Online vigilantes in Singapore naming and shaming expats

Published:  7 May at 6 PM
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Rising xenophobia in Singapore is finding an outlet on social media sites, with expats being blamed for unemployment, congestion on public transport and a lack of affordable housing.

Discontented Singapore locals are running a vigilante campaign on the internet aimed at showing the ‘ugly side’ of foreigners by videoing incidents and posting them online. On Tuesday morning, an expat giving the one-fingered salute to an offending Singaporean motorist attracted comments calling him white trash and others calling for him to be deported or sacked by his employer.

The rising anger on social media has been seen on the streets for several years, with road rage its most obvious manifestation. Naming and shaming expat workers in the city is now a popular occupation, made easy and effective via the huge number of smartphones in the state.

The obvious targets are foreigners who see fit to insult Singapore and its citizens in public or at social events, thus fuelling the undercurrents of resentment already present in Singaporean society. Over-the-top reactions to a British expat’s colourful rants about Singaporeans included death threats to his wife, a former beauty queen, and her family.

The state’s small size allows witch-hunts to develop at an alarming rate, spreading from cyberspace to the real world in a surprisingly short time. PN Balji, a veteran newspaperman and owner of an online publication, puts the rise in hate-speak down to the different styles of journalism now present on the web as well as resentment against the government’s over-lax immigration laws.

According to Balji, in every society there are those who need to vent their anger against unpopular policies, blaming other races for whatever infuriates them the most. Most citizens, he adds, have no negative feelings about foreigners, and many are heavily criticising the keyboard warriors who are fuelling xenophobia.
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