Sunday 27 October 2013

Adultery website Ashley Madison 'not welcome' in Singapore

Politicians and other Singaporeans speak out against plans to start portal here
By Lim Yi Han And Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2013

ASHLEY Madison, a dating website which promotes extra- marital affairs because "life is short", is not welcome in Singapore, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

The Canada-based website, which claims to have about 22 million users in 30 territories, including Japan and Hong Kong, is planning to launch a Singapore portal, according to a report in Wednesday's MyPaper.

"Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which are core to marriage," the minister said in a Facebook post.

Many other Singaporeans also oppose the move. On Wednesday, Facebook page "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore" was set up by a 34-year-old businessman who wanted to be known only as Mr Ng. By yesterday evening, it had drawn more than 14,000 "likes".

Mr Chan said he was "heartened" that many have spoken up against the website.

On her Facebook page, Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social and Family Development, also said she was glad people were taking "a strong stand against the careless promotion of infidelity" on a website that "will only cause heartbreak and pain".

When asked if it would ban any attempt by Ashley Madison to set up a Singapore site, the Media Development Authority (MDA) said it would act against "content providers which violate community standards and social norms".

A spokesman added: "There has been growing public sentiment against the site and MDA will take this into account when evaluating the site, if it is set up."

The MDA maintains a block on 100 websites, most of which are pornographic.

But technology experts said this may not be foolproof.

Local fibre broadband service provider ViewQwest's chief executive Vignesa Moorthy said: "If people want to get around (the block), they can."

Still, the creator of the Facebook page against the site would welcome attempts to block it. "Temptations will always be lurking, but it's very different when it's orchestrated," said Mr Ng.

Reach Family Service Centre director Terence Yow added: "The site provides an easy way for couples to stray in the face of problems. It will probably erode the concept of marriage and the value of family."

Ashley Madison earns money by getting members to pay to contact one another. In Hong Kong, where it also faced protests when it set up a portal there, HK$360 (S$60) allows a user to start a chat with 20 women, for whom the service is free.

Senior executive Koh Chiat Ying, 26, who has been married for nearly a year, said the website is "not morally right", adding: "If you don't love a person, you either get counselling or leave. You don't do things behind his back."

Life is short... cherish your family

I WAS shocked to read about a website that shamelessly promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs, and makes money out of it ("Dating site for cheating spouses 'not welcome'"; last Saturday).

I agree with Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing that this website is not welcome in Singapore.

As a married woman, I am concerned about the website's destructive impact on marriages, families and our society as a whole. It promotes selfish indulgence, and is anti-marriage and anti-family.

The relevant authorities such as the Media Development Authority should block it.

Married couples should protect the sanctity of marriage. In times of marital strife, couples should seek help. Having affairs is just a form of escape.

Encouraging extramarital affairs is like encouraging someone to take drugs. Like drugs, an affair gives a high for the moment but destroys the individual and his family.

Also, society as a whole is not spared the ill effects of broken lives, broken marriages and broken families.

Life is short, cherish your family.

Ong Cheng Hong (Madam)
ST Forum, 29 Oct 2013

What role does the law play in moral issues?

MRS Marietta Koh implied that society's morality is at stake if dating website Ashley Madison is allowed to operate here ("Mind the social costs"; Tuesday).

We need to question her utilitarian analysis of weighing social costs and benefits.

If we can justify blocking Ashley Madison for the reasons proffered by Mrs Koh, can we then block the many avenues for infidelity that already exist, such as chat sites?

To answer that question, we must be clear about what aspect of public morality is at stake, and whether it is grave enough for the community to agree to block the website.

British jurist Patrick Devlin firmly believed that bans can be appropriately placed if they serve to protect the moral structure of society.

If we agree that the introduction of Ashley Madison could possibly cause our society to disintegrate through the loosening of moral bonds, then a ban would be well justified.

However, this should be contrasted with English philosopher John Stuart Mill's view that such bans should be imposed only if they prevent harm to others.

After all, we should respect man as a responsible agent who is cognisant of the decisions he makes.

To this end, we need to question whether society should always be paternalistic.

Regardless of the introduction of the dating site, we should expect married couples to be well aware of the consequences of infidelity.

Our societal view on the matter should really depend on how we view the role of legislation in governing moral issues. There is no easy answer to this if we do not settle the question of whether the law should be separable from morality.

Desmond Chew
ST Forum, 1 Nov 2013

Mind the social costs

I AM heartened that Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing has spoken out categorically against the setting up of Ashley Madison, a Canada-based dating website that encourages extramarital affairs, in Singapore ("Dating site for cheating spouses 'not welcome'"; last Saturday).

What is also reassuring is the ground-up approach opposing the move, exemplified by ordinary citizens like a 34-year-old businessman who set up Facebook page "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore", as well as the groundswell of support for his initiative.

What I find particularly abhorrent is Ashley Madison's "life is short" tagline.

Granted, our mortality should impel us to seize the day, but that should not give us the latitude to live life devoid of a conscience or all scruples.

Such a selfish, egocentric so-called ethos cannot be allowed to take root in our communitarian society.

Moreover, the portal is purely an enterprise seeking to milk profits out of destroying marriages and families.

The social costs, especially the long-term well-being of children whose lives are wrecked by divorce, far outweigh and nullify whatever economic gains such a website can draw in.

There are already several avenues such as chat sites that can abet infidelity, on top of other pressures such as long working hours, which strain marriages.

We certainly do not need another conduit, and such a blatantly distasteful one at that, to further undermine the state of marriage in Singapore.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)
ST Forum, 29 Oct 2013

Speak out as one against infidelity website

ANY right-minded person must surely take umbrage at the reported plan by Ashley Madison to set up an extramarital dating website in Singapore ("Dating site for cheating spouses 'not welcome'"; last Saturday).

Even though Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing has spoken out against the idea, the core message of strong families as a principal pillar of Singapore society bears reinforcing.

What is the world coming to when sacrosanct vows of marital love, fidelity and commitment are brazenly undermined by unscrupulous profit-seekers?

With divorce rates rising globally, the Media Development Authority should nip potential problems in the bud and block such websites.

Speaking from childhood experience, I can attest to the fact that marital infidelity and family disharmony can exact a heavy toll; the trauma, distress and misery inflicted on children can lead to lifetime scarring.

Religious leaders, marital counsellors and educators must speak out unequivocally. We can turn this unsavoury issue into a national rallying point.

Good websites for married couples to rediscover themselves and expand their networks can always be started by entrepreneurial parties.

Michael Gerald Hong
ST Forum, 29 Oct 2013

Morality more than just about sexuality

It is understandable why those who cherish family values take umbrage against the Ashley Madison dating site. However, can morality be legislated?

Adultery is legal, which shows that underlying the law are other factors that are not always in sync with what some regard as moral values per se.

Would it be preferable to make adultery illegal and thus the basis for taking action against sites and other things that promote it? If so, what brave punishments should be devised against such lawbreakers? Or would people baulk at that, and then we should ask: Why?

It is interesting that public morality is conflated with sexuality. (“Extramarital dating site: Society has right to enforce public morality”; Oct 28)

But the idea of the public good is broader than that.

Public morality, which reflects our collective moral input and then some, includes standing up to economic immorality and other social lapses.

Why is the so-called free market privileged in its consumerism and unethical aspects of profit-making, while heartfelt outcries are enunciated over an adult website?

For Parliament to take action against the latter and be unable to enforce its decisions is to make a symbolic gesture.

However, if more is expected from the Government, should it also take firm and perhaps extensive measures against perceived market injustices and the primacy of the profit motive? Or would that be seen as unwarranted interference? If happiness and staying employed are largely on the individual’s shoulders, why is there excitement over public morality, rather than allowing the individual to be responsible for this?

Would those who decry adult websites condemn market injustices? Is not the adult website phenomenon an extension of free enterprise and the sanctity of the consumer, which apparently drives economic growth?

Which is why having a poverty line, for example, is governance by metaphor. It is important for the Government to identify and act decisively on economic disparity and its consequences rather than make symbolic gestures.

This does not imply legislating morality but ensuring policies, frameworks and practices that allow people to bring to the fore our latency to do what is right, despite what cynics may think.

Sigmund Freud pointed out in his book, Civilization and Its Discontents, that people are unhappy fundamentally due to the constraints of social norms and practices that shape moral codes and what is acceptable, and we enhance discomfort by abiding by them blindly. He is not promoting immorality. That we balkanise public morality by the sexual, while leaving the socio-economic to wallow as a rump sphere in itself, shows that psychoanalysis is still relevant today.

Sanjay Perera
TODAY, Voices, 29 Oct 2013

Extramarital dating site: Society has right to enforce public morality

I refer to the report “Extramarital dating site not welcome” (Oct 26), which detailed comments by Mr Noel Biderman, Chief Executive Officer of Avid Life Media, on how blocking Ashley Madison will not prevent acts of infidelity from occurring.

These comments, redolent with liberal assumptions, obscure the more important issues at stake in the public debate. The first is whether society has the right to enforce public morality. If yes, the second is whether it should do so on the issue of websites facilitating adultery. The third is whether there are alternative justifications for banning these websites.

On the first issue, our society has clearly recognised its right to enforce public morality. This is demonstrated by the criminalisation of certain sexual acts such as bestiality and incest even among consenting adults in private, and the more controversial retention of Section 377A.

Our society’s position finds resonance in the words of jurist Patrick Devlin, who argued that society has the right to preserve public morality using the law. This is because society, as a community of ideas, cannot exist without a common morality. Public morality, just like anything else essential to society’s existence, therefore deserves the law’s protection.

The second issue is more controversial. One may argue that, since adultery is legal, society does not consider it a sufficiently grave threat to be criminalised on the basis of public morality. There is, therefore, even less justification for blocking a website that merely facilitates the pursuit of what is legal.

To these, I argue that a clear distinction must be drawn between immorality in the private and public spheres. As legal philosopher H L A Hart emphasised, public decency is a distinct principle for justifying the prohibition of certain conduct, regardless of whether the conduct is immoral or not. Here, websites like Ashley Madison involve not only immorality but also public indecency by facilitating adultery. By openly projecting an alternative lifestyle repugnant to many Singaporeans, they directly offend the values our society holds dear.

In addition, the reaction towards the announcement so far suggests that serious offence has been caused to the public’s feelings. Comparatively, a ban would inflict very little suffering on would-be adulterers, who remain free to pursue their lifestyle choices, albeit via different platforms.

An analogy may also be drawn with Singapore’s pornography laws: While there is no prohibition against the private viewing of pornography, the distribution and other public manifestations of pornography are prohibited.

It is unfortunate that a harmful libertine ethos, represented by Ashley Madison, has found its way into our society. Although adultery is legal, websites that promote and celebrate its practice are publicly offensive and may damage our communal moral ecology by their very existence. If left unchecked at inception, tangible public ramifications are likely to ensue.

I therefore urge the Media Development Authority to send a strong signal reflecting society’s disapprobation towards these websites and Parliament to consider legislating against adultery-related activities in the public sphere.

Makoto Hong Cheng
TODAY, Voices, 28 Oct 2013

Life is short. But choices made in a marriage live on

I join other Singaporeans in commending the strong, singular view expressed by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing regarding the Ashley Madison issue, which has provoked the ire of many. (“Adultery website Ashley Madison ‘not welcome’ in Singapore: Chan”; Oct 25, online)

Singapore has been built on strong family values for the last 48 years. It is our shared responsibility to maintain this. While we may live in a highly transactional and consumeristic society, marriage is not an area to treat with a laissez-faire attitude.

In our pursuit of new ideas that appear progressive, we should never lose sight of our children’s, and their children’s, right to a wholesome family experience, guided by a strong moral compass.

Children from healthy homes, who are loved and taught to be responsible, would almost always grow up to be loving, responsible adults.

Even if a married couple decides to do without children or faces challenges having them, it does not nullify the institution of marriage, which is built on core values of permanence, security and faithfulness.

In other words, individual whims, which Ashley Madison promotes, have no place in a marriage.

Its premise and marketing strategy stem from treating marriage as a transaction. And the website it uses to facilitate these arrangements is merely what is familiar to us. Technology rears its ugly head again.

Beneath its promises and tagline is a deception that we can make decisions with immunity and anonymity. But we know that this is a false claim.

Do we need to be reminded of the American free love movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s — out of which came a generation born with a resulting loss of identity and with it, the social problems the country now faces?

Do we need to be reminded of the local case involving an underage prostitute and a bevy of men that anonymity is a farce?

In pursuing progress, let us remember that what we do today, we reap tomorrow. When we begin to take a long-term perspective as we do with money, we realise that we are better off sacrificing impulse for integrity.

A marriage is for life, when approached with care. I am confident that Singaporeans would be “smart investors” and know which option to exercise.

Jedidiah Tan
TODAY, Voices, 26 Oct 2013

Adultery site founder: I won't cheat
The New Paper, 31 Oct 2013

You would expect a man who has only good things to say about infidelity to be bad at his own marriage.

But Mr Noel Biderman, founder of website Ashley Madison that matches cheating spouses, said he does not cheat on his wife.

He said that he and wife Amanda, who have two children, are faithful to each other and that he would be upset if his wife cheated on him.

"If my wife were engaging such a service, then clearly our relationship would be in trouble," Mr Biderman told Online Personals Watch, an Internet news-magazine programme.

He explained that while being monogamous works for him, it may not be the way for others.

His wife feels the same way. "I would be devastated if (Noel cheated) on me," Amanda said.

"But I would not blame a website... It is servicing a need out there. And, unfortunately, it exists. It's sad," she told the New York Daily News., which Mr Biderman started 11 years ago, has announced plans to set up a website in Singapore. My Paper broke the news last week.

It sparked a public outcry, with Singaporeans and politicians insisting that its maxim - "Life is short. Have an affair" - is not what we want.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post that he is against any company or website that harms marriages.

"Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which are core to marriage," he said in response to media reports of the planned local launch.

"Our marriage vows make it clear that marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. This includes staying faithful to one another," Mr Chan said.

But Mr Biderman does not agree. He told The New Paper: "It's naive to believe that cheating is not happening now in Singapore. It is. So, are you going to remove these people from the community?"

He was speaking en route to a television interview in Sweden.

Mr Biderman, 42, said: "I don't know what the minister's mandate is like, but I assure you, he and so many people in similar roles don't truly understand monogamy from the social-science perspective.

"We humans believe that we are monogamous, but we are not. It is these unfaithful acts that have helped us stay married. After all, it (cheating) is a needed relief. In a marriage, certain priorities take precedence over others, such as children, finances and shelter over sexual needs. If you are cheating, it helps you stay in the marriage."

Mr Biderman said that he does not think "just a website can convince people to have affairs, except if they are already determined to do so".

When asked if he will continue his foray into Singapore after all the criticism, he said: "I might be coming in the later part of the year."


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