Singapore eyes sweeping powers to police online content, apps


The Online Criminal Harms Bill, introduced for a first reading in parliament on May 8, is aimed at cracking down on illicit activities like scams, misinformation, cybercrime drug trafficking and the spread of exploitative images. — AFP

Singapore’s government is taking the first steps toward codifying a new Internet safety law that would grant it wide-ranging powers over content, access and communication online.

The Online Criminal Harms Bill, introduced for a first reading in parliament on May 8, is aimed at cracking down on illicit activities like scams, misinformation, cybercrime drug trafficking and the spread of exploitative images. It is part of a wider “suite of legislation” to protect Singaporeans online, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement.

The bill is likely to pass into law without strong opposition, as most proposed legislation does in the city-state’s parliament. It would grant the government broad powers to restrict content online: from blocking the communication of certain material or web addresses to removing apps from mobile stores or restricting accounts on social networks.

It further advocates a proactive approach to preventing malicious cyber activity, allowing those powers to be used on the suspicion that a given website or account may be used in such acts. The bill also includes a provision for service providers to appeal the government’s directives.

Singapore is part of a global push to erect stronger guardrails around online content to stymie the rise of scams and crime via web services. Its approach would require social networks and web service providers to implement systems and processes that’ll help prevent criminal activity and support enforcement actions as well as “enabling partnerships and sensemaking with the government”. – Bloomberg

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