One of the early promises of the Net was its ability to democratise, to level the playing field.
Then the Net became ubiquitious, Facebook and others let the barbarians and trolls in to play and many of us got disenchanted with it.
So it is particularly heartening then to read about the power of the Net to level the playing field between Singapore blogger Roy Ngerng in the David corner and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Goliath corner.
Roy had been asking questions about how the Singapore Government has been using, or abusing, its funds. Lee didn’t like the criticism so he sued Roy.
The legal suit has been the Big Stick that governments and the rick can wield against pesky reporters and writers, who are usually not that well off financially. I remember many years ago in Malaysia when a tycoon took out a suit against one of the big names in journalism M.G.G. Pillay for something he wrote.
M.G.G. spiritedly tried to fight it but the pressure of having to pay something beyond what he could make if he lost the suit took its toll. I think it broke him to a certain extent.
But now, thanks to the Net, we have crowd funding, like what Roy has resorted to. The implications of his action, and his initial success at raising up to S$50,000 with little effort, has huge political implications.
It now means that writers and bloggers need no longer be that afraid of the crippling legal suit, especially if they are writing something critical about a government, institution or individual that is not publicly popular.
Sue me? I’ll crowd fund my law suit. let’s see you in court. Libel laws are still important, as with the principle of the right of the aggrieved party to sue for libel, but in this instance at least the scales of Justice have been tipped to be more even.