31 August 2005

Ethics for Tomorrow

Seems like the blog aggregator known as Tomorrow is in a little bit of controversy again. This time Tomorrow is being criticised for linking to people's blogs without their permission. You can read about it from Murder Freak, who also supplies various relevant links on the topic.

There have been a number of recent episodes where Tomorrow linked without permission to blogs whose owners, for various personal reasons, strongly desired privacy. For example, there was a young female blogger whose boyfriend had jilted her and left her with an unwanted pregnancy. Tomorrow linked to her blog and drew a huge amount of unwanted publicity to her personal life. She was left feeling distraught and upset, in emotional tatters.

The Tomorrow editors have now officially stated their hyperlinking policy. Agagooga wrote:
"We have observed some flak in various quarters of the blogosphere about our policy of not asking for permission before linking people's blog posts ....

The default position on the web is that you do not need someone's permission to link to them, and in the absence of other signs, this is the position we take. We don't expect everyone who does not wish to be linked by us to put up one of those the "Tomorrow i'm not free lah!!" buttons.

However, we visit each and every blog post submitted to Tomorrow before we publish it, and if the blog has a specific "please ask for permission before you link" notice in the sidebar, we will not link it, even if it lacks password protection or the aforementioned buttons; if there is no disclaimer or notice, we will have no qualms about linking the post.

The reasons for this policy are simple. If we were to ask for permission from each and every author, not everyone would respond promptly, if indeed they bothered to respond to our queries at all. As a result, the quantity and quality of blog posts on Tomorrow.sg would plummet precipitously. More importantly, linking is the lifeblood not only of blogging, but of the Internet itself - if permission had to be sought for each and every link, the World Wide Web would not exist in a recognisable form, if at all."

At one level, Mr Wang agrees with Tomorrow's position, for the reasons that Agagooga has stated. Mr Wang himself regularly links to other bloggers' posts without seeking their permission. Although "Did Mr Wang Say So?" is on a much smaller scale than Tomorrow, the same principles ought to apply.

On the other hand, Mr Wang uses his brain when choosing his hyperlinks. And Mr Wang considers it inappropriate for Tomorrow to take an overly cavalier approach to this task. It is one thing to say, "Oh, YOU put your personal story on the Internet yourself, don't blame US for publicising it." This kind of excuse, while not entirely invalid, is a poor excuse for the Tomorrow editors to display bad editorial taste, to make bad editorial choices and to be lousy human beings.

Tomorrow (or any other blog) is perfectly free to act as a screaming tabloid if it wants to. It doesn't necessarily follow that it is a good thing for Tomorrow (or any other blog) to act as a screaming tabloid. And the fact that people didn't stick "Respect My Privacy" banners or buttons all over their own blogs doesn't mean that a Tomorrow editor can't exercise some good judgment on his own accord to do what's right.

Allow Mr Wang to give a simple example. Mr Wang knows of a blog run by a divorced woman (let's call her X). According to X's own account, her ex-husband had been unfaithful and promiscuous. X's blog contains many details of the man's sexual misbehaviour. Although X is now divorced, she continues to live in fear of the possibility that she may already have contracted AIDS or some other sexually-transmitted disease from her ex-husband.

Not too long ago, following the publication of a certain Straits Times article, Mr Wang wrote a post about AIDS. This post concerned AIDS risk factors for married people (as opposed to sexually active singles). It focused on the possibility of one spouse being unfaithful, thereby exposing the other spouse to the risk of AIDS. X's personal account would have been very relevant to Mr Wang's post, and Mr Wang briefly considered hyperlinking her blog. Indeed, X's dramatic example would have added an important extra dimension to Mr Wang's comments on a health matter of public interest and concern.

However, Mr Wang almost immediately dismissed the hyperlinking idea. Mr Wang felt that it would not be right to intrude in this way into X's blog. The issues touched on a clearly private and sensitive area of X's life and her blog had the "personal diary" feel. As human beings, we ought to have some basic respect for other human beings' privacy, and on this basis, Mr Wang decided not to hyperlink to X's blog.

There are blogs, there are blogs, and then there are blogs. There are some posts which you know you can link to without hurting anyone's feelings or causing anyone to feel invaded. Then there are other kinds of posts, concerning private aspects of people's lives, to which you know you should not draw publicity, if you were a fair, decent human being. And no, it does NOT matter that these people were not Internet-savvy enough to use password protection, or to understand the risks and use a paper diary instead etc.

Mr Wang looks at Agagooga's comments above. Regrettably, Mr Wang does not see any sign, any trace at all, that Agagooga shares Mr Wang's views on the desirability of people voluntarily respecting each other's privacy. Cowboy Caleb, another Tomorrow editor, is even more disappointing. Look out, folks. Nothing much is sacred any more.

The late Princess Diana.
Just as well she didn't live to see Tomorrow.

51 comments:

budak said...

Editors of respectable publications exercise considerable care in deciding whether or not a 'personal' story merits sufficient 'public interest' for running it. Some other types of journals don't. Of course tomorrow.sg is free to choose its editorial (and correspondigly audience) based on whichever model it prefers.

mrs budak said...

I accept that what's put onto the web is for public consumption. I don't think anybody can argue against Tomorrow.sg editors' case that what's on the internet is public.

But I cannot fathom why these editors are so hot on insisting on their rights to link, if the blog has not implemented any protection. Nothing is said about the consequences of linking (particularly to the blog being linked), or whether any consideration is undertaken before doing so. It is only about rights, and they are insistent on exercising them.

People may not password-protect for different reasons. For example, my blog is public because I know friends without an LJ account who want to read my blog. Other people simply had no idea. And for some, their blogs do not have such a facility. Just because I don't password-protect my blog doesn't mean I like it to be publicised (and I like your tabloid reference), with some editors adding their witty comments to boot.

It reflects poor sense and bad taste on the part of the editors when they don't seem to appreciate the real concerns bloggers have raised. Instead, you see some serious chest-thumping action by at least two of them, insisting that they have the right, right, right to do what they wanted.

It would be interesting to see how the rest of the blogsphere react.

Merv said...

I think the solution is very simple. You opt out. because its harder to call every blog on earth to opt in.

It is assumed that you put your blog on the web, anyone can link to it.

Except, that you plainly state in your blog that no-linking allowed or without permission.

If people can't even take the trouble to put a "no-linking" policy on their own blog, i don't see why should we take so much trouble 'protecting' their 'privacy'.

budak said...

I think tomorrow.sg has made it clear it doesn't matter whether you have a 'don't link me' policy or not, so anyone is fair game. A better analogy might be phone listings: just because one's tel/address is in the public domain doesn't mean that others have the right to make harassing prank or abusive calls, or picket outside the house of a supposed wrongdoer.

Anonymous said...

Wrote this on my site:

"And "privacy" has become something of a convenient by-word which gets more than a casual mention in every now and then in debates, arguments or discussions when in truth not many know what it really is about. It is as misunderstood as the words "peace", "courtesy" and "decency"."

- D W

lost said...

budak: you seeem to have missed this part of agagooga's reponse.

"However, we visit each and every blog post submitted to Tomorrow before we publish it, and if the blog has a specific "please ask for permission before you link" notice in the sidebar, we will not link it, even if it lacks password protection or the aforementioned buttons; if there is no disclaimer or notice, we will have no qualms about linking the post."

Huichieh said...

Trackback...

Anonymous said...

mr wang brings up a valid point of comparing tomorrow to a tabloid. how else can t.sg be "successful" if it becomes as sanitised and dull like say, ST? if we compare t.sg with like TNP or maybe The Sun in the UK, you'd understand their position.

SBJL

singaporean said...

I dont understand. If I want privacy, I close my door, my windows, my curtains. If I choose to walk out on the street naked, I have no right to demand others not to look, even if I am wearing a sign "Dont look!".

Bloggers ought to realise whatever they publish on the internet, stays in the open forever. Take a look at archive.org for example. Bloggers ought to learn to protect themselves by maintaining a certain level of anonymity and learn to be vague with details that can make themselves identifiable.

Or dont blog. Like me. Remember, the internet was here first. You have a choice with what you choose to expose on the internet.

On the other hand, I wish the country offered more protection to people whose have no choice with their privacy. The family of Took has every right to grief, to not get hounded by the mob of kaypoh onlookers, and the right not to have their photos splashed all over the papers and tv.

mrs budak said...

I think it has gone beyond the simple issue of privacy on the internet. I think almost all of us can appreciate that whatever we post on the internet is subject to discovery.

I believe the issues raised have got more to do with:

1) the attitude of Tomorrow.sg editors on dissenting views of their linking policy;

2) the apparent lack of consideration of the effect linking a particular blog on Tomorrow.sg will have;

3) the total disregard, on the part of certain editors at least, for the opinion of the blogger's expressed wish not to be linked (read JSeng and CowboyCaleb's views on Tomorrow.sg and A Gonzo Journal, respectively.) Naturally, now that the official policy is out, these editors are expected to toe the line.

4) the obsession with "rights" above other equally pertinent matters such as common courtesy, attitude, common sense and so on.

budak said...

lct, i am referring to the broader metablogosphere at large, in which linking is donely freely without regard for blog owners' permission. Tomorrow.sg's stance on this had emerged only belatedly.

In any case, I think tomorrow.sg and its defenders are still thinking the issue is about permission and privacy. As Mr Wang has noted, it's not about whether you have the right to do something, but whether you should, despite knowing the consequences of your choice. Right now, it seems tomorrow.sg is not even trying to defend its choices, but passing the buck to its pool of 'contributors', saying that the site simply posts what people want to read. That's the problem when you don't have an agenda - those who scream and rant the loudest will set YOUR agenda for you instead.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Singaporean,

I think that your assumption is that everyone fully understands and appreciates the fact that anything you place on your blog MIGHT get noticed by other people.

The truth is that this kind of awareness is usually gained through painful experience. Think back to your first year venturing out onto the Internet - whether in newsgroups, chat rooms, forums or blogs - weren't you also a naive idiot once upon a time? I bet you did a lot of stupid things you wouldn't do now.

But don't forget that there are always new, inexperienced people out there in the Internet. And some of them seem to be falling prey to Tomorrow.

We all meet our share of horrible Internet nasties from time to time. They span the entire spectrum - from scary stalkers, to malicious hackers, to trolls, to the kind of anonymous minor pests that currently hang around my blog and complain about my blog title and charming personality.

But Tomorrow seems to be morphing into a new species of Internet nasty - it's like a kind of gigantic online monster that can send dozens, no, hundreds, of other little online monsters crawling over all the most intimate details of your private life.

And I think there are a lot of people out there who haven't realised that yet. Intellectually, they may grasp the idea, but in reality they haven't really appreciated the implications yet.

Even Dr Randy Kluver, the Internet expert from the NTU Singapore Internet Research Centre, seemed a little startled when I hyperlinked to his personal blog. And this despite the fact that his personal blog reveals absolutely nothing scandalous, sexy, controversial or immoral about his personal lifestyle.

Now if Dr Randy Kluver, a professor who teaches at NTU about the Internet, can get startled when Mr Wang hyperlinks to his personal blog -

what more the average hapless, not-very-savvy blogger out there, who gets hit by Tomorrow over her unwanted pregnancy?

The sad part is that you would expect that the Tomorrow editors would exercise better discretion than what they're currently doing. I thought that in their midst they had a nice, decent, sensible family man like Mr Brown? And a respectable civil servant, James Seng, from the Media Development Authority of Singapore?

Then again, maybe my hopes are too high. I mean, look who's threatening to strip down to his yellow rubber G-string now. I bet he might even be thinking about writing about it in Today.

The most amazing thing is what I read about how one of the Tomorrow editors (I think it was Fembot) tried to defend their position. She says, "Oh, anyway, it's all you readers who submit such content to us editors, so it's not our fault."

What bullshit! I wonder whether she understands the meaning of the word E-D-I-T-O-R.

biased observer said...

Defenders love the nekkid blogger example it seems. Assuming that all bloggers are running about in the buff in the first place, which betrays their bias that other bloggers are just as interested in attention seeking behaviour as they are. Most bloggers are probably just walking around, in public yes, but dressed.

Anonymous said...

merv, just because i didn't say "dont rob me" doesnt mean i give you the permission to rob me 8).

i think mr wang's right in 0wning the tomorrow's editors. if the editors do not enforce better judgement in publishing some of the submitted articles, then perhaps a rethink of its communal approval process should be made.

The Legal Janitor said...

I think there's a misunderstanding about how the moderation process works.

We had a discussion earlier on and have now settled on the current procedure.

As soon as someone submits content into the moderation queue, it take 2 votes to publish the submission. 2 votes meaning 2 individual editors to click on the publish button. Keep in mind, we will publish where there is no explicit notice that they do not wish to be linked to.

This being the case, you must realise that 13 very different people have vastly differing opinions on what should be published or what should not be. As long as 2 editors decide to click on the publish button, the submission goes through.

What you are asking for, is there to be a complete consensus among all editors regarding every single submission that is deemed to be controversial/sensitive. The question is, what is controversial/sensitive and what is not?

Given that all 13 editors already have problems agreeing on what should be published and what should not be, how is it possible to have all 13 agree on what is controversial and what is not?

There is an assumption that because there is a mr brown and a James Seng must therefore mean that they have to exercise authority. That is not true, otherwise I would not have signed up to join the team.

The fact is, my voice or Agagooga's voice or Xiaxue's voice counts as much as the voice of any of the other editors. We have already amended the code in Tomorrow to indicate which editors voted to publish which post, so that readers can see for themselves the type of submissions which are published by each of the editors.

Look at it this way. Even if mr brown or James Seng thinks that something is objectionable or sensitive, if me and Agagooga both vote to publish, it will be done.

There is no consensus. There is no monolithic 'editors of Tomorrow' to blame. We are all different, and have different opinions. We like different things and will vote to publish different things. To expect 'discretion' or 'sensitivity' would mean having some editors impose their standards and opinions on the others. That is not acceptable to me.

lakeside girl said...

The analogy of walking out naked in the streets yada yada has been overused and milked for all its worth. Is that even relevant? The blogosphere may be public, but i have yet to discover any explicit blogs on my own other than clicking on links on widely read sites.

We have already understood the concept of Internet as an open space, free for all to see and tread in *yawns* Well how about this, one day you slapped your ex boyfriend in public and a reporter snaps that photo and publishes it on ST just for kicks? Well, too bad for you then. If you wanted to slap your bf, do it privately.

Just ask for permission from the blogger whose blog is obviously controversial and seemingly private. It is the only respectful thing to do. Just because you are not the blogger, you have no idea how he/she feels. Banking on someone's personal life and misery to sensationalise an article is...well..just not right.

mrs budak said...

Tomorrow.sg editors should come up with something better than a "there's no consensus" cop-out. By identifying yourself as "Tomorrow.sg editors", you associate yourself with the website, singularly and collectively. There is no running away, no "tai-chi" to say "it's not me" anymore.

Now that questions have arose on several aspects of Tomorrow.sg's linking policy and Tomorrow.sg editors' decision-making philosophy, I should think that it's better for the editors to come together and decide what's the best way forward. Something as fundamental as guiding principles for publishing or not publishing a post should have been agreed upon, instead of leaving individual editors to make their own decisions.

Nobody said that running a blog aggregator is easy. But then again, nobody asked you to do the job in the first place. Since you all have taken it upon yourself to start doing something, put in the effort to do that something well.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Mr Wang is aware of course that right now, if Tomorrow has exactly just two idiot editors who consistently share the same views about what to publish, then the published content of Tomorrow will consistently turn out to be idiotic.

However, Mr Wang is not here to examine the actual mechanics of the moderation process. Mr Wang is not here to say that a Tomorrow post should only be posted if all 13 editors agree; or if at least 8 editors agree; or if at least 4 editors agree; or if at least 2 editors agree; or whether there should be some kind of veto process; eg if at least 4 other editors disagree that a particular post should be published.

Those are the kinds of details for Tomorrow editors to work out for themselves. And Mr Wang is not a Tomorrow editor.

Mr Wang notes however that many people in blogosphere are expressing their dissatisfaction about the way Tomorrow seems to be going around hyperlinking blogs whose owners actually want privacy.

Mr Wang is saying that these expressions of dissatisfactions are not unfounded. Nay, Mr Wang is saying that that these expressions of dissatisfaction are well-founded. And Mr Wang has explained his reasons for saying so.

Mr Wang thinks that Shianux is raising a false dilemma. Shianux says:

"The question is, what is .... sensitive and what is not?"

Mr Wang acknowledges that there may be borderline cases. But Mr Wang also thinks that there are straightforward and obvious cases. The case of the unhappily pregnant young woman seems straightforward and obvious enough.

Mr Wang invites Tomorrow editors to put their hand on their heart and swear that they really did not think the blogger would have wanted her privacy.

No, Mr Wang invites those TWO specific Tomorrow editors, whoever they are, who approved that particular post, to put their hand on their heart and swear that they really did not think the blogger would have wanted her privacy.

And if those two Tomorrow editors do that, then I leave it to Singapore blogosphere to judge whether those 2 editors are:

(a) remarkably dishonest; or
(b) remarkably stupid.

Either way, I regret to say, it does not reflect well on Tomorrow.

The fact is that no Tomorrow editor so far, AFAIK, has opened his mouth to say that he or she understands the importance of voluntarily respecting people's privacy.

All I hear are the voices of Tomorrow editors saying, "You are STUPID enough to put your story on the Internet, so WE shall jolly well publish it if we like."

I acknowledge that not all 12 editors are saying that. But of all the Tomorrow editors who have actually said anything about this matter, this is the only message that is coming through loud and clear.

Look out, folks. Nothing is sacred anymore.

jseng said...

The post in question raised by mr wang is actually published by tinkertailor. (that was before the 2-editor system)

http://tomorrow.sg/archives/2005/08/11/pregnant_gal_abandoned_by_saf_me.html

The editorial discussion on the post is very long and not for me to republish here. But I can say the conclusion is that we do not believe TF meant her blog to be private. She might have expected the responses and results (neither did we) but clearly not private if you read her original posting and tones.

I repeat: judgement is only after that fact. No one can predict the reaction of any posting we publish.

AC said...

No matter how one whines about qualities like 'private' and 'personal diary', such are simply mutually exclusive with 'public website' and 'published on the internet'. To me, there is simply no excuse of ignorance over the simple fact that information published on the Internet might be viewed by the whole wide world.

The application of strenuous moral, sensitivity, and permission seeking guidelines are simply not feasible. By the time a board of editors trashed out whether a blog is informative, interesting, morally edifying and by the time they secure the assent for linking - days, if not weeks or months could have passed. Just imagine posting about the AcidFlask case 2 weeks after the dust have settled. Or starting to talk about the NKF after the government has started the media clampdown on the topic.

I get the impression that most of the editors are working adults. Got jobs. Got life. Got very limited time. I tend to sound pro-tomorrow, because I appreciate the fact that there are people out there who are willing to spend personal time with ZERO PROFIT to produce content for my consumption. The editors might not be perfect, but I think that for this case and this context their justifications are not only sound and reasonable but realistic as well.

Rigorous attempts at self-censorship will produce more harm than good in my opinion. On one hand we have the growth of non-government local initiatives like tomorrow, on the other hand we have the frail psyche of foolish bloggers who don’t understand public domain postings can be seen by anyone and everyone. To me the choice between the two is clear.

singaporean said...

Oops...I think I managed to upset Mr Wang, plus a few others. My humble apologies.
I see two separate issues here:

1) How much privacy is a blogger entitled to?

2) Are tomorrow.sg editors ethical in linking without permission?

For Qn 2), I dont really care about tomorrow.sg- the entries are too trivial, and I dont like James Seng anyway. If I want to discover interesting blogs, mrbrown and Mr Wang is doing a terrific job. Is tomorrow.sg doing something ethically wrong by bringing in unwanted attention to bloggers who desire peace and quiet? Perhaps. But if tomorrow.sg doesnt link them, does it mean nobody else will find the blog? Remember the two govt scholars who got into trouble for the comments on their blogs? Even password protection didnt help for one.

And herein lies the bigger question: are bloggers aware that they are exposing their thoughts to the whole world forever irretractably when they publish on the internet? I think mainstream media is doing a lot of people a big disfavour by calling blogs an "online diary". New bloggers assume that since this is a diary, it comes with associated privacy rights, except there is none.

I think it is very important to drill into new bloggers' this message: there is no privacy on the internet. What you write in your blog today can come back to haunt you any time in the next hundred years. A lot of people are watching the net, including powerful super senior civil servants if you step on their toes. Dont publish anything you wouldnt repeat out loud to your children, your future spouse or to strangers in a bus stop.

budak said...

Self-censorship? Haven't you considered that tomorrow.sg's cavalier attitude to personal blogs is more likely to produce greater self-censorship, restricted-access blogs and offline musings, resulting in a poorer blogosphere for that? And saying that judgement comes after the fact and that one is merely sifting out contributed blog-leads (without any agenda at that!) sounds like passing the buck to me.

But well, in a way, I suppose every publication (including online efforts) ultimately becomes a twisted mirror-image of the audience it seeks and the minds it feeds. Discretion and responsibility seems to be non-requisites for editorial jobs nowadays.

Mr Wang Says So said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr Wang Says So said...

Jseng writes:
"I repeat: judgement is only after that fact. No one can predict the reaction of any posting we publish."

Mr Wang feels that a point has been missed. If you think that a blogger would want privacy and you nevertheless hyperlink to her blog in an attempt to draw unwanted attention to her, then that's already wrong.

The damage is greater if many people click on your hyperlink; the damage is lesser if fewer people click on your hyperlink. But the very act of hyperlinking is already wrong in the first place, in Mr Wang's opinion.

If you are a Tomorrow editor, you should all the more be circumspect and careful. An average, low-traffic blogger who hyperlinks to other people's blogs is like a man who takes a poodle out for a walk. The poodle may bark and scare little children.

A Tomorrow editor who hyperlinks to other people's blogs is like a man who takes a pit bull for a walk. The pit bull may attack and kill little children. If you are taking a pit bull out for a walk, you have a greater moral duty to be prudent and careful. You should not forget your mouth gag; your big stick; and your extra-strong steel leash.

If in doubt, please keep your pit bull at home. In a cage.

カイ said...

So, does it mean that all local blogs have to include a disclaimer or notice and sign not to be linked on every post?

Drawing parallels here, I think local bloggers don't have to adhere to a local blog portal's policies just because its editors said so, like a country's citizens don't necessarily have to adopt a government policy just because its politicians think it's good.

Anyway, Tomorrow's unapparent attempt to mimic US blog portal Boing Boing seems to be a real dud. Most of Boing Boing's content centers on interesting articles I actually want to read about. Although the editors may argue that it's still early days at Tomorrow, no pun intended, but then much of their content are more like what gossipmongers with too much time on their hands at the wet market would babble about (e.g., who has got an unwanted pregnancy, who's the richest girl, who had ten ex-boyfriends, etc).

Mr Wang Says So said...

ac writes:
"Just imagine posting about the AcidFlask case 2 weeks after the dust have settled. Or starting to talk about the NKF after the government has started the media clampdown on the topic."

Put your hand on your heart and tell me that you honestly think that any blogger would have been upset, on the grounds of invasion of privacy, by any other blogger for hyperlinking to any of the first-mentioned blogger's posts about the Acidflask case or the NKF case.

I think that this would only have been possible in truly exceptional and unusual circumstances, such as if the first-mentioned blogger was TT Durai's daughter (say, if she was blogging about how her family members were reacting to the scandal and had not realised that her blog could be discovered by others).

And yes, in that situation, depending on the content of the posts, Mr Wang might well agree that TT Durai's daughter's privacy ought to be respected.

lakeside girl said...

Singaporean, some of your statements are fallacious on a few grounds. The mainstream media was NOT the one who started the "blog automatically becomes personal" theory.

A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.

If you want, push the blame to Blogger itself, if there was any finger-pointing to be done. Every new blogger is greeted with this and they draw their own conclusions from this.

Sure, we can all agree on the "technical" definition of a blog - a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual. (Unless you don't even agree with that?) But why are people STILL debating over whether Tomorrow.sg has the right to link to personal blogs?!

The answer is YES.

But is it ETHICAL for them to do so without permission from the writer him/herself - thats the more important issue at hand.

jseng said...

"Mr Wang feels that a point has been missed. If you think that a blogger would want privacy and you nevertheless hyperlink to her blog in an attempt to draw unwanted attention to her, then that's already wrong."

Did you miss this part? "The editorial discussion on the post is very long and not for me to republish here. But I can say the conclusion is that we do not believe TF meant her blog to be private."

Try another argument.

Anonymous said...

You did not think so? How sure were you? 50%? 70%? 90%? How about asking the lady HERSELF to be sure? Is she even aware of the consequences in the first place?

Anonymous said...

It's funny how you'd rather venture into a long, possibly rambling editorial discussion, rather than just dropping a simple email to the lady in question.

That is something i really fail to understand.

Mr Wang Says So said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr Wang Says So said...

Jseng said: "... judgement is only after that fact. No one can predict the reaction of any posting we publish."

Mr Wang was referring to the above comment when he said:

"Mr Wang feels that a point has been missed. If you think that a blogger would want privacy and you nevertheless hyperlink to her blog in an attempt to draw unwanted attention to her, then that's already wrong."

The "her" in Mr Wang's above comment is generic. It applies equally to any blogger whose privacy Tomorrow has violated.

In other words, if hyperlinking is wrong in a particular case, then it is wrong. The moral wrongness of it does not depend on how many people then click on Tomorrow's hyperlink; and their "subsequent reaction".

Mr Wang has already crystallised the issue for all to see and judge for themselves. Now Mr Wang shall wait and see whether any Tomorrow editor has the courage to step forward and simply say:

"1. Yes, I acknowledge the importance of voluntarily respecting other people's privacy.

2. Henceforth I shall bear that in mind, when I decide what to publish or not publish on Tomorrow.

3. If in doubt, I shall simply ask that particular blogger, instead of engaging in long rambling editorial discussions which I then tell people that I am not at liberty to disclose."

Anonymous said...

i digress.. but the caption "Just as well she didn't live to see Tomorrow" might be a little offensive.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a property rights model should be applied here.

You link me, pay me the dues.

Agagooga said...

I might note that we have not, to date, received a single request by a blog author to take down our link to them. If they have no problems with our linking them, why should anyone else get upset on their behalf?

We're not asking people to adhere to our linking policies, just to make clear that they should make if clear if they do not wish to be linked, by us or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I find the Tomorrow editors way too self-important. If someone has written something seemingly personal, just don't link without thinking! That isn't self-censorship, just plain human decency.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang:

This is from one of Singabloodypore's recent posts. It is extracted from Reporters Without Borders:

"6. The Internet combines various types of media, and new publishing tools such as blogging are developing. Internet writers and online journalists should be legally protected under the basic principle of the right to freedom of expression and the complementary rights of privacy and protection of sources." - D W

darryl said...

agagooga:

Maybe because they know it's not going to help in damage control?? And have you realised how many blogs so far have shut down after Tomorrow.sg has linked to them and put them on a public platform?

AC said...

The point I was making about AcidFlask and NKF, was that the news were news only during that period of time. After which it becomes old news. Stale. Overtaken by events.

If we were to require the editors (part-timers) to debate issues on whether linkages might cause emtional distress, if we were to require editors to get permissions to linkages, then news probably won't be news anymore with layer after layers of delays.

The basic and unchanging fact about stuff published on the internet - it’s open to one and all.

And it’s not just Tomorrow.sg or similar websites that can cause ‘invasions’ of blogs. Already I see that there are blog search engines - just type in the keywords and viola~! pages of blog links appear!

If the stuff one have on their blog is sensitive, then surely more care must be put in to prevent it from being viewed by unwanted people? Stopping Tomorrow does not equate stopping other equivalent sites. Stopping all these sites does not equate stopping blog searchers either. So are we directing the efforts in the wrong direction to begin with?

ps. if Durai's daugther decides to post her innermost thoughts on a public blog, then I must surely interprete it as her intent to share her point of view with others.

If she posts stuff she do not want the public to see on a public blog, then she is doing a dumber thing than her dad suing the SPH.

myrick said...

The password-protect options are there for a reason. Everything else on the net is public. If someone wanted something private they could even limit it to e-mailing it to a handful of friends or - heaven forbid - keeping an actual handwritten diary. The default for blogging is that most bloggers appreciate links, Tomorrow understands this, the protestors don't.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the kind of thing I worry about when I learnt about Tomorrow. I think I even wrote a rant somewhere because I disagree with happy-linky behavior. The crux of the matter is a simple concept of respect. But then I guess respect just ain't worth a lot of peanuts these days.

We may not be required by any written law to knock on someone's door before we enter the room (or a colleague's cubicle for that matter) - which can be assumed to be a somewhat self-prescribed private space within a public area - but we are taught that it would be polite to do so. And it's really as simple as that. I don't see why it shouldn't be applied in this case.

It's ludicrious to justify happy-linky behavior with the whole internet-is-a-public-domain argument. Sometimes people choose blogging over conventional diary-writing because of convenience. It beats writing by hand, and helps the writer to consolidate writings within an easily-accessible medium. And the best function of blogging is how it allows friends to keep up with their friends' lives. I dare say that most bloggers who keep personal blogs started blogging with the idea that only people whom they reveal their blog url to will read their blog. There is a faith (however mistaken that may be) that their blog will never be found out by other people, given the sheer amount of information in cyberspace.

It may have been a woefully deluded thought, but it's still no invitation on a blogger's part to be 'victimised', and it's no excuse for anyone to abandon common decency. Why must bloggers with privacy issues be tortured with paranoia of being found out, and be forced to lock their entries when the entries are there for the convenience of access for a selected group of people in the first place, when a simple solution would be for people to play nice? The internet belongs to everyone after all. There must be a compromise, and asking before linking is not rocket science mission.

- Karen

kittykao said...

Look. Private spheres, public spheres. Everytime tomorrow has this debate, people assume that that IRL people don't create their little private bubbles in a wider public space; that people don't hive off specks of their personal space into a more public but still restricted environs.

Everytime tomorrow has this debate, its editors pretend that this isn't possible, that everyone is either online to be gawked by everyone else and therefore becomes fair game for happy linking, or everyone who values their privacy should go offline or PAY for a password protected blog.

chemgen said...

Is everything out there without password protection or disclaimers private? I think not. The web is a whole bunch of connected documents and as long as it can be found 'openly' and 'legally', people can link what they want when they want. This is Tomorrow's persuasive argment.

Then there is the issue of discretion. Some issues are best kept private even though they can be spread. This is Mr Wang's stand. Sadly, some people don't have discretion and they believe in absolutes because either they don't know better or just don't care.

Before we claw each other to shreds, let's move to other hypothetical examples besides the naked man one. Would Tomorrow hyperlink to website teaching people how to make bombs and blow up people (so far no) or to racist websites spreading hate (I remember Tomorrow has been there done that and sadly given that blog undue publicity). I think Tomorrow would practice discretion and not link to a terrorist bomb making website (but I might be unfortunately wrong though). If that is the case, so there is no absolute linking policy after all and discretion is best. But that does not mean Tomorrow cannot talk about that bomb-making website.

There is a way out between a free-for-all linking and discretion. One way is to talk about a supposed controversial blog (now what is controversial is another matter) but not give its URL or details about how to find it. So people can read about the blog's contents and if they really realy want to, they can search for it. This is a quick and dodgy way of balancing priorities but it is something to think about when we blog.

lakeside girl said...

Hmm i think the comments here are more insightful than those made in *other* blogs.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, I think that there will be one more interesting development to come soon.

Wait and see. I'm keeping mum for now.

geekgeek said...

Condensed version - All I'm asking for is common courtesy, which unfortunately is *not* the stance taken by some of the Tomorrow editors and their adoring hordes, who keep going back to their "if you publish it on the internet it's fair game" argument.

Please don't cry foul in the future if somebody slams a cream pie in your face next time and says "You appear in public, you're fair game" (I know, bad analogy, but since everyone seems to enjoy analogies...)

myrick said...

"'if you publish it on the internet it's fair game' argument," ... would probably be the one that holds up in a court.
And this nonsense of "asking permission" to link to someone would slow down the blogosphere to a crawl. It's not courtesy it's luddite idiocy.
I blogrolled Mr Wang without 'asking permission' - and even linked to this entry without asking permission.
Finally, you do not have to 'pay' for password protection. Blogsome, which uses a better blogging engine than blogspot (wordpress) is free and allows password protection of the entire blog or a singal post. For blogger, scripting works: http://pchere.blogspot.com/2005/02/simple-scripts-to-password-protect.html

akikonomu said...

"'if you publish it on the internet it's fair game' argument," ... would probably be the one that holds up in a court.

Okay, show us a case where it actually held up in court.

The Legal Janitor said...

Trackback

Mr Wang Says So said...

Myrick, I took a quick look at your blog. The thing is, looking at the kind of subject matter you cover, it is very unlikely that you would be invading anyone's privacy with your choice of hyperlinks. You mostly focus on current affairs and social trends etc.

I don't think you would be interested, for example, in hyperlinking to a blogger blogging about how her boyfriend made her pregnant and then jilted her.

If you WERE interested in this kind of subject matter, which I very much doubt, then I think you would be acting fairly and decently if you asked for permission first. All the more so, if your blog is a high-traffic one likely to bring a lot of attention to that hapless blogger.

That is what I'm saying.

pacific202 said...

I am no lawyer... but i think hor after going through so many sut sut comments from both sides i have this to say...







*drum roll*







*drum roll encore*






Perhaps the question to ask is:
Is it in the interest of the public to link?

Some rules applicable in the real world could apply in cyber realm as well. Say a whistleblower is entitled to protection. Or if someone suka hyperlink then what recourse does the blog owner has? The A*Star episode could have been a test case, but alas it wasn't to be.