Michael On Everything Else

Singapore Internet Censorship

I’ve noticed a lack of content filtering on the interwaps in Singapore the last few days — at least from our ISP. It’s been refreshing to have a bit of freedom back.

From Opennet.net:

...the state maintains strong formal and informal controls over the information to which its citizens have access. Singapore's official position is that the state filters Internet content to promote social values and maintain national unity, with the goal of denying access to objectionable material, especially pornography and content encouraging ethnic or religious strife.

Most of the censorship is “soft” censorship in the form of license requirements and legal threats. Again from Opennet.net:

Singapore's Internet content regulation depends primarily on access controls (such as requiring political sites to register for a license) and legal pressures (such as defamation lawsuits and the threat of imprisonment) to prevent people from posting objectionable content rather than technological methods to block it. Compared to other countries that implement mandatory filtering regimes that ONI has studied closely, Singapore's technical filtering system is one of the most limited.

The main entity resposible for censorship is the Media Development Authority (MDA) and they have purview over quite a bit:

From Wiki:

The Media Development Authority (MDA) approves publications, issues arts entertainment licences and enforces the Free-to-air (FTA) TV Programme Code, Subscription TV Programme Code, TV Advertising Code, Radio Programme Code and Radio Advertising Code through financial penalties.

What is considered “prohibited material” is quite vague.

According to the Internet Code of Practice, which governs ISPs:

Prohibited material is material that is objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws.

There are three Internet service providers in Singapore (StarHub, SingTel’s SingNet, and Pacific Internet) so choice is severely limited. All ISPs in Singapore are subject to MDA regulation. Recently, as of July 8, 2014, the Copyright Act of 2014 was updated to include blocking of pirate websites such as Pirate Bay. Rumors have it they are also working to block BitTorrent.

Maybe the current lull in censorship means they’re putting those blocks into place.

Stay tuned….