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SG govt to introduce new laws to prevent harmful online content

SG govt to introduce new laws to prevent harmful online content

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be introducing an Online Criminal Harms Act later this year after noting the rise of harmful online content such as scams, foreign interference, online gambling and sexual abuse material, according to Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo. Teo was speaking at the Committee of Supply debates in parliament this week when she announced the new act which will enable the government to stop or completely remove online content that encourages crimes in the physical world.

She noted that because these kinds of content pose a threat to the safety of Singaporeans, they must then be dealt with in the same way that physical threats are handled.

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“There is a growing international consensus for rules to combat online harm. For example, jurisdictions such as the UK, the EU, Germany and Australia have introduced or proposed new laws to regulate the online space,” said Teo.

She continued by bringing up the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act and the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act which were both introduced in an attempt to combat online harm. She added that the Broadcasting Act was also recently amended to “deal with harms that impact user safety, such as suicide and self-harm, cyberbullying, and content likely to undermine racial and religious harmony,”

She added that the government also now has the ability to block access to egregious content on online communications services, including social media platforms. 

However, Teo noted that there were still gaps. For example, online content which is criminal in its own right and content that facilitates or abets crimes such as syndicated crimes “such as scams, online incitement of mass public disorder, and malicious cyber activities such as phishing and the distribution of malware.”

 As a result, MHA will introduce the Online Criminal Harms Act later this year. The proposed act will build on our existing laws in three ways.

Firstly, it will expand the scope of regulatory levers that we can apply to online criminal activities. “This includes powers to stop or remove online communications that facilitate crimes in the physical world, such as inciting violence,” said Two.

Secondly, it will increase the scope of entities the government can act against. This means that MFA can now act against “all mediums of online communication through which criminal activities [can] be conducted.”

Finally, it will introduce levers that can deal more effectively with the nature of the online criminal harms. “The new legislation will introduce upstream measures to detect and reduce scams, such as safeguards against inauthentic accounts. This legislation will also apply to other malicious cyber activities like phishing,” Teo concluded.

In her speech, Teo also touched on online gambling and things such as loot boxes which are boxes feature a range of virtual items that players can win by chance.

She noted that this has blurred the lines between gambling and gaming and that Singapore will take steps to deal with it.

“We allow games with such loot boxes via a class licensing regime, but only if the game fulfils either of two key conditions. The loot box within the game must be entirely free of charge to play. Otherwise, the game must not contain monetisation facilities; meaning that players cannot exchange the virtual prizes for real-world pay-outs, such as money or merchandise,” said Teo.

She added that this was a practical and balanced approach to ensure that Singapore safeguards against gambling inducement rather than gaming.  “We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our gambling legislation, and update our regulatory approach where needed,” she concluded.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out for more information. 

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