Internet censorship in Singapore

Internet services provided by the three major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are subject to regulation by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to block websites containing material that may be a threat to public security, national defence, racial and religious harmony and public morality, and Police are given broad powers to intercept messages online. ISP-level blocks are, however, used sparingly with only some high-profile token sites like Playboy blocked. The Ministry of Education, Singapore blocks access to pornographic and similar objectionable Internet sites on its proxy servers. In 2005, MDA banned a gay website and fined another website following complaints that the sites contained offensive content. The banned website is said to have promoted promiscuous sexual behaviour and recruited underage boys for sex and nude photography. [ cite news |title = MDA bans gay website and fines another one
publisher = The Straits Times
date = 28 October 2005
url = http://yawningbread.org/arch_2005/yax-504.htm
By Chua Hian Hou (Posted on yawningbread.org)
]

Government agencies have been known to use or threaten to use litigation against bloggers and other Internet content providers. The first instance of such activity was against Sintercom in July 2001 when the founder, Dr Tan Chong Kee was asked to register the website under the nascent Singapore Broadcast Authority Act (now Media Development Authority). Dr Tan chose to shutdown Sintercom due to concerns over the ambiguity of the Act. In April 2005, a blogger, Chen Jiahao, then a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was made to apologise and shut down his blog containing criticisms on government agency A*STAR, after its Chairman Philip Yeo threatened to sue for defamation. In September 2005, 3 people were arrested and charged under the "Sedition Act" for posting racist comments on the Internet. Two were sentenced to imprisonment. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61626.htm "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005"] , The United States Department of State, retrieved 20 March 2006.] Later, the Teachers' Union announced that it is offering legal assistance to teachers who want to take legal action against students who defame them on their blogs, after five students from Saint Andrew's Junior College were suspended for three days for allegedly "flaming" two teachers and a vice-principal on their blogs. ["Schools act against students for 'flaming' teachers on blogs", "The Straits Times", page 1, 27 September 2005, by Sandra Davie and Liaw Wy-Cin. ]

In the last few years, the government has taken a much tougher stand on Internet-related matters, including censorship. Proposed amendments to the Penal Code intends to hold Internet users liable for "causing public mischief", and give the authorities broader powers in curtailing freedom of speech. [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/HK23Ae02.html Asia Times Online :: Southeast Asia news - Mixing welfare and elitism in Singapore ] ]

References


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