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Social Issues and Advocacy: Live Streaming’s Role in Singapore


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In light of that, more efforts are put by content creators in creating exciting content to keep the viewers engaged and even attracting new viewers. An example of that would be the hiring of DanzHause and Amokachi, two professional FIFA players, to livestream two hours of FIFA 2017 play on YouTube Gaming to promote the upcoming launch of FIFA 2017 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. In Japan, Japan is now also seeing an increase in live streaming viewership, particularly on YouTube Live, and various live-streaming services are seeing an increase in interest among the younger demographic due to the success of mobile applications games like Monster Strike and Pokemon Go. With the popularity of live streaming Singapore still on the rise, it would only be a matter of time before the globe is connected through live streaming Singapore itself.

Having realized the success of Twitch, YouTube, a video sharing service which was primarily focused on edited and produced videos, resorted to creating a live streaming service in April 2016. During the initial launch of YouTube Gaming, key gaming YouTube broadcasters would stream themselves using the new live streaming service. Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Dota 2 team had also attempted broadcasting a live game using the live streaming service. As of April 29, 2016, South Korean professional video game streamer Faker was able to attract 245,100 live viewers on Azubu while streaming him playing solo queue. However, 4 months later on September 27, 2016, he had achieved an outstanding 330,000 live viewers on a single stream broadcasted on YouTube Gaming. This increase in competition with Twitch has led to more exclusive partnerships with content creators, as well as more importantly, increasing the revenue for them by providing a better profit sharing program.

The advancement of technology in the 21st century and the ease of accessibility have enabled individuals to obtain information and news faster than ever, transcending national and cultural boundaries. It is undeniably an age where “The world is my home,” an aphorism often used to describe how the internet has brought the world closer. In recent years, live-streaming services or platforms have increased in popularity in numerous developed countries around the world. In 2014, Twitch, a platform that primarily focuses on video game live streaming, was reported as being the fourth largest source of peak internet traffic in the United States. With the release of the app and game Pokemon Go, Twitch experienced an increase in viewership in July 2016, eventually leading the app and the game to the top 15 mobile app revenue rankings. This eventually led to a number of Pokemon Go’s sponsored live streaming going viral and doubling the amount of sponsored videos.

Impact of Live Streaming on Social Issues in Singapore

Stepitup is a local non-governmental organization that aims to champion social and political change by promoting civic and political education among young people in Singapore. According to Mr. Vignes Mourthi, president of STEP, video documentary is one of the best methods to heighten political and social consciousness due to its real-life representations and flexibility in delivery. Live streaming would serve as a more convenient and quicker way to achieve the same goals.

Live streaming allows for uncensored broadcasting of information, which is essential for all the latest developments in contemporary social issues. For instance, the events surrounding the death of Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, Singapore’s 5th president, were captured in videos taken by ordinary citizens. These videos showed the queues of people waiting to pay their last respects and the crowded, stuffy conditions of Parliament House. They were shown on TV and even sparked a debate in Parliament regarding whether ministers should have air-conditioned cars. This video evidence is invaluable in providing visual support to the recorded history of today’s events. However, some parties would still deem it “not suitable” for public broadcast. Internet video sharing and live streaming would have been the only way to properly air this information.

Live streaming has greatly impacted social issues in Singapore. It has provided a more private way to address social issues because there are fewer restrictions on what can be aired live or through live streaming, compared to more conventional methods such as publishing in newspapers or having demonstrations. More sensitive topics may be heavily censored by the Media Development Agency, putting the company in trouble if they decide to proceed. An example would be the controversial film “One Nation Under Lee,” which was banned in 1992.

Accessibility of Information

Accessibility to this information may be dependent on the factors mentioned above. At times, the information might not be available to everyone, and there can be incidences of information censorship. Thus, it is a known fact that the older generation of individuals continues to prefer the traditional media of print and television, as technology and the internet may be foreign and a complex concept to them. With the above factors, live streaming can still be proven to be a more effective way of information sharing compared to traditional media for both the older known and existing new generation. This is because the information is readily available and can be stored up to a certain period. This provides ample time and flexibility for any individual to access streaming videos at any point in time and recommend these sources of information to others. In terms of comprehensive retention and understanding of information, online videos have been reported to be more effective than shows on television in comparison studies at various age levels.

Live streaming of social issues via online platforms such as YouTube can add increased pressure on mainstream media by reporting events that may not be shown in local news and at a faster speed. This allows alternative coverage of certain events at a global scale and makes it easier to be searched and viewed.

Though the internet does provide an easier and quicker way of information sharing, it may not necessarily reach everyone. Sometimes articles or news may be restricted to certain sites and not be publicly available. In the SG context, a series of controversial events in recent years have raised questions about the competence of mainstream media in Singapore. Events such as Mas Selamat’s escape and Little India’s riot have prompted many netizens to voice out opinions that the mainstream media had ‘underreported’ or ‘reluctant to be fully transparent’ with what it knows. The recent saga involving a female foreign worker who was physically and sexually assaulted by her employers, only to be certified medically fit nearly eight months later, if at all, again raises the question if there is competence in reporting news and how fast this news reaches the general public.

The internet has made significant changes in information accessibility. Today’s society is technology-driven and fast-paced. Social media and blogging have become intense mediums for information sharing. With its varied forms such as Twitter, Facebook, social blogs, and online news portals, the internet has allowed individuals to share information and thoughts through closed or open groups at a worldwide level. This level of information sharing is comparatively higher than 10 to 15 years ago, considering the poll results of previous General Elections in Singapore.

Raising Awareness

Raising awareness about social issues is a task esteemed as important for the affected individuals to receive support from the general populace. With the power of information, live streaming has made it possible for organizations to invite renowned speakers from around the world to address certain issues that are of international concern. This is achieved through the speaker sharing their own experiences and knowledge on the issue at hand. The information is then interpreted to the audience through word of mouth, translating of documents or simply having an open discussion on the issue. Predominantly, the information is disseminated by the speaker giving an interview in a one-on-one session, a very effective tool for educating a select group of individuals with undivided attention. An example of this is Kofi Annan and his interview on the UN’s efforts to help the poor. By educating said individuals who are actively participating in helping voluntary welfare organizations or even those who are oblivious to the issue at hand, this creates a ripple effect as people pass on the information to others. With a society that is well informed on international issues, public opinion can be swayed to support efforts to resolve these issues by reinforcing or even changing present policies.

Mobilizing Support

An illustrative example would be from a local charity which supports needy children and families, had encountered difficulties in raising volunteer participation for their activities. By broadcasting the activities that require volunteer help to an audience who is already informed of the issue, more people can be mobilized to support the cause.

The recent episodes have already shown that global citizens are capable of uniting over the Internet and carrying out actions to support a common cause. Depending on the degree of severity of an issue, simple awareness of the actions to support a cause can already influence others to participate. By creating awareness of the support activities, live streaming can help draw participation from people who were already informed of the issue as well as those who were not.

The recent local incidents in Singapore have shown that people are willing to volunteer their services when they know that they are needed, and where and when they are needed. This was seen in the efforts to clean up the recent BKE oil spill, where over a thousand volunteers turned up at various locations to offer their services. Live streaming can help mobilize support by linking interested volunteers or supporters directly to the action area.

When a social issue has successfully raised awareness and gained recognition, the next step would be to encourage others to support the cause. This ranges from fundraising for the cause to participating in activities or efforts that will bring about resolution to the issue. Traditional methods of support mobilization involve public demonstrations or talks, but with the constraints of time and busy lifestyles, people are less inclined to participate in these activities.

Challenges and Concerns

The riot in Little India in 2013 is a good example of this, as videos taken by onlookers were uploaded to YouTube and shared all around. These videos often had no context or factual information about what was happening, but some were taken as representative of the incident as a whole. This sparked fears of further unrest and caused alarm to people planning to visit the area. Sociopolitical events such as this are especially susceptible to biased or fake information spreading, and the widespread visibility of such content only increases its impact. In addition to the negative social impact, there are potential legal implications for people who unknowingly spread false information. Live stream viewers are exposed to a huge amount of information of varying credibility. This ease of access to information is beneficial, but due to the risks outlined, it is also cause for concern.

Another challenge that seems to come up time and again with the advent of new technologies is the spread of misinformation. The rapid speed at which information can spread through live streaming can lead to a viralization of fake news. In situations such as natural disasters or political rallies, situations are often chaotic and uncertain, leaving much room for misinformation to be spread. The ability for anyone with a smartphone to live stream an event and broadcast their own commentary means that viewers are subject to an array of unfiltered, unverified information. Though a majority of live streams on social media are benign and posted with no ulterior. All it takes is one video with contentious or false information to go viral and have a significant impact.

Spread of Misinformation

A specific example of misinformation would be the fiasco involving YouTuber JonTron’s debate with streamer Destiny. The argument involved various topics surrounding race and the bell curve theory. During these discussions, JonTron made various misinformed statements that he believed. When considering them today, he no longer holds these views. However, this video and its statements stick with him as it was a live debate, and there are many people who will have been misinformed on JonTron’s views due to not having seen a later clarification.

Live streams take place on various platforms ranging from Twitch or YouTube to social media platforms such as Facebook Live, with the rise of mobile phone broadcasting. This means that the potential audience for live streams can be very high, depending on the popularity of a streamer. If the information is spread to a large audience, it might become hard to track down and correct every single person who processed the misinformation.

Due to the fact that it is untrue information and is live, the spread of it is difficult to prevent or remove from viewers who witness it being said. The effect of it being a live video means that a false statement has the potential to be spread before the streamer has a chance to correct themselves on the following stream or video. Sometimes, the streamer might even forget they made the statement, and it will stick as a false fact in their content.

Misinformation is information that was not true, but it was believed to be true. It can spread very easily due to the nature of live video being unscripted and sometimes a spur of the moment decision. This is because the video is unscripted, and there are many moments where a streamer might misspeak or say a statement that is not actually true, but they believe it to be true. So, it is not a lie, but it is still misinformation.

Privacy and Security Risks

Continuing from the panoptical metaphor, Orwell’s ‘telescreen’ can be seen as an empirical and cautionary prediction of the internet and live-streaming. Mobile and webcams have allowed for news to be filmed and broadcast by citizens for no commercial gain through video-sharing websites such as YouTube. This has been hailed as a leap forward for democracy and freedom of speech, allowing for incidents to be documented when they might otherwise have been ignored or denied. However, the live-streaming of events is often hasty and unedited and whilst this may preserve genuine frankness and emotion, it can also lead to the broadcast of information that is false, unclear or that the perpetrator would have wished to conceal. The rapid dissemination of events via social media can mean that retractions and corrections rarely catch up with the circulated footage, rendering it the ‘official’ account of events in the eyes of many. This has the potential to compound the perpetuation of stereotypes and discrimination discussed in 3.1. with the added testimony of ‘evidence’. Any data that is recorded online is permanent and indelible, regardless of the intentions of its broadcaster, and the sheer volume of internet information means that it is all too easy to ‘track down the original sinner’ as O’Sullivan puts it. The Asian-attributed tendency toward ‘loss of face’ and embarrassment in public failure therefore becomes a sizable risk factor for the negatively stereotyped and Singaporeans in general, whether or not they are guilty of the accused act.

Ethical Considerations

Another touchy issue in Singapore is that of politics. In Singapore, politics is a very sensitive subject and the government has a firm stance on what they feel is acceptable discourse on politics. There are real fears that the internet will become a sort of “wild west” where anything goes, leading to a situation where a healthy exchange of ideas becomes mudslinging and character assassination. Though recent events have shown that it is possible to sue bloggers for defamation, should blogging and chat sessions about politics become more prevalent in the future, it will be difficult to sift through and take offenders to task.

Looking at things from an ethical perspective, livestreaming draws in a lot of issues. Unlike traditional media (TV, radio or print) where there are gatekeepers that help uphold societal norms, on the internet, there are no such gatekeepers and at most times, anything also can. This upsets the delicate balance in a multi-racial, multi-religious society like Singapore. Material that is sensitive to certain races or religions can be posted on the internet, leading to discord between the different races in Singapore. A lot of the advocates for racial and religious harmony fear that if an incident like the 1964 racial riots were to happen again, the internet would be a very potent tool in fanning the flames of hatred between races.

Legal Implications

YouTube’s possible shift to become the mainstream hub for video content means that issues of today will resurface tomorrow. With live streaming platforms being a stepping stone into mainstream video, social issues and advocacy of such content must be done to protect it.

Singapore has recently been a victim of the strict YouTube copyright laws with the removal of all of Mediacorp’s content due to a licensing issue. The past broadcasts by Mediacorp of the National Day Rally speeches by the prime minister saw key governmental issues addressed, and it is clear that the Singapore government desires to have such content included as national heritage with it being protected under fair use for public interest and welfare.

An incident that occurred was regarding copyright infringement. YouTube’s system is directly linked to automatic DMCA takedowns of content if copyright is detected. This system led to the removal of a stream of the debate because it matched content in the rights holder’s ID system, leading to the debate being temporarily taken off YouTube. This shows that even government broadcast is not safe from being pulled down for copyright infringement and may lead to questions on what is protected under fair use.

An example of this occurred during the US presidential elections. The three debates that took place between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were all aired on YouTube. In a spike from 2012, more people tuned into YouTube than traditional TV to watch the debates. This is a result of Google’s outreach to connect TV to YouTube, and one may argue that this is the future of video content.

Streaming content to social media platforms blurs the lines on what is viewed as traditional media without including internet broadcasters into a new category. What this means is that traditional media laws do not apply in the same way to internet broadcasting. Although the content may be the same, the same laws and regulations do not apply.

Advocacy and Social Change through Live Streaming

In addition, the casual and often personal nature of live streaming interactions helps to humanize authority figures to the masses, making it easier for citizens to relate to and understand their perspectives. E-politician, a member of the Taiwan Live Streamer’s Society, has the hopes that through live streaming, the less savory interactions in politics can be revealed and corrected. With favorable interactions from both citizens and authorities, there is potential for the instigation of major changes in the typical top-down approach of policy implementation.

Victoria Ippolito analyzes a live stream interview where an elderly villager questions a Chinese official regarding compensation for land acquisition. With no success in obtaining a formal interview, the official is caught off guard and the villager gets an unscripted response while the entire ordeal is documented. Recording interactions like these can help keep authorities accountable for their words and reveal what occurs behind closed doors.

Despite the negative implications, social live streaming provides a means for citizens to voice their thoughts and concerns directly to decision makers. Previously, public forums have been the primary avenue of direct citizen feedback. Live streaming offers an alternative that is efficient and accessible to the masses. By recording and broadcasting individuals’ interactions with authorities, live streamers can build strong cases for issues along with evidence of unmet citizen needs.

Empowering Marginalized Voices

In recent years, the internet and freedom of speech have been used to catalyze democracy and human rights in Singapore. With the next general election widely expected to be a watershed one, Singaporeans can expect more political discourse and greater debates on issues and policies that will shape the nation’s future. Live streaming offers an alternative and direct information dissemination platform from the mainstream media for advocacy groups to try and influence and voice public opinion.

Advocacy for the expression of marginalized voices in Singapore has been a central theme for various civil society organizations. Social media, especially live streaming, offers a novel and effective platform for these groups to project their narratives to a wider audience. Information technology has reduced the tyranny of distance to place and enabled connectivity and networking among individuals who face common issues, be they based on geography, special circumstances, or experiences. In particular, live streaming offers opportunities for real-time interaction and feedback, which can provide an empowering and enriching experience for individuals to share their stories and insights as it happens.

Amplifying Social Movements

In terms of amplifying social movements with the aim of attracting more people to support a cause or join a movement, the potential ‘viral’ nature of live streaming is a powerful tool. YouTube Live and other live streaming platforms allow viewers to easily record the stream and share it, creating further awareness. Dynamic social movements have used live streaming to gain a large international audience. For example, the Free My Internet campaign, advocating against internet licensing regulations, used live stream to broadcast a forum featuring NMPs and academics, and it brought in viewers from all over the world. Viewers are also able to interact with live stream content by posting chat, and this interactivity with the movement’s players can further engage viewers and turn them into active supporters of a cause.

The ability to present independent accounts of events is crucial for the success of any social movement, and increased government intervention and control of the media and traditional channels of information dissemination have led social movements to turn to the Internet as a space for providing such alternative narratives and accounts of events. Live streaming has been an important tool because its immediacy and direct audio-visual form make it difficult for authorities to censor or claim that events were misrepresented. This was evidenced when activists at the ASEAN People’s Forum used live streaming to provide an alternative account of the event after they claimed their peaceful protests were disrupted by violent pro-Government gangs, but official accounts of the disruption were not reported by local media.

Social movements in Singapore are constantly being undermined by state intervention in the ‘official’ accounts of events that social movements provide. For example, local newspapers reported that the speeches at Speakers’ Corner made by the two South Korean delegates protesting against the construction of the International Youth Park were incendiary and they were subsequently deported. This portrayal was disputed by the South Korean students who claimed that their speeches were deliberately misrepresented in an attempt to discredit their protests, which were an embarrassment to the Singapore Government as the park was constructed despite the protest.

Influencing Policy and Decision Making

The primary and secondary data found matched the cause and effect of the event and provided good evidence that the protests had been a cause for change in policy.

The protests surrounding the impeachment were carefully documented through video and photographs, which were posted on internet news sites and personal internet blogs. This information would have been scattered across various news articles and snippets, making it difficult for a researcher to piece together the event. However, through an internet search, the researchers were able to gather a large amount of media and interview several participants in the protests and during the preparation for the policy change in 2009. This data was easily compiled with the previous knowledge of the impeachment and protests and served as good evidence that the protests had caused a change in policy.

In a case study that examined the effect of the impeachment of the South Korean President at the end of 2004, it was found that the impeachment was triggered by a specific event that was widely known by the public due to its broadcast. This event was a protest led by a student, which resulted in a clash with the police during a demonstration against the death of a motorist struck by a U.S. armored vehicle. The main outcome of the impeachment was the president being impeached by the National Assembly. The President challenged the impeachment in the Constitutional Court, where it was upheld, requiring 6 months of preparation for an election. The impeachment eventually led to a change in policy, but nothing significant occurred during the election, requiring another 6 months of preparation for the next president to take action, which was revealed in 2010.

In the political arena, policy change and its effects on societal issues may be difficult to immediately show in the short amount of time given for a news article or televised broadcast. The complexity of the topic may also overwhelm efforts to message a specific cause on a news outlet that is willing to cover it. Choi and Coleman’s case study on live streaming video and cellphone cameras in the postmodern protest provides good evidence that this platform of media can provide in-depth analysis of a cause that traditional media cannot provide.

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