengage not just a greater audience but also a wideraudience.
4. Higher Level of Political Engagementfor SocietyAll these are vital in building political awareness andencouraging greater participation from a wideaudience.Two-way engagement between political parties andvoters as well as the freedom of discussion anddebate among voters can better fulﬁll the principles ofdemocracy and bring about a higher level of politicalengagement in our society.
Cons of Internet PoliticsRise of Internet politics via the new media:1. Increases the possibility that news and informationfrom the new media may be more lop-sided in favourof marginalised parties.2. Leads to the likelihood of a clash between ofﬁcialand non-ofﬁcial information.3. Results in a likely abuse of the new media.
1. Lop-sided News and InformationNews and information from the new media may bemore lop-sided in favour of marginalised parties.-> Due to different extent of interest and preference fornew media use among different parties.
1. Lop-sided News and InformationLikely that prominent ruling party has less interest to usenew media while marginalised parties are moreinterested to use new media.Prominent ruling party: Dominates mainstream media-> Already has high visibility and therefore has lesserreliance on new media to disseminate news andinformation.Marginalised parties: Less coverage in mainstreammedia-> Less visibility and therefore more reliant on new mediato disseminate news and information.
1. Lop-sided News and InformationAs a result, news and information from the new mediamay carry more of the marginalised parties’perspectives.-> New media may not be a neutral platform for newsand information.
2. Clash Between Ofﬁcial and Non-OfﬁcialInformationWith the ease of posting information on new media:-> There may be a clash between ofﬁcial information andnon-ofﬁcial information.With the abundant information available on new media:-> It may be difﬁcult to distinguish between facts oropinions.-> This reduces the credibility of new media as a reliablesource of information.
2. Clash Between Ofﬁcial and Non-OfﬁcialInformationSocio-political website Temasek Review Emeritus hasmostly anonymous editors and contributors.-> Less inclined to be emphasise accuracy of informationposted as they do not have to be accountable to thepublic.News and information posted often carry stronglycritical and sometimes sarcastic opinions.-> Temasek Review Emeritus called “Singapore’s toprumour website”.-> Not only misleads the public but also reduces thecredibility of news and information posted.
3. Abuse of New MediaNew media use may be abused by both ruling party andmarginalised political sub-groups.Ruling party:New media may be used as a monitoring tool, to monitornegative opinions or dissent against the government.-> May involve the monitoring of political websites whichare known to be critical of the government (e.g. The Online Citizen,Yawning Bread, Temasek Review Emeritus).Marginalised parties or sub-groups:The ease of posting information and opinions on newmedia may result in irresponsible and defamatorypostings.
3. Abuse of New MediaCase Example:Recently, the editor of Temasek Review Emeritus, RichardWan, was dealt a legal warning by Prime Minister LeeHsien Loong, for a defamatory post which questioned thelegitimacy of his wife Ho Ching’s position in TemasekHoldings.
3. Abuse of New MediaTherefore, it can be seen that abuse of the newmedia works both ways.-> Ruling party may use it as a monitoring tool whilemarginalised subgroups may use it irresponsibly topost unveriﬁed information that may constituteslander.
Conclusion: Effects of Internet PoliticsHas it necessarily been a good thing for Singapore?Positive Effect (is limited):Even though the rise of Internet politics via the newmedia has a key impact on transforming the electionexperience process by facilitating a two-wayengagement between political parties and voters,-> It merely expands the dimensions for thediscussion and exchange of information and opinions.
Conclusion: Effects of Internet PoliticsExtent of inﬂuence and effectiveness of Internetpolitics for Singapore was largely limited.According to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies(IPS) in relation to the 2011 General Elections:-> Only 30% of respondents relied mainly on newmedia platforms such as Facebook and blogs forelection news and information.-> It is interesting to note that of this 30%, 95.5% alsoconsumed mainstream media for election content atthe same time.
Conclusion: Effects of Internet Politics New Media Mainstream MediaChoice of Media 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100Only 30% of respondents relied mainly on new media platforms such asFacebook and blogs for election news and information. New Media & Mainstream Media Mew Media OnlyChoice of Media 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100Of this 30%, 95.5% also consumed mainstream media for election content at thesame time.
Conclusion: Effects of Internet PoliticsAnalysis of Survey Results:It can be seen that new media and mainstream media’sare not mutually exclusive categories and the extent ofinﬂuence each has are not measurable separately.It is not realistic to assume that people form their politicalopinions directly from the kind of media they consume.-> Voters are still most likely to vote based on theirinterests and be inﬂuenced by the bread-and-butterissues.-> Voters’ decision unlikely to be shaped by type ofmedia consumption.
Conclusion: Effects of Internet PoliticsFurther Limitations of Internet Politics in Singapore:The ruling party’s power and control over the mediasystem in Singapore extends to both mainstream mediaand new media.-> Limits the extent of evolvement and development ofInternet politics in Singapore.
Conclusion: Internet Politics in SingaporeHas it necessarily been a good thing for Singapore?Internet politics in the context of Singapore last’sGeneral Election:Opinions, information and feedback may be sharedand attitudes and perceptions may be changed, butultimately:These merely marks the beginning of a new era ofpolitical engagement and not a concretetransformation of the overall political landscape inSingapore.