Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs introduced the Online Criminal Harms Bill for its first reading in Parliament on 8 May 2023. The bill introduces levers that enable the authorities to deal with online activities that are deemed criminal in nature more effectively. This follows a suite of similar legislations released from the city-state that seek to better protect the public from an increasing number of online harms and scams, such as the amended Broadcasting Act and the Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act.
Singapore’s online space has seen a rising number of scams and harmful cyber activities since 2020. This space has also been increasingly abused by criminals, as is evident from the accelerating number of cases involving online child sexual exploitation, the transmission of obscene materials, and illegal drug transactions through chat apps.
Key Features of the Bill
The proposed bill would allow the government to issue Directions when it is suspected that any website, online account, or online activity may be used for scams or malicious cyber activities. Actions that stakeholders will likely be called to take include:
- Communicator to remove criminal content.
- Online service provider to disable access to criminal content.
- Online service provider to restrict the account propagating the criminal content.
- Internet Service Provider (ISP) to disable access to the website by persons in Singapore.
- App store to remove the app from the Singapore storefront.
An illustration of how the proposed Directions work is shown below:
Source: Annex B – Illustration of How Directions Work, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore
Access Partnership and the Fair Tech Institute are closely tracking developments on the bill, as well as other online safety issues in the APAC region. If you would like to request an expert briefing on this issue or more information on online safety issues, please contact Li Xing at email@example.com or Lim May-Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org.