: As with many controversies these days, online is where one of the most important battles are being fought at the moment.
Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is in an ongoing tussle with a certain segment of Singaporeans and other concerned residents, over the issue of the bottlenose dolphins they have in captivity.
Taste aside (seriously? Live sea animals at a place of leisure is so 1985), it is no simply a matter of wildlife versus capitalism — it has called to the fore many topics to consider, key along them the issue of how cyber “wars” are fought or won.
In a nutshell, for those unfamiliar with the issue at hand, the resort and casino operator imported 25 dolphins, with the eventual hope of having them perform at the RWS theme park when it is completed. While in training in Langkawi, two dolphins died. The individual who sold them the dolphins has also since renounced the dolphin-export industry and turned repentant environmentalist (despite having sold the most number of dolphins in recent years).
RWS insists it has broken no laws and is fully equipped to take care of the dolphins in a humane manner. Concerned Singaporeans and residents, as well as the international conservation community, has not relented.
I’ll let others more qualified in issues of dolphin maintenance chime in on the topic, since I understand this is a tricky topic to handle without bias on either side. As an individual with no knowledge of animals beyond domestic cats and dogs, I do not feel qualified to take a strong side either way (although I clearly lean closely to one of them).
However, as a tech professional with more than a passing interest in things that happen online, why they happened, which parties are involved and what it means for everyone, I observed what is perhaps the first large concerted effort through social media to rally to an environmental cause.
I saw everyone — every single one of my friends, it seems, attend the Saddest Dolphin concert in Hong Lim Park, sign petitions, post on their friends’ walls to inform them of the dolphin fiasco, and speak out strongly on the issue. I probably was not the only one — last I checked, more than 100000 people liked the page, and more than 650000 had signed a relevant petition.
RWS now believes they have a case for cyber harassment against ACRES, which has been seen to be the main force behind all the free the dolphins “movement”. Regardless of which side you take, or even if you don’t take a side at all, this is an interesting moment to observe.
When it comes to cyber harassment or cyber bullying, we in Singapore have hardly given it a moment’s thought. And yet it affects us or the people around us — children are now going online younger, and we can’t police their online activities forever, so how do we talk to them about protecting themselves? Similarly, few businesses are invested enough in social media to understand what strategies they can adopt. RWS may not have the most spotless record, but this case and the risks at hand allow us to start considering these difficult topics now.
How we deal with this as a nation and an online, deeply connected society will set various precedents for us. Some maturity and willingness to negotiate will reflect the maturity of the two organisations. How we respond to accusations or defense of “cyber harassment” in the future.
For a nation’s electorate to mature, we have to expect them to think critically and to think through difficult issues. Regardless of where someone stands, we would do well to think long and hard about cyber harassment and online methods of organisation as a whole. For companies and institutions, to embrace and adapt to the times, to a new era where they can no longer operate in a vacuum and not believe the public will not judge them for anything; for individuals and others, to think about their methods of “protest” online, conducting such activities with honesty, and verifying information received online so as to give everyone a fair chance.
No matter how this plays out, it will have been yet another interesting chapter in our colourful online world where debate and strong opinions live on — which can be a good thing.
“Netizens” knocking on your door a little louder so you’ll hear
: It was decided a long time ago, that we would have an Asian twist to the attractions afforded by Integrated Resorts like Resorts World Sentosa. Our Asian, twisted types need our fill of beauty pageants, sharksfin soup, performing circus animals and if we made our version of the movie “Free Willy”, it would be titled “Catch Willy & Make Him Do Tricks”. It is also of no surprise that the management of Resorts World Sentosa have labelled persistent and perhaps repetitive messages regarding their insistence on keeping wild dolphins captive, on their Facebook Page as “Cyber-Harassment”.
So far, I haven’t heard a peep from any mainstream media (MM) source that opposes this particular labeling. Then again, mainstream media sources here insist on calling people who use the internet (that’s everyone) “netizens” even though we don’t call people who use the phone “phonizens”.
The fact of the matter is that RWS could well be accused of having cyber-deafness – the pleas of ACRES and a substantial number of the public have either not been heard or have been purposely ignored. As a rather large company with a rather large stake in the country’s economy and environment, this could be construed as very irresponsible behavior. We’re not talking about anonymous spamming or hacking or posting of hate literature aimed at humiliating a weaker person unable to defend himself. We’re talking about concerned citizens who care enough to try to make their voices heard, and who hope that this big corporation is as concerned and caring enough as they are.
So, guys, that”s not cyber harassment. That”s a bunch of what you call “netizens” knocking on your door a little louder so you’ll hear.
ACRES launched a social media campaign to free 25 dolphins headed to Resorts World. It appears the group posted repeatedly on the RWS Facebook wall. The issue took on a new twist when Resorts World temporarily suspended public posts, citing cyber-harassment. The resort operator also asserted that the dolphins would be well taken care of. Here’s some background on the incident, and a few definitions of cyber-harassment.