States Times Review founder still reaching S’poreans via new Singapore Herald website
A never-ending wild goose chase.
Looks like the wild goose chase has officially started.
What was supposed to happen
Alex Tan, the founder of the States Times Review website, was supposed to have his online reach in Singapore curtailed.
This was after the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Nov. 9 directed Internet service providers here to restrict access to the STR website, following the publication of an article linking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with 1MDB investigations.
This site-restriction measure means that Singapore-based IP addresses have been blocked from accessing the STR site, and effectively, prevented from reading its contents.
But VPN users can still get around this restriction though.
Subsequently, an attempt by the Singapore authorities to get Facebook to remove the STR post sharing the article was unsuccessful, as the social media giant said it has no policy that prohibits alleged falsehoods.
What is happening
After the STR site was no longer available in Singapore, Tan announced he is going to shut it down and claimed he was giving up writing.
But within one day, on Nov. 10, a new website called Singapore Herald was started.
Tan then claimed he had a hand in helping to set up the new website after an offer was made for him to continue with another platform, but he did not make himself its administrator or editor.
Instead, Singapore Herald is allegedly being run by an anonymous person residing in Canada, who is supposedly younger than Tan, and who “holds dual citizenship in Canada and Singapore”.
This anonymous person supposedly reached out to Tan to start the site and was eventually coached about the intricacies of running a platform similar to STR — via a crash course provided by Tan that lasted only a few hours.
All of these claims were made by Tan, without proof.
Singapore Herald interviews STR founder
On Nov. 15, the Singapore Herald site published an interview it supposedly carried out with Tan as a way for him to provide his side of the story.
In it, Tan reiterated the points made in the STR article that was denounced by the Singapore government and which got the site blocked by the authorities, as well as disavowed his association with the Singapore Herald without revealing who is in charge of this new site.
One part of the interview read:
SH: Many Singaporeans have came out in support of your move, and asked you to continue writing. Why did you choose not to continue? You are welcomed to write for Singapore Herald 🙂
AT: Hahah no thank you. I actually long wanted to stop writing because of my life in Australia. I just had a baby girl and I would like to spend more time with her.
SH: You could still write part-time, like ad-hoc basis.
AT: Nah. Part of the reason I shut down States Times Review is because I want to transit into an Aussie life. I want to learn more about the country that adopted me, their politics, current affairs and contribute in that direction.
Clearly, the Singapore authorities did successfully curtail the reach of one STR website by applying blunt tools to restrict its access overnight.
However, the operator or operators of such sites can equally bypass any blockages by setting up a similar or many similar sites almost overnight as well.
If this can be kept up, it will lead to a cat-and-mouse game, given the low barriers to entry for starting websites that supposedly propagate misinformation.
Moreover, this can be done across transnational boundaries, given that Tan has been based in Australia for a few years now.
What is the word on the street?
But it appears Singaporeans are not that easily taken in by the antics of STR and Singapore Herald.
Even the more cynical observers of Singapore politics on the Hardware Zone forum have called out Singapore Herald for its game of smoke and mirrors:
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