Singapore passes law to protect online users from harmful content

Under the Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, IMDA is able to direct social media services to implement measures that keep Singapore users safe.

Fitri Mahad

Probably the only person that likes to hear the koels go ‘uwu’.

Published: 11 November 2022, 6:04 PM

The Government on Wednesday (Nov 9) passed the Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill to protect Singaporeans from “harmful online content”.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo addressed concerns by several Members of Parliament (MP) on the Bill. These concerns also include the protection of young Singaporean users online.

The Bill is targeted at enhancing online safety in Singapore, and empowers the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to regulate social media services through Codes of Practice

Social media services are required to comply with these Codes and meet several outcomes, including minimising Singapore users’ exposure to harmful content and empowering users with tools to manage their own safety. 

They must also take additional steps to minimise children’s exposure to inappropriate content and provide tools allowing children or their parents to manage their safety, according to the Bill.

Other outcomes include making available an easy-to-use mechanism for Singapore users to report harmful content and unwanted interactions, and allow users to make informed decisions about how they use the service. 

MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) and Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Janet Ang raised the need to “leverage technology to combat harmful online content”, including through setting default content restriction settings for young users. 

Mrs Teo addressed these concerns, stating that IMDA’s draft Codes will put in place additional safeguards to protect young users. These safeguards include minimising their exposure to inappropriate content, and providing tools for children or their parents to manage their safety online.

The Code also requires that services provide differentiated accounts to children, whereby safety settings are robust and set to more restrictive levels that are age-appropriate by default, mentioned Mrs Teo.

She added that social media services already require users to be above 13 years old to register for an account, and cited existing mitigations against false-age declarations such as users being able to report accounts suspected to be underage. 

The Government will continue to “closely monitor and extensively consult” on the latest developments in age verification technology, taking into account data protection safeguards, and consider “viable regulatory options”.

Mrs Teo stressed that there is currently no international consensus on the standards for “effective and reliable age verification” by social media services which Singapore can also reliably reference. 

She said: “We will continue to work with Social Media Services, educators, and other stakeholders, to help parents guide young users navigating online spaces, and make young users better aware of the safety tools that are available to them.”

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