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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More