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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid