Duo behind The Real Singapore still on bail, still in Singapore
The duo allegedly behind The Real Singapore (TRS) were back at the Criminal Investigation Department yesterday.
The two weeks' bail for Miss Ai Takagi, a Japanese-Australian, and Mr Robin Yang Kaiheng had expired.
But if the pair were hoping to return to their Brisbane apartment for their new university term, they were disappointed.
The New Paper understands that the students at the University of Queensland had their bail extended and their application to return to Australia rejected.
The couple again declined to speak to TNP but a relative, believed to be Mr Yang's father, spoke briefly.
The man, who stood at the foyer of the building while the two were inside, said cryptically: "Everybody has his own opinion."
Miss Takagi, 22, and Mr Yang, 26, are accused of embellishing a post on TRS. (See report below)
TNP reported the duo's arrest in February and it was picked up by Japanese and Australian media.
An Australian law professor said the same post would likely have been deemed a crime in Australia too.
"The law says as long as somebody in Australia feels a public posting offends, insults, intimidates or humiliates a person because of their ethnicity, sex, disability or age, then there may be grounds for an investigation," said Mr Michael Crowley, senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University's School of Law and Justice.
And public postings include those on the Internet.
Australian Hate Speech laws apply even when the inciting of hatred is done abroad.
"For as long as the comment incites hate and an Australian is offended by the comment, then yes, a complaint - which may lead to legal action - can be made."
Cyber racism is classified as an act of racism under the Racial Discrimination Act, a legislation introduced in 1975.
Mr Crowley said: "If there are grounds to pursue the matter, a conciliation via the Australian Human Rights Commission could be the first resolution point. Otherwise, it can escalate to the courts."
But if action is taken in Singapore, they cannot face double jeopardy, he said.
HATE SPEECH LAW
Hate speech laws also exist in Canada, Britain and many parts of Europe.
Does Singapore need a law that polices hate speech?
Singapore Management University's (SMU) Associate Law Professor, Mr Eugene Tan, said: "The current legislative arsenal, from the Penal Code to the Sedition Act to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, is adequate to deal with hate speech."
Hate speech is presently policed by the Sedition Act, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (which monitors discussions relating to race and religion), and the Undesirable Publications Act.
The last Act deals with any person making unpleasant or offensive publication with regards to race or religion that is likely to cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill will or hostility between different racial or religious groups.
Mr Tan said: "Depending on the facts of the case and the severity of the transgression, the various laws enable the Attorney-General to calibrate the necessary enforcement action.
"It appears that the Sedition Act is used for more severe cases where the alleged hate speech promotes feelings of ill will and hostility between different racial, religious, or linguistic groups of Singapore."
The Act was first used on bloggers for racists posts in 2005.
Is Sedition too blunt a tool?
Mr Tan said: "Effectively, under the Sedition Act, there is a range of punishment that can be meted out depending on the severity of the offence, the offender and any mitigating circumstances."
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said: "These topics are sensitive to Singapore because race and religion are emotionally charged topics which could turn ugly quickly if people are not sensitive to the emotions of others.
"All you need is for a irresponsible person to fan the flames of unhappiness and things could get out of hand."
Mr Lars Voedisch, social media and international communications expert, said: "While anonymous sites can be seen as a platform for freedom of speech, where do we draw the line?
"You have to consciously juggle the concept of freedom of speech and draw the line where this freedom of speech starts to hurts others, especially when, editorially, basic checks are not made."
There has been much speculation online about how much TRS makes with its social media platform and website.
TNP learned that Miss Takagi recently bought an apartment in Brisbane. (See report at right.)
Until their arrest, they operated anonymously and looked to be beyond the long arm of the law.
A new law in November has helped.
Mr Voedisch said: "The recent Protection from Harassment Act does help these victims take legal action against any party behind anonymous sites."
The Act protects victims by issuing a Protection Order that requires the harasser (such as the website administrator or publisher) to remove offensive material about the victim.
The Court can direct a notification to be published which alerts readers to false statements and bringing their attention to the facts.
- Additional reporting by David Sun
"You have to consciously juggle the concept of freedom of speech and draw the line where this freedom of speech starts to hurts others..."
- Mr Lars Voedisch, social media and international communications expert
HOW WEBSITES MAKE MONEY
Money is also earned when a reader clicks on an ad that is placed on the web page.
Online advertiser Khairul Azman, 28, says that 30,000 clicks on the ads can earn a site $15,000 monthly.
He explained: "If it costs advertisers $1.50 for every click they get on their ad, conservatively, you can expect the site that hosts the ad to earn 50 cents of the amount.
"However, the amount a website earns for hosting an ad varies from site to site."
Mothership.org said the automated system used by website valuation tool SitePrice.org has TRS earning US$7,918 (S$10,787) while Webuka.com claims TRS earns US$11,619 monthly.
Another similar site, MCJonline, claims TRS' monthly revenue is US$30,690.
The different sites base their findings on different aspects including the domain's age, amount of daily unique views, daily page views and search indexed pages.
The number of each is then applied to their own range of mathematical formulas to get the result.
Mr Khairul said: "Some sites gauge based on clicks while others gauge on views - it all differs based on varying mathematical algorithms."
The TRS Facebook page is clearer. It has over 412,625 followers and most use that as an entry point to the website.
In the quest for more numbers, some websites produce fake stories. Others just fake the number of followers they have.
In December, Instagram purged millions of followers, including those of celebrities, because it emerged some were fake accounts.
Social media and international communications expert, Mr Lars Voedisch, said of the fakes: "You are cheating the people who advertise with you and you're cheating readers to make it seem like you are more influential than you actually are."
ABOUT THE CASE
The Real Singapore (TRS) posted an article on Feb 4 by a contributor claiming that a family from the Philippines sparked the exchange that led to the arrest of three men during the recent Thaipusam incident. But no Filipino family was involved.
The contributor denied writing that a Filipino family was involved and later posted the claim on her Facebook.
TRS had allegedly embellished the original article.
Police arrested Miss Ai Takagi and Mr Robin Yang Kaiheng on Feb 17.
They were nabbed for posting remarks online that could promote ill will and hostility among the different races in Singapore.
A third person linked to TRS, a Malaysian who calls herself Melanie Tan, is believed to be in Australia and has not been arrested.
TNP understands that the duo are still on bail while investigations are ongoing.