On Wednesday, Singaporean lawmakers voted in favor of a bill under which the government is authorized to order individuals, entities, online and Internet service providers, and app stores to remove or block access to illegal online content. During the second reading of the bill, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said that the legislation would help the country to crack down on online crimes and illegal gambling activities. Mrs. Teo added that the legislation also included a special provision regarding scams and malicious cyber activities.
According to Teo, proactive measures were needed to help the country prevent cybercrimes. She added that the government’s efforts alone would be insufficient to cope with the problem. Mrs. Teo also suggested that lawmakers used similar laws implemented by other countries, such as Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom, for reference when creating the Online Criminal Harms Act.
Under the new law, the government is allowed to issue five types of directions when it has reasons to believe that an online crime has been committed. The Ministry of Home Affairs explained that the stop communication direction would order individuals or entities posting criminal content online to remove the post. The disabling direction would require online service providers, such as Facebook, TikTok, WhatsApp, and WeChat, to block access to specific content.
Mrs. Teo explained that online crimes may cause significant harm to victims, and the requirements to issue directions should be lower than for other crimes. She also pointed out that online crimes could happen anytime and anywhere. Besides, cybercrime is spreading quickly, meaning countries should implement measures to solve the problem.
The New Law is Expected to Crack Down on Cybercrime
Teo explained that the new legislation covers all communication channels and mediums that criminals can exploit, while the Broadcasting Act, amended in 2022, governs only social media services. The new law also extends to money lending, illegal gambling, and drug-related crimes. According to Mrs. Teo, the means to deal with scams and online crimes are different, and the two laws will complement each other.
When asked how the country will force online platforms to comply with the new law, Mrs. Teo said that the government would prosecute violators. Moreover, the competent authority would issue orders and block access to non-compliant online platforms. Teo also assured citizens that the bill does not require online companies to disclose their users’ sensitive information. However, the government can issue directions to messaging non-compliant platforms to block the accounts of Singaporean users.
Online gambling is illegal in Singapore, but many offshore online casinos accept players from the island. The new law is expected to combat illegal gambling platforms targeting Singaporeans. The new law is expected to clamp down on illegal gambling activities and protect people from gambling-related problems.