Saturday 3 January 2015

'Cheeky fella': PM Lee finds out about SMRT Ltd (Feedback)

Imagine you’re the Prime Minister of Singapore.

Here you are, minding your own business, giving your New Year message and welcoming 2015 at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park wearing a balloon hat.

Then you find out you have been called out in a blog by SMRT Ltd (Feedback) in a post entitled “The Xiaxue & Nuffnang Exposé (Part I)”.

Wait, what?

“What did SMRT say about me? Call Desmond Kuek, CEO of SMRT, and tell him I demand an explanation! Is there a part two to this exposé?”

Mr Kuek hurries to the Prime Minister’s office.

You show him the blog.

“Oh, that’s not ours,” he says.

“I’m told it’s by SMRT Ltd (Feedback),” you say.

“Uh… yes. It’s a spoof site. They’re just using our name, but it’s not us,” he says.

You can’t believe what you’re hearing. “And you let them get away with it? How long have this been going on?”

“Just over three years. Since The Great MRT Breakdown of December 2011.”

“So long?”

“To be fair,” he says, “I have been CEO only since October 2012. You should talk to Saw Phaik Hwa. She was CEO then. I have her number. You want me to call her for you?”

You give Mr Kuek a look.

“Tell me more about this SMRT Ltd (Feedback),” you request calmly.

“Sure, have you been to Sim Lim Square?” he asks.

You give him another look.

“Anyway,” he continues, “in November, there was this big hoo-ha over this Vietnamese tourist reduced to tears at this Sim Lim Square shop called Mobile Air. The guy who ran the shop is this fella called Jover Chew.”

“Yah, I remember him. Did his parents actually name him Jover?” you ask.

“I can check," he says. “Anyway, a lot of people hated him. So SMRT Ltd (Feedback) published his phone number and address. He and his wife ended up getting harassed, and SMRT Ltd (Feedback) became famous. People called them vigilantes.”

You interrupt: “You mean like Charles Bronson in Death Wish?”

Mr Kuek gives you a blur look.

“Never mind,” you say. “Continue.”

He continues: “After the Sim Lim saga, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) was going to target a company called Data Register.”

“What’s that?” you ask.

“It’s a bit complicated,” he says. “Last year, ACRA brought charges against Data Register for failing to display the company name and registration number in its correspondences with other companies.

“But it doesn’t matter because, in the end, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) didn’t do anything to Data Register.”

“Why?” you ask.

“Because of Xiaxue,” he says.


“You know, the blogger? She’s with this company called Nuffnang. She’s a PAP supporter.”

You sigh. “We get all kinds.”

“Anyway,” he continues, “Xiaxue published this exposé about Gushcloud, which is Nuffnang’s competitor. So SMRT Ltd (Feedback) decided to do an exposé on Xiaxue and Nuffnang just because they find her annoying.”

“But how did I get dragged into this?” you ask. “I have nothing to do with these people.”

Mr Kuek explains: “In the exposé, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) published the number of inactive and suspicious or empty accounts that Xiaxue’s Twitter followers have and as a comparison, they also highlighted your numbers. She has 68 per cent ‘good’ followers while you have 46 per cent.”

“And they called me a ‘cheeky fella’! What do they mean by that?” you ask.

“They’re sort of implying that you bought fake followers, but I think it’s meant tongue-in-cheek, if you’ll pardon the pun.”

“What pun?” you ask.

“Never mind,” he says. “Anyway, as Xiaxue pointed out, you’re the leader of our country, both a Cambridge and Harvard graduate, with countless achievements under your belt. Who would be so stupid as to believe that you buy Twitter followers?”

“Then where do all these fake followers come from?” you ask.

“They’re like spam” he says. “Everybody gets them. Even Barack Obama. It's really no big deal.”

You think about it.

“So what are you going to do about these SMRT Ltd (Feedback) jokers? You're going to let them keep using your name?” you ask the SMRT CEO.

“We’re working on it,” he says.

“Yah, like how you’re working on preventing train delays. Happy new year, Desmond,” you say as you dismisses him.

“Happy new year, Prime Minister,” he says and leaves.

You quickly check your Twitter.

- Unpublished

EARLIER: SMRT Ltd (Feedback): From troll to online vigilante to just another blogger?