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SG gov’t passes law requiring social media platforms to block harmful content ‘within hours’

Parliament has passed the law that will hold social media sites responsible for blocking harmful content. If a platform refuses to remove the content, the IMDA can ask internet service providers to block access to Singapore.

The bill aims to give the Singapore government the power to block harmful online content, even if it is created or hosted in foreign countries. Questions have been raised about how authorities would determine “egregious” content, and questions have emerged in the area of ​​private messaging.

Currently, egregious content is defined as that which advocates terrorism, suicide and self-harm, physical or sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation of children. It will also include content that poses a risk to public health or may cause racial and religious discord in Singapore. Regarding private messaging, Minister Josephine Teo said that due to privacy concerns, the bill does not cover private police communications.

“We are also aware that there are groups with very large memberships, which could be used to spread blatant content, which does not make them any different from non-private communication on a social media service. In such cases, the IMDA will be empowered to take the same action against them,” she said.

Points were also raised whether online gambling fell under the bill, and Minister Teo said: “We share their concerns about online gambling. We’ve thought about it and will share more details when we’re ready. “

Minister Teo added that if too many areas or platforms are covered too soon, without a thorough review, the bill could become “unwieldy” and ultimately “ineffective”.

“Our approach has been to identify and address specific areas of harm in a targeted manner. Whether the laws will be consolidated later remains to be seen. At present, it is more important that we put in place place legislation that addresses and combats respective harms,” she said.

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