Singapore shuts down harmful online content with new law

Singapore is shutting down harmful online content with a new law to protect vulnerable Internet users. Social media sites will now be required to block access to harmful content within hours. Parliament passed the law yesterday, with the Infocomm Media Development Authority gaining authority to issue Internet access service providers directions to block access by users in the country.

According to Channel News Asia, the Online Safety Bill empowers the IMDA to deal with egregious online content, regardless of where the content is hosted or initiated. The move is a change from the current Broadcasting Act which does not currently cover entities that operate outside of the country. The debate included 20 Members of Parliament from both sides of the House who spoke about the prevalence of harmful online content. MPs united in the call for needing additional safeguards to protect vulnerable users such as children.

But, the way in which egregious content was determined and excluding private messaging from the law is still being debated. Some MPs introduced the idea of having a specific screen time period for children. MP Melvin Young was one of them.

“Excessive screen time has been linked to poor development outcomes, and we must ensure that our young do not get hooked onto the never-ending spiral of scrolling mindlessly through social media content.”

Another issue is whether online platforms, whose core business is not social media, would be covered under the new law. Such social media platforms as e-commerce sites, semi-private communities like Discord and Telegram, and online games are in question. Other considerations include the spectrum of offensive content and whether it would span across other humanitarian and controversial issues. Topics such as encouraging Singaporeans to participate in foreign armed conflict or depictions of animal abuse have not been confirmed as falling under the new law’s constraints.

Critics of the law say that freedom of speech would be curbed, but lawmakers say such liberties would not be an issue with the new regulation.

World News

Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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