News / Asia

Internet Heavyweights Criticize Singapore's 'Regressive' New Rules

Protesters walk past a mock gravestone that reads 'RIP Freedom of Speech' during a protest against new licensing regulations imposed by the government for online news sites, at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, June 8, 2013.
Protesters walk past a mock gravestone that reads 'RIP Freedom of Speech' during a protest against new licensing regulations imposed by the government for online news sites, at Hong Lim Park in Singapore, June 8, 2013.
Reuters
Singapore's move to tighten regulation of news websites, already under fire from bloggers and human rights groups, has attracted criticism from an unexpected quarter - large Internet firms with a big presence in the city-state that say the new rules will hurt the industry.

Web giants Facebook, eBay, Google and Yahoo have said the revised rules “have negatively affected Singapore's global image as an open and business-friendly country.”

The comments, made in a letter to the Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, by the Asia Internet Coalition, an industry body, are the first sign that Singapore's success in wooing major players is not assured.

Google, eBay, Facebook and Yahoo all have a major presence in the city-state.

Google said separately it was concerned about the long-term implications of the regulation - especially for local Internet entrepreneurs who it said now faced greater uncertainty and legal risk.

Minister Yaacob, however, told parliament on Monday that his ministry intended to move ahead with the legislation, despite calls from lawmakers to delay its implementation, and dismissed some of the concerns raised.

“The overall law is not meant to force sites to close down by causing them financial difficulties. MDA have already indicated and replied earlier that they will be prepared to exercise flexibility where warranted should a site have genuine difficulties putting up a bond,” he said.

In late May, the Media Development Authority [MDA] said websites that regularly report on Singapore would have to be licensed and listed 10 news sites that would be affected, based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month.

Websites affected by the new licensing regime would have to put up a $39,300 performance bond, as well as take down within 24 hours any story that authorities deemed objectionable.

“Singapore aims to be the future, but this regulation looks a lot like the past,” said Google's Ann Lavin, director of public policy and government affairs, Southeast Asia.

MDA had said the changes would make the rules governing news websites more consistent with those affecting newspapers and other traditional media platforms. It also said there was no change in its content standards, a point reiterated by Yaacob.

Growing sector

The Asia Internet Coalition [AIC] was set up in 2011 by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay to lobby for free and open access to the Internet and promote e-commerce.

The Internet and related industries have become an important sector for Singapore, with revenues last year growing 23 percent to $81 billion. The sector employs more than 144,000 people out of the city-state's 3.2 million workforce, according to government data.

“When you look at other countries in the region, it's hard to see anyone immediately breathing down the neck of Singapore and Hong Kong,” said John Ure, executive director of AIC. “But things can change. Five to 10 years is not a long time.”

Ure said the coalition's members had been unnerved by the announcement coming “out of the blue” at a time when it had been holding discussions with the Singapore government on several Internet-related issues.

The regulations, he said, “muddied the waters” and that “anything that is seen to be a hindrance to the free flow of content and data” was of concern to his members.

Singapore has attracted major Internet companies in part because of its commitment to what it has called a “light touch” when it comes to policing the Web.

Yahoo's popular Singapore news site was the only foreign website among the 10 listed by the MDA, but critics fear the rules could be extended to cover other websites, including those critical of the government.

A Yahoo spokesman said it had no official comment on the regulation, but that the AIC's position was “broadly consistent with ours.”

'Monsters under the bed'

Opposition lawmaker Lina Chiam told parliament there were still many unanswered questions about the new MDA regulations despite recent attempts at clarification.

“The definition of news sites under the regulations, as they stand, is so arbitrary, and can encompass any website posting at least one news-related article in a week,” she said. “That is why Singaporeans continue to believe that the regulations had been crafted to censor blogs, especially those that discuss politics.”

Lobby group Reporters Without Borders, in its latest report, ranked Singapore 149th globally in terms of press freedom, down 14 places from 2012 and below many of its neighbors.

In 2011, the city-state's tiny opposition made big gains against the long-ruling People's Action Party in a parliamentary election, partly by using social media such as Facebook and YouTube to reach voters.

Rights groups have joined local bloggers in criticizing the move. Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said that major Internet companies adding their voice should give Singapore serious pause about its approach.

The government, “like a little boy in a dark bedroom, imagines that every bump in the night means there are monsters under the bed ready to pounce on Singapore's much vaunted social stability,” he said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki comments on Singapore's news website restriction, July 8
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki comments on Singapore's news website restriction, July 8i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: anonymous
July 08, 2013 12:03 PM
singapore want to learn china to build monitoring system in cyberworld.
because the leader want to control citizens. but it's not useful working. the singapore citizen couldn't censorship too over because the country need dependent international trade in cyber if banned error happen will impacted data linking with search engine result(if they're banned public dns or others banned some against error address as china)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs