It’s interesting to see more and more Ministers entering the social media space. Foreign Minister George Yeo is well known for being active on facebook and occasionally guest blogging. Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has a blog which discuss about the latest health care policies. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng has a website with links to his Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Picasa accounts. Several ministers like Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Mr Teo Ser Luck were seen replying on blogs. And the list goes on and on…..
I don’t know if they are in the social media space because they truly want to engage the Singapore citizen or because the election is coming. Only time will tell. But despite all these online attempts and engagement, I still feel that the PAP Government is not ready for Social Media. Why? Because they still don’t get it.
A facebook user, Abdul Malik Ghazali, was arrested few weeks ago on charges related to incitement of violence due to comments he made on Facebook. The 27-year-old had urged other users on the social networking site to “burn” Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for community development, youth and sports. I didn’t really follow the news as I was busy for the past few weeks. But I managed to find the screenshot of the offending comment.
I’m sure nobody in the right mind would not take that comment seriously. This is just a facebook comment by a citizen who is venting his frustration. What’s the big deal? We see that all the time in coffeeshop or public transport. Some people are just venting their frustration. The words they use might not be appropriate. But we understand why are they doing it. Because sometimes we feel their frustration too.
Disclaimer: I’m not supporting his action here. I feel that what he has done is wrong. But I don’t think there is a need to arrest that fellow. Why is there a need to arrest him? Did he managed to incite violence? If he does, then he must be some huge online influencer. Seriously people…. take it easy man. It’s just an nasty remark by someone out of anger. No need to be so serious and arrest him right? That coffee that he drank during detention is my tax money. Can don’t waste it like that or not? There are more important crimes out there.
If the Government is serious about using Social Media, they need to understand how Social Media works. Social Media is not just about having a Facebook/Twitter/Blog/YouTube account. Social Media is about engaging. That comment on Facebook was the perfect opportunity for Vivian Balakrishnan to engage his hater. Talk to him. Understand why is he so angry with you. From there, convert him to your side or at least neutralize his anger. But NO! Instead of engaging that person, they decide to arrest him. For what?
If you ask me, I would say the PAP squander an opportunity to engage the citizen online. They are not ready for Social Media yet.